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Personalized Learning … What Is Your Perspective?

April 26, 2011

Many Hats

There are days when talk about personalized learning has me scratching my head. At first I thought this was just confusion but now I wonder if it is not from the many hats that I seem to wear. Each of these hats affords me a different perspective on the subject and I have come to appreciate the words of Friedrich Nietzsche

There are no facts, only interpretations.


In the early morning I am a parent of a great son who is making his way into middle school. By mid morning, 8 am is mid-morning when you have a 10-year-old, I am working as a curriculum developer. Inevitability there is a point in the day when I am asked to put on my teachers hat to consider implications for the classroom. This in turn has me considering a students position. Later in the evening my wife, also a teacher, has me engaged in conversation which is a mix of her practical world and my world working in curriculum. We usually top off the night with a discussion about what happened at school with our son. It can be a complicated view of the world switching between these points of view.

When I think of personalized learning in light of these roles I find that my mind-set (perspective) can not help but influence my views. For example …

as a …

Parent – I am all for personalized learning. I really am not all that concerned how it happens as long as it is good for my son and helps him develop the qualities of an engaged life-long learner.

as a …

Curriculum Developer – I find that personalized learning is not so much about the content of the curriculum (I am speaking of learning outcomes, in particular mathematics outcomes and processes) but about the modes through which students are able to meet the outcomes.

as a …

Student – I can only say yahoo. About time.

as a …

Teacher – I believe that personalized learning is a good thing for students and I hope to promote a classroom atmosphere that supports personalized learning. I am also really nervous about how this is to be done as my learning was certainly not personalized so I am working it out as I go.

This does not include all of  the other hats that I have not mentioned such as principal, comptroller, vice principal, superintendent, district helping teacher, bus driver and trustee to name a few.

Like many educators I am still trying to sort all of this out. I expect to have some great triumphs and the odd failure along the way. I think that one of the safe guards I can put in place is to think of multiple perspectives when making decisions and draw as many people into the conversations as possible.

So I ask …

What is your perspective?

Have you considered other perspectives?

Do these other perspectives change your views?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2011 2:50 pm

    Richard – I like how you’ve represented varying perspectives on this. My personal perspective is a mashup of parent, future thinker, and technology leader in a K12 District. Actually, my kids are through K12 so perhaps as I would want it to be as a parent…

    I see PL as a move from top-down to both-and. Student choice, teacher guided, and sometimes teacher directed. Technology enabled and face 2 face. I also see it as less presecriptive content-wise (PLO’s). Students need to learn less about specifics and more about bigger ideas. Learning should be more integrated and less silo’d to be more real world and purposeful and less contrived. I could go on…

    We need to answer questions about what must be known, what skills must be learned, and what should a graduate “look like”? We need to assess in more real world ways – eg, what does a 78% or 86% really mean? What is a “C”? Seems arbitratry and very subjective even with data. Perhaps PL needs to lead to mastery. Perhaps assessment is a portfolio of work with peer, teacher, and parent “assessment”?

    It’s a big topic… a very important one to work out… a very much one with many perspectives.

    • May 2, 2011 10:51 am

      Wow. Lots to think about here in your comment.

      As I am heading back to the classroom next year I am really curious to explore the grading examples you mention above. I need think about this one and will try to make a post about this at some point to get people to help advance my thinking. The “real world ways” you mention has me considering a number of things. I am curious how you think this would look.

      Thanks for the comments.

      • May 3, 2011 6:44 pm

        I just met with some amazing ‘K’ teachers and District early learning literacy teachers who are on an Early Learning Focus Group. They are experimenting with collecting learning artifact or evidence if you will, using video, audio, pictures, text. They capture evidence on each kid or groups as they tackle group and individual learning. The intent is to create digital portfolios for each child to use for reflection, self-reflection, parent discussions, and formal reporting. Their work is expected to set the stage for K-3 in a year and potentially K-12 to some degree more longer term. So, my comments above are already in action in our District and I am so fortunate to be a part of helping make it possible.

      • May 3, 2011 8:31 pm

        That is awesome Brian. I would love to see some of the mathematics examples. Will they be posted somewhere?

  2. April 30, 2011 4:02 am

    As a teacher – I along with the three other teachers in my Year 6 team are exploring personalised learning, and what it offers our students. So far, choice…and ‘engagement’. The kids are more engaged in their learning as they feel they have more responsibility, rather than being told what to learn and when. For some kids that were disconnecting from school, they have made some reconnections through PL. The kids are communicating more about their learning, with me and with each other, and can articulate their progress in different subject areas.

    • May 2, 2011 10:54 am

      Great post. I have some reflections along these lines which will be in my next post based on my experiences with our Cub Scout group last weekend. Stay tuned.

      Thanks for providing some prompts for my next post 🙂

  3. April 30, 2011 8:53 pm

    As Brian said, I am a bit of a mashup of different things.

    As a teacher, it is easier if kids are fitting a mold so I am not spending my life catering to individual needs BUT I think you can compromise because life is not about having the world cater to you it is about you applying your own spin to what the world throws at you. With this being said, teaching is about encouraging individuals to apply their own ideas to a common concept. As we all have had in our careers, absolute brilliance coming from a student from the most mundane of subjects. I think this is where individualization comes in. Encouraging kids to think outside of the box and giving them the tools to do it.

    As a parent. I want my kids to be able to handle the standardized stuff but then take it and develop their own take on the world and I don’t think this is entirely the responsibility of the teacher. It is as much my responsibility as a parent, to get them to individualize their thinking/learning.


    • May 2, 2011 10:59 am

      Thanks Keith. Appreciate the comments.

      We have found the same thing in our home as we constantly remind our son of how he is using what he has learned at school to function in life. In other words, we remind him that he is not going to school just to finish school but to gain knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc. that will benefit him in life. He does not always see this and as parents I feel that doing this helps to cement the learning and to help our son see the benefits of school.

  4. April 30, 2011 8:59 pm

    Hi Richard! Really like the multiple perspectives that you bring to your post. There is definitely uncertainty and anxiety out there right now at the school level, but much like your post, if we weigh out the engagement of students and the ability to get into deeper learning for teachers, 21st century learning certainly has promise. I am looking forward to how this all comes to fruition!

    Informative post!

    • May 2, 2011 11:00 am

      Thanks Cale.

      I could not agree more. It will be an interesting time in education no matter which perspective you consider.

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