Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Personalized Learning Starts with People

Research into how children, and really all humans, learn should inform our instructional design.  Educators should also take care when building assessments to ensure that they measure the learning that was intended from the beginning.  Personalized learning means that educators tailor the experience of the student to fit her needs instead of pushing her to fit into the traditional structures and sequences of industrial institutions.  Ideally, every student would have access to a program of learning that allows her to experience what she needs in order to hit learning goals.



Alan Blankstein
Many organizations are helping to offer this experience.  Last week I was invited by one of them, Redbird Advanced Learning, to a symposium at Stanford University for a discussion on how to make learning more personal for every child.  Redbird believes the best solution is a combination of digital curriculum, blended learning, and professional development to train educators.  Their product and approach is based on impressive ongoing research with the scholars of Stanford University.  Indeed, much of it was eye-opening for me to read and hear about.  While there was an emphasis on integration of high quality technology and media resources, I appreciated that they did not leave out the whole child.  One of the best talks from the symposium was from Alan Blankstein, President of the Hope Foundation and Corwin Press author of Failure is Not an Option among other best selling titles. He highlighted inequities in education that cannot be ignored when designing student learning experiences.


The reaction from the audience on the backchannel was quick and clear.  Blankstein effectively made his point about how personalized learning needs to go beyond curriculum.



Many of the other sessions and talks were built around strategies and research.  The symposium was a small intimate experience filled with rich discussion among researchers and business leaders on blended and personalized learning.  It was an honor to be a voice for classroom K12 educators through my participation in a panel.

#edsurge50 panel left to right: Mary Jo Madda,
Ricardo Elizalde, Brandon Phenix, myself, and Roger Cook
The panel on the lessons in personalized learning from the EdSurge Fifty States Initiative was bursting with thoughtful educators who are willing to take risks for the sake of meeting the learning needs of all students.  Moderated by Mary Jo Madda, associate editor at EdSurge, the panel included Roger Cook, Ricardo Elizalde, and Brandon Phenix.  Topics of discussion included our top 3 tech tools, our ideas of the best PD, and the student learning experience in our schools and classrooms.  For me, the most important takeaway was that personalization means getting to know the people, the students and teachers, we are serving.  You can watch the full panel below.

We took quite a few questions at the end of the panel. You can watch as we fielded queries from advice for getting started to dealing with unmotivated learners to concerns about student data privacy.
Participation in the panel was not limited to those of us in the room at Stanford University that day.  Since the panel was live streamed, #edsurge50 writers from all over the country particpated.  The Twitter feed is a wealth of information, a veritable professional development gold mine.



I was also honored to have the support and encouragement of my district colleagues and administration. John Doherty, Superintendent of Reading Public Schools, even posted about it on the district blog.

Of course, I'm looking forward to staying in contact with the researchers and forward-thinkers I met as part of this opportunity.