Introducing Personalized Learning
Figure 1. A Model of Learning, Powered by Technology -- From http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010/learning-engage-and-empower
Although many teachers and parents have integrated 21st Century technology skills, many still follow the one-size-fits-all textbook based curriculum. It’s time to incorporate personalized learning that allows the students to become self–motivated, self-directed, and engaged learners. Personalized learning is more than just individualized or differentiated learning. It is a total shift in culture that requires a new paradigm of cooperation between teacher/parent and student. The development of technology sets the stage for tailor-made learning programs while personalizing learning activities offer balanced educational goals so that all students’ needs, interests, uniqueness, and qualifications are treasured and valued. The teacher’s (parent’s) role is to guide students’ efforts toward discovering the power of education motivated from within rather than being spoon feed from a textbook based curriculum.
The National Education Technology Plan proposes a model of personalized learning where students are at the center of their learning and have a variety of resources to learn from including teachers, parents, mentors, and online resources and guided courses. The manner and options to learn can be tailored to each student’s needs whether it be from small or large groups, online games, parents or mentors. The point is to allow for students to have the freedom and support to make their individual goals based on their needs and interests.
Since personalized learning is distinctively different from the traditional classroom of the last century, concerns and questions arise about its implementation, costs, and educational outcomes. Can it actually work? The answer is yes and California has proven it. In July, 2004, California State Senate unanimously voted in favor of Bill SR36 which declared the Personalized Learning model as a “a distinct learning model in California public education… a promising choice… to learn successfully.” (Calif. PL Resolution)
Do parents want to be involved in their children’s education? The United States presently has over 2 million homeschooling families (HSLDA) so yes, there is a substantial interest. In California there are dozens of charter schools implementing the Personalized Learning model. Some schools have around 100 students while other schools serve several thousands of students. (Calif. PL Resolution) The variety of available resources and opportunities is astounding including classes, field trips, labs, individual tutors, enrichment centers, interactive online courses, books, music, art, contests, and small group projects. The parents meet periodically with a designated teacher of the school and make a plan together with the student for that period of time’s goals and objectives. Although students will need to challenge themselves in certain areas, they know the school system is set up for their success. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their work and muster up their internal motivation.
What about the cost? The cost to educate each student in the United States is several thousands of dollars a year. There are always bills presented to voters for grants to improve education. Even still, since personalized learning is a cooperative effort, chances are the cost per student may decrease. California charter schools receive much less in funding than average spending per student and they have managed to build a thriving personalized learning system.
The Personalized Learning model is standing on the foundation of years of research concerning how students learn best. Personalized learning is distinctively different from the traditional classroom of the last century. The Association for Personalized Learning Schools & Service defines what makes up the Personalized Learning model including “a strong emphasis on parental involvement, smaller class sizes, more one-on-one teacher and student interaction… student-driven participation in developing the learning process…. and choices in curriculum programs.” (Aplus+) As you can see from the model, personalized learning is student focused rather than teacher centered.
The Personalized Learning model requires a shift in assessments from teachers measuring learning to a student evaluating and regulating his/her own learning. Again, it is a cooperative effort so its potential for overall achievement is much greater than our present system. There are many forms of assessments available: beginning or prior knowledge, what a student is learning presently, a student’s end of course review etc. The key to assessments is not only what a student knows but purpose: what are the goals of each student, where does studying lead, how does the student want to use his learning, what does the student want to improve, can the student communicate well in a group setting, should something be added to the study plan, is the material or activity effective in learning etc.
System wide assessments will need to be handled to make sure all students in each school are achieving the general guidelines and competencies required for success. However, the most influential assessments are done by the students while they are learning in order to tweak the goals, add activities, or improve the standards based on what they are presently doing. In other words, as students learn, they often get inspired or find new ways of discovery while they learn so taking personal assessments during their course is more effective than finding out how much they learned at the end.
Changing from the present system of education to the Personalized Learning model will take renewed dedication and time but it is worth the investment in our children and the future. Students will need to get accustomed to taking responsibility for their learning. As time goes by, incremental improvements will need to be addressed and implemented based on experience and the individual features of each school. The result of all this effort will bear fruit through the graduates and their contributions to this world for generations to come.
Our combination of engaging digital curriculum and resources can inspire students to apply, deepen, and extend their learning while encouraging their personal motivation. We strive to create an uplifting educational experience that caters to the student’s abilities and interests as well as supporting the parents as the primary educators of their children. We know that all students can develop their natural talents and become valuable contributors to society