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How to personalize learning

Guidance from school administrators and other experts
A recent laptop rollout program gives all students n the Lindsay USD in California access the internet for 24/7 learning.
A recent laptop rollout program gives all students n the Lindsay USD in California access the internet for 24/7 learning.

Those who have made the transition from teacher-led instruction to student-driven education say it is a difficult process. Here is some guidance from school administrators and other experts in the personalized learning community.

  • Teach students how to teach themselves. “You can’t hand kids the Common Core standards and expect them to figure everything out, saying ‘you know what you need to learn.’” – Rick Schreiber, CEO of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, a nonprofit devoted to reforming schools by giving students more control over their coursework.
  • Relationships matter. “You teach your students best when you know them well. It’s very hard to do that virtually. From a business standpoint, it might be lucrative to reduce the number of teachers, but for personalized learning to work, there needs to be that human touch.” – Carlos Moreno, national director of Big Picture Learning schools
  • Help teachers adjust to change. “You should not only guide teachers on how to use personalized learning devices, but also explain how their role changes in a digital classroom.” – Holly DeLeon, sales director for McGraw-Hill’s Time to Know software
  • Build consensus around reform. “We can throw out the coolest technology ever, but if teachers don’t use it, there will be no change whatsoever.” –Mike Evans, director of information and instructional support systems at Forsyth County Schools
  • Focus on helping and teaching skills. “If the state standards are changing often, you’re constantly aiming for a moving target. Keep yourself focused on helping students and teaching them skills.” – Lori Anderson, director of user experience and marketing at ALEKS Corporation, which provides adaptive technology for math education.
  • Technology is not enough. “Personalized learning is not a plug-and-play type of thing. You need to have a plan.” – Chris Liang-Vergara, director of instructional technology at FirstLine Schools
  • Assess the rigor of products. “Before choosing a personalized learning product, ask yourself, ‘Does this product’s concept of mastery match the rigor that I expect as an educator?’ Assess whether the tools you are using are worth the time and money.” – Lynzi Ziegenhagen, the creator of Schoolzilla, a data management platform for school districts.
  •  Encourage innovation. “Don’t penalize schools for doing things outside the norm. Don’t discourage innovation by enforcing rigid standards.” – Chris Rush, a co-founder of New Classrooms, a nonprofit devoted to personalized learning.
  • Technology is your friend. “If you think of your role as an educator and imagine yourself as students’ enabler, then technology is your friend. It’s a different role, but it’s not a diminished role.” – Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, an organization which promotes digital learning.