Group of students sitting at a round table

Personalize the Learning Experience

24 Jul 2014 by Tracy Vasquez

Personalized technology is everywhere — from Disney’s innovative Magic band to Bloomboard personalizing professional development for teachers. Data is king. We have been seeing this for years on Amazon: your favorite products appearing in the marketplace. Now, many industries are using data to learn more about their clients with the intention of making their experience better. It’s about time students in school get this same treatment. Johnny and Susan have different backgrounds, different learning styles and different preferences. Why would we provide them with the same instruction — or even the same scaffolding? How do we know they are being challenged to learn? How can we make learning more differentiated to boost engagement?

Can students learn with personalized technology?

We think of the traditional classroom as students in desks listening to the teacher. The teacher disseminates all information and the students learn by watching and listening. Could student learning improve with personalized learning? Students should be able to focus on their individualized learning goals. And students need access to personalized technology devices that enable them to track progress towards their goals. This works on Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, Microsoft Surface, Chromebooks, MacBooks, or other individual devices. That way, each student could work towards these goals according to his/her own motivational drives and learning needs. Progress could be tracked with interactive ebooks (raz-kids.com, scholastic.com/storia) or through content-related sites (Kahn Academy.org). Collaborative or individual work would help students progress in their studies at home or at school. Individual, personalized technology allows students to learn anywhere, not just inside the classroom walls. These students were born in a digital world — they want to learn in a digital format. As a result, teachers are learning to use immediate data results — without boring worksheets.

How do schools get this started now?

Teachers assist students with guiding questions to inspire inquiry in alignment with curricular goals. They can model this in “think-aloud” format, asking questions such as, “What do I want to know about this topic?” “How can I find out more about this?” Teachers facilitate the search for and gather knowledge-building resources. Districts, schools, teachers, even students can create custom search engines based on approved sites, using the Google.com/cse page. Students can also be directed to find information on flipped classroom tools such as ed.ted.com, slideshare, prezi.com, teachertube.com.

How do we know students are learning?

Teachers provide parameters of how students will be assessed. Students may be given a rubric to understand what components they must demonstrate to earn points. As teachers and students become familiar with personalized learning, students may create their own rubrics, based on individualized learning goals. A great way to assess personalized learning is through individual or collaborative presentations. Students could use one of the formerly mentioned technology resources, or another technology resource to create a presentation that allows the student to share his/her new learning. Students will have pride in their work and will be accountable for their own progress towards learning goals. Teachers will have assessment data covering multiple standards, including The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for student use of technology.

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