Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lordes, Dolly Parton, & Personalized Learning

I don’t know how many blogs or articles you have read in your time, but I am pretty sure this one will be significant for you.  Why you ask?  This blog has quotes from two female singers named Lordes and Dolly Parton. Yes, you read that correctly.  What blog could possibly contain quotes from Lordes and Dolly?  What else, a blog about personalized learning.

Personalized learning is all the rage right now.  All schools are scrambling to offer a personalized environment to their students.  For those of you who don’t know what personalized learning is, it is “instruction paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to specific interests of individual learners.” (National Education Technology Plan).  Giving our students options and different ways to learn should be the new driving force in education.  The traditional educational structure that we as adults know is being turned upside down. 

-       Give our students the opportunity to learn what they want, when they want it.
We need to be more flexible with our students and their schedules.  Schools need to release the strangle hold on traditional educational structure.  Give students the responsibility to schedule courses and create their schedules based on their interests & everyday lives.  If a high school student gets a job that starts at 1:30 pm each day, wouldn’t it be nice to offer them a list of dual enrollment college courses that they can take and still get to their job by 1:30 pm each day?  You have a student earning college credit, learning how to manage their time effectively, and working at a job preparing them with life skills outside of school.

-       Take advantage of technological resources
Technology, if used correctly, will transform personalized learning.  What are some ways technology can stretch personalized learning?  The gold standards are devices for students, distance learning equipment, high-speed bandwidth, and having teachers equipped with the proper resources.  We as educators need to create more blended learning opportunities for our students.  Let’s not focus so much on the distance learning aspect as much as giving our students the responsibility to complete their coursework and have an educator facilitate their learning.   Aren’t we preparing these students for college and life?  If so, we need to expect our students to use technology to their benefit so they can grow for their next phase in life.

-       Equality of student learning
Personalized learning gives all of our students the same opportunity.  If you truly open up the traditional educational framework and allow our students the opportunity to take classes from other schools and at different times, all students will have more opportunities.  Students will have more opportunities to take college classes, to take AP courses, to meet new people & build personal learning networks, and opportunities to grow as students and life learners.  These additional opportunities mean our students, as Lordes says, have ”no postcode envy.”  Students in Appalachia will have the same opportunities as students in other districts around the country.

-       Troubleshoot, document, and learn
When you embark on something new, there are always going to be bumps in the road.  We can’t let set backs limit the opportunities we offer our students.  I have to give credit to Dolly Parton, I think she states it best, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”  When you use more technology and increase rigor in the classroom, you will inevitably encounter issues.  We need to move past these and create opportunities for our students.

-       Transform learning and teaching and reach out
We all need to develop PLNs and utilize our PLNs.  You colleagues will help you grow as an educator.  And I don’t mean the people in your building, I mean your colleagues from around the world.  Ask questions, try new things in the classroom, go out on a limb: Take Risks!  Use a learning management software tool such as Edmodo to give your students more responsibility.  Transform your teaching and start using more blended methods.  Allow your students to work through problems and collaborate to get the result. 

We need to change our educational philosophy as a whole.  To really make personalized learning work, we as educators need to increase rigor and increase the responsibility placed on students.  Let’s get more dual enrollment courses offered for students using innovative instructional practices.  Let’s increase our collaborating efforts as educators modeling this approach for our students.  Will we have difficult stretches in the process?  Yes, but always remember what Lordes & Dolly said.  Your students deserve the same opportunities as others.  Use the bumps in the road to your advantage to help students.