Many districts are beginning to implement some form of personalized learning in blended and online programs, but it is often a time-consuming and manual process that is difficult to duplicate across classrooms. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on March 13, 2014, education experts discussed the benefits of personalized learning, common challenges when it comes to implementation, and the keys to creating an effective district strategy. They also discussed how a new personalized learning platform from Fuel Education enables schools to integrate content from many different sources to personalize each student’s learning experience, and provides administrative tools to track and manage student progress.
TOM VANDER ARK
Like many people in education today, I’m banking a lot on personalized learning. I’m really confident that by doing a better job of providing personalizing learning opportunities for young people, we can dramatically increase achievement levels in the United States. Kids should also have some control over the time, place, path or pace of their learning. That’s what really makes personalized learning different from other methods. I’ve identified three main benefits of personalized learning: Customization, Motivation, and Equalization. If we get smarter about creating customized, individual learning progressions, we’d make each hour an engaging one and there will be much more productivity.
When it comes to motivation, we can do a better job of engaging young people and creating environments where they have a lot of ownership over what they’re doing and how they’re learning. Finally, equalization means giving every student and every family a new level of opportunity by making sure they have a connected learning device. That’s why I’m a big supporter of take home devices and working with districts and internet providers to make sure families have internet connections. If we can break down this barrier to make sure every student and family has 24-hour access to great learning resources, I think we’ll have made a significant impact. Personalized learning is a new school design that works better for teachers and students, and promotes active learning.
From a teaching standpoint, it’s about breaking down isolation. It allows for teachers to work in teams and collaborate. When you put all of those factors together, I think we have a great opportunity to both improve learning for students and improve career opportunities for teachers.
Fuel Education has been a pioneer in the online and blended learning space. Most recently, Fuel Education has been pioneering online learning and blended learning solutions. We’ve emphasized personalized learning, because we believe that’s the future. While we focus on student achievement, we look at it not only at the student level, but also the teacher level, the school building level and the district level, because we believe that all along that food chain, there is a desire to customize learning.
A big trend we’re seeing in the marketplace now is that as more and more districts acquire online and digital content, there is growing complexity in managing this content. Systems are disaggregated from each other, and there’s no meaningful single view of data and analytics. So we’re focusing on improving how districts can implement online, personalized, blended learning and do it in a way that’s a really crisp, clean, data-rich experience for the student, teacher, and administrator. We think it all starts with having a broad set of content and assessments. We have a catalog that starts at pre-K and continues through 12th grade. There’s a lot of flexibility and a key to that flexibility is that the tools we are building give teachers a lot of autonomy over the classroom and the student learning experience.
We hear a lot from teachers who are worried that digital learning is going to dilute their ability to support their students and the creative side to teaching. On the contrary, we’re very focused on enhancing their ability to do that. Data and analytics are also very important to a successful personalized and blended program. You need to have access to data immediately, and it needs to be actionable, preferably in a visually rich way so you don’t have to make sense of data in a spreadsheet. From an equalization or access perspective, it was important for us to go to market with a range of content in all grade levels. So we have a fully scoped and sequenced curriculum that is state and Common Core aligned to support districts for student achievement. While assessments are often embedded into those courses, you can also create your own assessments. From a teacher tools perspective, we are very focused on allowing you to personalize the learning experience. We want you to have full control over a specific student, a classroom or the entire building or district. Teachers can upload their own authored content while having access to open education resources’ content, Fuel Education’s content and other third-party content. You can do this in a single environment or mix and match and modify content to meet the needs of a single student or a group of students’ learning needs.
It’s important to make data and analytics a reality. One good example of what we’re doing is bringing open education resources, like Khan Academy and YouTube Education, into the learning environment. You can access these resources through Fuel Education and we’ve added a robust set of data and analytics around them. As a district administrator or teacher, you can understand who is using what, who’s using which tools effectively and assess student engagement. We don’t see Fuel Education as a replacement for your existing district infrastructure. We are trying to adapt to it and increase the value of the investments you’ve already made. Our solutions will be able to integrate with a variety of learning management systems and student information systems.
Our goal is to create a comprehensive, but simple and seamless user experience for the students, parents, teachers and administrators so that they can access their responsibilities in a single click. Some of the main problems districts who work with us want to solve involve student engagement. These kids live on the internet and on their devices outside of the classroom, and they are increasingly demanding a learning environment that mirrors how they interact with their friends. Students also want the flexibility to learn at their own pace and in a variety of environments. With personalized and blended learning, now you have the ability to sit students side-by-side who are at different grade levels or proficiency levels.
Director, Product Strategy and Management
We see a variety of implementation models across our 2,000 partner districts, whether it’s an in-classroom solution or replacing textbooks with a digital curriculum. Some may be looking to add on to their existing first online programs, and others will only offer elective courses online. So how do you manage all this from a single place? As we mentioned, Fuel Education has launched our platform called PEAK, which gives you a single view of student success across all programs. We also have new tools that we’re introducing this year with open education resources and third-party content. Students will have access to all our solutions online with a single dashboard. In this dashboard, there’s access to all integrated content, like teacher-authored content or Khan Academy, as well as any full digital content or courses.
This particular feature has been piloted for several months and has seen great success. Students have access to this information whenever needed, even on their mobile devices. For teachers, we’ve also integrated guided help and tools into our platform. We recognize that it’s very important to incorporate professional development where possible, so you have immediate access to help guide your experience. There are also specific dashboards for teachers that incorporate assignments to grade and reminders. There’s also the student academic health dashboard that looks at four items: pacing, progress, performance and engagement. It identifies behaviors and areas of intervention, and intervention strategies for each student.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.districtadministration.com/ws031314