6 Emerging Technologies Supporting Personalized Learning

This a follow up to 4 Iowa Schools Getting Personalized Learning Right.

Dee Lanier, an amazing and inspiring educator, has recently challenged my thinking about how important it is to “vet” the technology I am using. Educators, administrators and technology directors/coordinators should be fastidious about what programs they are purchasing and supporting for use in their institutions. What does this mean? There needs to be serious reflection and many conversations before clicking “purchase.” A superb resource for technology evaluation and reflection is TRUDACOT, a discussion protocol intended to help facilitate educator conversations about deeper learning, student agency, authentic work, and technology integration (credit to the creators, who–full disclosure–are dear friends and previous colleagues Scott McLeod & Julie Graber). When vetting school or classroom technology, there are many key factors (see this great podcast series on designing pilot programs for EdTech and personalized learning). As a starting point, here are three questions you must consider:

  1. Does the technology overshadow, mask, or otherwise draw the focus away from important learning?
  2. Does the technology add value so that students can do their work in better or different ways?
  3. Are digital technologies utilized by students in both appropriate and empowering ways?

If your answers are “no,” “yes,” and “yes,” you’re off to a great start. Below are a few technology platforms that I support wholeheartedly, which tick each box above. My considerations are usually focused around a few questions. I like to ask: How does this tool lower the floor for young, emerging learners? Can the roof be raised easily for our high-flyers? What is the potential for personalization?

6 Tech Tools to Support Personalized Learning

  • Seesaw: A student-driven digital portfolio that documents student learning with built-in creative tools and provides an authentic audience for student work.
  • Soundtrap: A cloud-based recording studio that harnesses critical thinking and communication skills through collaborative, creative audio recording projects and bridges the necessary skills for preparing our 21st century learners for a global, connected world.
  • WeVideo: A cloud-based video editing and digital storytelling platform.
  • ExplainEverything: A cloud collaboration platform built on the learning technology of tomorrow that helps students and teachers tell their unique story.
  • Code.org: Their vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. They provide open-ended programs, tutorials, and full curriculum to support this cause.
  • Minecraft: Empowers unique and creative learning experiences for educators and students by providing an open-world game which promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive environment where the only limit is your imagination.

How do we get there?

In my previous post, I discussed four rural Iowa schools doing personalized learning right. How do schools who may be dozens or even hundreds of miles away from the nearest music store or science center implement technology with such expertise? For one, rural schools and communities are usually strong and tight-knit. There are close relationships that can be tapped into for support. These relationships can help reinforce personalized learning models in their schools. According to A Guidebook for Success: Strategies for Implementing Personalized Learning in Rural Schools, personalized learning is essential for rural schools because it “provides opportunities for students that often are not available in many rural districts. With its focus on individual learning and the use of emerging technologies, personalized learning helps to transcend many of the limitations confronting rural students, such as geography and limited course opportunity and access.”

Yes! Bingo.

Ok, now that we know what successful personalized learning looks like in schools and we understand the urgency of providing these opportunities to our learners, we need to start the engine. Future Ready Schools has a great guidebook designed just for this process which has a 5 step planning process and focuses on these categories (keep in mind this is geared for district-wide adoption):

  1. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: Teachers customize instruction, content, and assessment on a student-to-student basis to ensure mastery.
  2. Personalized Professional Learning: Through technology and digital learning, educators access professional resources and learning opportunities that can lead to improvements in their students’ academic success.
  3. Budget and Resources: Districts align their budgets with personalized learning priorities including ongoing support for quality technology and infrastructure.
  4. Community Partnerships: Schools and districts partner with local businesses and industries to advance the school’s learning goals.
  5. Data and Privacy: Districts and schools establish policies and procedures for collecting, analyzing, storing, and reporting student data that ensure student privacy and data security.
  6. Robust Infrastructure: Teachers embrace technology and online platforms to access tools, resources, data, and systems necessary to tailor student learning.
  7. Use of Space and Time: Through technology and a new approach to classroom structure, teachers and schools leverage in-school and out-of-school time to meet the needs of individual learners.

These steps are intense but imperative to shift teaching and learning for our students’ global success. Let’s roll up our sleeves and start this important work!

This was originally posted by Getting Smart.

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Four Iowa Schools Getting Personalized Learning Right

I am a mother, wife, and teacher who lives in rural Iowa. The closest music store is 35 miles away, the closest art museum is 106 miles away, and the closest science center is 152 miles away, but we nonetheless manage. Interestingly, Iowa even happens to be quite the leader in “outside of the box” educational institutions, in spite of many of its schools’ remote locations–how is that possible?

Personalized learning.

What does that look like for Iowa, how can others get there, and what emerging technologies support us?

Today, I’d like to showcase a few Iowa schools that I think are absolute gems of personalized learning, with some key takeaways for educators and administrators implementing personalized learning in their own classroom, school or district.

Waukee Apex

I had the opportunity to visit Waukee Apex in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, I wrote about my experience, but the long and short of my takeaways is that through inquiry-based learning and authentic experiences driven by their interests, students build skills in key areas: productivity, accountability, complex communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability.

Take Away – When considering your course design and/or offerings, think about how you can allow your students’ to bring their own interests into their learning (check out what APEX offers).

Iowa BIG

Head east a couple of hours to Cedar Rapids and you’ll hear the Iowa BIG Co-Creator & Associate Superintendent Trace Pickering evangelizing for personalized learning: “Let your passions drive you to do something great and be open to building authentic relationships and teams.” I was lucky enough to visit this learning space a couple of years ago, which shares a space in a co-op building with many local start-ups. Their model is competency-based with deep roots in personalizing the educational experience to honor student interests and goals. It started (by accident!) when the founders started evaluating the current K-12 model and wanted to #makeitbetter.

Take Away – Have a conversation. How does your classroom/school score with shifting from our traditional model? (This is a great starting conversation piece with your leaders).

Iowa BIG North

A few schools a couple hours north wanted to adapt a version of BIG for their rural area, and did just that with Iowa BIG North. Four districts came together and embraced the same pedagogical foundation of personalized, passion-based learning, but did so while facing a different set of challenges and opportunities given the location and community sizes. They are doing this beautifully with their program, helping businesses in their communities finding solutions to real problems. The students and businesses work on authentic problems together.  Students from participating schools work as one across district lines on their initiatives.

Take Away – What challenges are your community facing, and how can your young learners help solve them? Check out the current initiatives going on in Iowa BIG North’s small communities for inspiration.

Van Meter Schools

And last, head back to the west-central part of the state to Van Meter Schools (student enrollment 500), which was one of the first districts in the state to implement a 1:1 student computing initiative, and also one of the first districts in Iowa to be named an Apple Distinguished School. That being said, their more recent work on project-based learning, standards-based grading, competency-based education and flexible schedules where students have voice and choice in how much time they need to spend on their learning is very inspiring. Not to mention, the voice/choice has bled into the teacher professional learning. Rarely do the teachers learn in whole-school scenarios…instead, they identify the skills they have and need, then personalize their learning for professional growth. Simple yet genius!

Take Away – After you and your colleagues feel somewhat comfortable with the idea of shifting towards more personalized learning – do it. Dive in head first and turn your classrooms into a personalized learning environment!

Any time you’re using technology in the classroom, whether to personalize learning or otherwise, you must keep the tech relevant to the goal. I also encourage you to consider creation tools versus productivity tools (some my favorites are WeVideoSoundtrapExplainEverythingMinecraftCode.org and Seesaw – stay tuned for a follow-up piece on these!). Most of all, have fun and get creative, and it will be contagious for your learners!

This was originally posted by Getting Smart.

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