Paving a Path to Personalized Learning

Paving a Path to Personalized Learning

The value of a word, not it’s definition, but the word itself can make a difference. Take personalized learning. This is a word that is thrown into every educational conversation, yet does it have a single meaning, or is the definition determined by the individual who hears or uses it. Think for a moment of how you would define personalized learning. What characteristics and elements are essential? Does digital devices, or digital content rise to the top?

In 2014, Education Week published a working definition of personalized learning, developed by some of the most respected minds in the field such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, the Learning Accelerator, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and many others. The four-part “working definition” included:

  • Competency-based Progression: Each student’s progress toward clearly-defined goals is continually assessed. A student advances and earns credit as soon as s/he demonstrated mastery.
  • Flexible Learning Environments: Student needs drive the design of the learning environment. All operational elements – staffing plans, space utilization, and time allocation – respond and adapt to support students in achieving their goals.
  • Personal Learning Paths: All students are held to clear, high expectation, but each student follows a customized path that responds and adapts based on their individual learning progress, motivations, and goals.
  • Learner Profiles: Each student has an up-to-date record of his/her individual strengths, needs, motivation, and goals.

Imagine doing all of this without technology. Sure, personalized learning can take place absent from digital learning, but it would be difficult, and why would you not take advantage of the tools of today – like devices and software, especially in classrooms filled with diverse learner each with unique and individual needs. Using technology and adaptive software changes classroom pedagogy and teacher mindset. Finding the balance between digital content, guided instruction, and authentic assessment, or the CIA of blended learning is essential.

Earlier this month, I had the great fortune to attend and share at the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit, in San Francisco, CA. It was a time to reflect, engage, and grow with others as we explored personalized learning ideology and pedagogy. Even in this like-minded environment, each was attempting to determine a path to reach personalized learning in their own way. Blended learning, coupling the best of face-to-face instruction with the best of digital learning, capitalizing on both human and technology resources, is the road most travelled. Add in student engagement, via project learning, which many do, and you have a balanced approach to mastering the CIA of blended.

In Education Week’s Technology Counts 2018, an article, Why Principals are Embracing Personalized Learning, had national research data and insights to administrators view on personalized learning. A principal from Albany New York said, “Personalized learning is nothing but another way of differentiating education. We’re just calling it something that’s new and trendy.” Trendy, yes, that is a terrific way to define the use of the term personalized learning. Yet, the real question is, “How will you pave a path to personalized learning?” May I suggest, via blended personalized learning.