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Symposium on Personalized Learning

In August 2010, more than 150 education leaders and experts met in Boston for a two-day discussion on personalized learning. Initiated by the Software and Information Industry Association in conjunction with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Association for School Curriculum Design, the symposium created the document “Innovate to Educate: System Re-Design for Personalized Learning.”

The report says that 91 percent of symposium participants agreed that today’s “fixed time, place, curriculum and pace” are not preparing children for the digital, knowledge economy, and that education must undergo a systemic change.

The document identifies five key elements central to the personalized learning model: flexible, anytime, anywhere learning; redefining the role of “teacher” from imparter of knowledge to guide; project-based learning; a student-driven path; and competency-based assessments.

The report also notes the necessary following policies to achieve these key elements:

? Redefining the use of time. The Carnegie unit or course “seat time” requirement of 130 instructional hours per unit remains the major barrier to personalized learning, and school calendars should adjust to a 24/7/365 schedule.

? Performance-based, time-flexible state assessment. Rigid high-stakes tests don’t fit the customized learning model. Multiple, varied opportunities to demonstrate mastery are needed.

? Equity in access to technology infrastructure. Personalized learning relies on access to technology on a broad scale at home, school and other places where learning occurs.

? Funding models that incentivize completion. Predating online and blended learning, the average daily attendance funding model compensates schools only for students physically present. New funding models for personalized learning elements, such as early graduation and dual enrollment in college, need to be considered by states and districts.

? P-20 continuum and non-grade band system. Performance-based rather than grade-based student grouping is key to the authentic personalization of learning. Students should be able to progress, unhindered by age or grade level, until they have achieved mastery.