“Personalized Learning fills the gaps between understanding and complete practical application.”
“Personalized Learning is about transforming the learning process from teacher-centric to student-centric…”
“It establishes a learning environment customized to the individual student’s learning style, achievement levels and personality; taking advantage of all media and technology to give the student the best chance for success.”
“Personalized Learning is a concept being misconstrued to remove actual teaching and teacher-student relationships from K-12 education.”
“Here is my definition: Learners are self-directed; they are empowered and equipped to own their learning. They co-create customized learning paths, tailored to their strengths, needs, interests and passions. They have voice and choice in what, how, when, where and with whom they will learn. They are creators of content. They are engaged in real-world projects with peers and experts from around the world. They are consistently self-evaluating, self-regulating, self-motivating their learning through goal setting and reflection so they can achieve deeper learning.”
— Responses to the survey question “How would you describe personalized learning?”
Personalized learning is the most effective style of teaching. That’s according to the majority of the educators who participated in our survey on the topic. The attributes that make it effective include higher student engagement, the ability for students to work at their own pace, and the opportunity to focus on students’ weaker subject areas.
Other learning styles, including adaptive learning, flipped classroom, and competency-based education, ranked significantly behind personalized learning in terms of effectiveness. The concept of makerspaces placed at the bottom, possibly because it deals with only one aspect of education.
In terms of drawbacks, participants felt that personalized learning requires additional professional development, extra classroom preparation, and can be generally resource-intensive. It places an extra responsibility on students that not all learners may be able to handle. To a lesser extent, it could reduce interactive aspects of education, such as classroom participation and group debating.
Reliable Wi-Fi is considered one of the most important factors for implementing personalized learning, ranking just below teacher professional development. Other important elements include: personalized learning curricula, providing appropriate student devices, and well-designed classrooms and learning spaces.
Implementing Personalized Learning
We asked the educators to describe how they were implementing personalized learning at their schools and, as you might expect,each answer was unique – personalized to the individual district. Some districts and colleges participate in Genius Hour and Passion Projects. Others use online resources to get started. Many pilot one subject, such as reading or algebra, to get started; or begin with just one school in a district. Choice boards were mentioned as a means for students to select how they will learn a concept. Implementing flipped classroom is a popular first step toward personalized learning. Two common refrains are just how massive the overall personalized learning undertaking can be; and the importance of technology, especially personal student devices and high quality Wi-Fi.
A wide range of software and web tools are used to help implement personalized learning. Google Apps for Education is far and away the most popular tool, mentioned by more than half the surveyed educators. iTunes University Courses and Class Dojo came in second followed by a long list (see below) of other personalized learning tools. A number of respondents said they are using their own homebrew tools, having found nothing off the shelf to fill their needs.
Here is the list of personalized learning tools in use or planned for use by those surveyed:
Google Apps for Education, Class Dojo, iTunes University Courses, Education Elements, Activate Learning, Istation, Lumen Learning, Acellus Academy, Chalkable, Knewton Personalized Learning Tools, PEAK Personalized Learning Platform, Epiphany Learning, Moodle, Canvas, Using Success Maker, D2L, Khan Academy, Edmodo, USAtestprep, Lynda.com, MyEdApp, PM eCollection Books, Think Through Math, Edgenuity, Haiku, eSpark, Smarter Measure, thinking maps, Front Row, Splash Math, IXl, Raz Kids, North Carolina DPI On Line Modules (Blackboard), Schoology, Microsoft 365, New Classrooms, Classroom 4 one, PIAJET PROGRAM, Educlimber, Mobymax, Eduguide, Microsoft OneNote Classroom, itslearning.com, electude (automotive based platform), SWAYAM MOOC platform, Buzz/Agilix, Schoology, Buzz and Activate Learning, Safari Montage, Seesaw, Compass Learning, Camtasia, Achieve 3000, Blendspace.
Looking To The Future
Currently 22% of educators report using personalized learning in their school districts. Another 20% expect to adapt it over the next two years. Although 12% say they do not plan to employ it, less than 2% expect personalized learning to become less relevant in the next 1-2 years.
In closing, here are a few summary comments from educators that express the optimism, and in some cases frustration, about the move to personalized learning.
“Personalized learning is our district’s top strategic goal and we are actively engaged in its success. Every technology decision that we make is based on how it improves student learning and student opportunities.”
“I’ve seen programs like USATestprep when well implemented cause a massive change in the end of year course scores for my students. Regardless of what is causing the success, getting people to jump on board in schools is tough. It takes an administration firmly rooted in a new technology with set goals. Teachers are NOT a one size fits all, we are as diverse as our students with backgrounds that might go back 30 years and some that are brand new. A one-size fits all professional development or plan has NEVER worked, yet I see it attempted yearly. To implement personalized learning, you need stages of implementation that are easy to follow and can be customized to the individual school, teacher, and student.”
“We started with our implementation spring of last year and are very excited with how our teachers are embracing the implementation. We realize that most districts start with a pilot and are proud of the fact that we are ALL IN and moving forward district-wide.”
“Teachers need more time to implement new practices. Hopefully, Personalized Learning will become a standard part of the BS Education curriculum.”
“My school hasn’t seen dramatic increases, but I have. My scores on MAP were considerably higher than the school scores. I believe in PL, but am confined to old structures that make it difficult to implement.”
“I am so excited about a future in education knowing that this is the direction we are headed!”
For more on personalized learning…