What does this mean for the teacher though? It has to mean a change in mindset. You can't be the sage on the stage anymore. You have to let students own their learning and take control of it. The age of having every student face the board or projector every day and take notes is dead. It's just not engaging, and deep down most teachers know it. It's especially not engaging for today's student.
Change is hard though. I think what get's lost in this transition to personalized learning is a path for teachers to take. Many districts and education theorist push the approach, but it's hard to get a teacher to make that change if they don't know where to start. Below you will find steps that I would take if I was still in the classroom. (I added Links to suggestions for you to start exploring) These steps can be different for everyone, but it gives you a place to start. Really, you can personalize the process to you!
- Step 1: Have a Web Presence- To really personalize learning, you need a way to present and organize student options. You need a way to have a classroom without walls. You can do this through some type of web presence. This web presence could be one of the hundreds of Learning Management Systems out there (Like Edmodo or Schoology), it could be a district provided system like (Edgenuity or Blackboard), or it could be one you build yourself ( through Google Sites, Wix, or Weebly). If you don't have one you need to start! In the end, it''s also great marketing to parents and the community. Personally, I like to build my own web presence in order to break free of the constraints of an LMS. I used a combination of Weebly and Symabloo in order to do it. You can see my web presence at lockhartushistory.com.
- Step 2: Change the Way You Use Your Web Presence- A web presence is great, but what are you going to do with it? Personalized learning is all about changing the student outcomes, so why not change the student outcomes from your web presence. Most teachers use their web presence as a way to help students who are absent, or a way to help students who forget assignments. Teachers use it as reminder and homework system. To get the most out of it though, just like anything you have to change your mindset. Why not use this as a way to add all sorts of options. Students could then use it in class! You could have different ways to expose students to base content. You could have different choices for assignments that would prevent you from printing off loads and loads of assignment sheets. Symbaloo is a great way to present assignments. It allows you to embed Google Drive which opens up a world of possibilities for choice and organization. You could then embed these on your own website or you could add a link if using something like an LMS. You can see my example of a Symbaloo webmix at this link
- Step 3: Go Paperless (But Not Completely)- If you change the way you use your web presence, you can then go paperless. Students can access all of their assignments from the website, but most importantly you can start having students also turn in their assignments digitally. An easy way to do this is, is to establish an email for it. Make a gmail address that is only for turning assignments. Then you can easily grade by just going through the inbox. You could even build Rubrics through Google forms that you can fill out and send back to students. Other ways to have assignments turned in digitally include using Dropbox, a New app called Skaffl, or a wall like Padlet. If you are an LMS (such as Edmodo) user, there is always an option to use that as a turn in service. With all that being said, should you go completely paperless? My answer is no. Leave paper as an option. Some students prefer it. There is nothing wrong with a few students turning in paper assignments from time to time. You could also leave that option open as a way to deliver assignments and content to students who really want it that way.
- Step 4: Assess Digitally- In today's world, you should laugh at the teachers who are standing at the scantron machine at the end of the semester. (if a school has enough devices, it's very understandable if lack of devices are an issue) There are so many great ways to assess digitally in today's world that using the paper version is just inefficient. All of the digital assessments provide great data that allows you to take that next step to personalizing instruction. What's also great is you get the results right away! You could start small by using the quiz function in whatever LMS you use. Edmodo's works pretty well. You could then progress to using something like Kahoot! which gamify's it, Socrative which is great for formal assessments, Infuse Learning which allows you to do easy one question assessments, or Plickers which you can do with 1 Device!
- Step 5: Create, Create, Create- A HUGE part of personalized transformational learning is allowing students to create. In reality this is easier with technology, but it definitely can be accomplished with no technology. There are hundreds of ways to let students create, but when you do it digitally it generally can fall in a few categories: presentations, video, audio, animation, and web design. If you are going to start moving this way, START SMALL. It could be as little as having students draw a historical figure and detail the message their 5 senses are getting. This takes NO TECHNOLOGY. You could also do things like have students do hand drawn videos. They can draw out every scene of their video and they can either present it in class or you can use one device to film it. There are other ways to do it with minimal technology, you just have to get creative. When you finally do get technology, the Apple apps are a great place to start for presentations, movies, and audio. There are loads of animation apps out there, it just depends on what you want. Weebly's education version allows you to have 40 free student accounts for students to easily build websites.
- Step 6: Give Choice for Creation- To truly make learning personal, you have to give students choice. They have to be able to choose what projects they do, and truly take ownership of it. Start small with this step. There are also different ways to approach it. You could start as small as giving them a choice between two creation projects. You could make it more. It just depends on what you can handle. You could also give students choice in how they present their creations. Really, this all about ownership,and anything you can do to improve that aspect for students will make the learning outcomes better.
- Step 7: Give LOTS of Choices- I separated this out because I truly believe this is a next step. The next step is to give choices on things other than students creation projects. It could be choices on how they receive content. It could be choices on how students are assessed. Really, its up to your imagination and creativity. When I was in the classroom, I gave students the option of the traditional lecture approach, or they could use the online flipped approach. Really, it again comes down to students taking ownership.
- Step 8: Start Using Data to Make Real Decisions- It's a given that teachers are supposed to use data to make decisions, but how many actually do it effectively? Personalized learning requires you to do that. Take the data from your digital assessments and make real decisions on what students know and what students don't know. Give pretest to give the students who know a pass on stuff they already know and really focus in on the areas you have to teach. Then assess how well things are going through out. In the end, this seems hard, but in the end it allows us to do what we all really want. We can take knowledgable students deeper and hit those areas of our content that we think should be in the standards. We can also start to mold students choices to their interest. If a student is doing poorly, we can go to them, and start looking for interest we can use. For instance, if a student loves comic books, but struggles in our class we can have them create comic books as a student outcome.
- Step 9: Differentiate those Choices- The great thing about digital creation is it makes it easy to differentiate. As you have students create, you can have students who struggle do creation projects that are simple such as Imovie trailers and simple radio broadcasts. As students progress, they can do more complex Social Media, web, and Video projects. They could then do something like a full on news broadcast with segments as a top project. This is really all about your creativity. A great way to present those choices is by using Symbaloo webmixes
- Step 10: Move Away from the Sage on the Stage- This can be the hardest change for not only teachers, but also the students. This requires students to take total ownership of their learning, and it requires the teacher to become more of a facilitator. You can make this change slowly. Start with Nearpod. Nearpod is basically Power Point on steroids. It allows you to sync your presentations with students devices and deliver interactive content to them. It's a first step in moving the class away from the teacher and the front of the room. Once you have that, add in flipped videos. Flipped Videos are videos of your "lectures" or base content that students can explore on their own. Touchcast is a great way to do those. You could start by doing them as a supplement to your in-class instruction and for those who are absent. You could then move them to being an option to take instead of the in-class lectures. Basically, as you have in-class lectures for those who still want it, students who learn better on their own could take that time to explore the content. Personally, I have found that their are many students who are so trained in the traditional approach, that at this point you still have to have it in your class. You can shift it though to being an option, and then the key is to make it the most fun engaging traditional approach that you can. Hopefully, as personalized learning spreads to every level, non-traditional approaches will become the norm!
- Step 11: Take the Differentiation Further! Personalize It- The last step is to really personalize that learning. You need to get to know your students, and then you need to give them choices that align with their interest. If a student loves comic books, that could be the way they show their learning. If they are great at Math, how can that be used to show their understanding of History? It's all about finding ways to let students use their strengths in order to improve their weakness.