This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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I wrote a blog about one of the pitfalls of personalization for the ASCD Whole Child Blog. Specifically, that pitfall is the lack of engagement. With all the focus on personalization through time, pacing, and place, it can be easy to forget about the importance of engagement. No matter where students learn, when they learn, and the timing of the learning, engagement drives them to learn. When we factor all the pieces of personalization together, we can truly meet students where they are and set them on a path of learning that truly meets their needs and desires. Project-based learning can be an effective engagement framework to engage students in personalized learning.

Moving Past “Course-Based” PBL
Due to the antiquated restraints of the education system, most educators are forced to implement PBL in a “course-based” manner. This means that the project occurs within the traditional discipline structures, where there may be integration, but learning is framed within grades and competencies. In addition, start and stop times, driven by the Carnegie unit, force teachers to start and stop a project for all of their students around the same time. What if PBL wasn’t held to antiquated rules of time, space, and discipline constructs? In that ideal situation, students could be engaged in personalized projects.

Student-Designed Projects
Students at Phoenix High School have been engaged in a model similar to the one I’ve described. In it, students design their own driving questions and select the 21st century skills they want to work on, as well as the content learning objectives. They select and design their own products to show their learning in a true commitment to performance assessment. They decide on due dates, benchmarks, and the authentic audience of the work. There is also a heavy push toward community impact and work outside the four walls of the classroom.

My PBL colleague, Erin Sanchez, (formally Erin Thomas), created an amazing graphic of this continuum that shows the power of PBL truly aligned to the learner. As teaching colleagues, we did our best to implement personalized projects for students, and we experienced many of the same challenges faced by teachers who attempt to do this. However, we also saw the payoff: engagement! When students are truly in the driver’s seat of their learning, the impact of their work and the learning associated with it can be powerful!

Role of the Teacher
When teachers move toward personalized PBL, their role continues to shift, just as it does when teachers move traditional instruction to “course-based” PBL. While still involved in the design process, they also serve as advisors. Teachers frequently use question techniques to help students focus and crystalize their projects and project plans. They coach students in creating effective driving questions and student products. They’re still involved in frequent formative assessments, but instead of planning all instructional activity for the students, they help students plan it themselves. In addition, teachers help students select standards and learning targets that will align with the project and products. Teachers at Phoenix High School, for example, help ensure that all standards are targeted for a year, but do not limit the standards that students may want to hit in a project. Here the teachers create and facilitate the infrastructure for the learning rather than designing the PBL projects themselves.

Not every teacher may be ready to jump into this type of personalization. To make it work, they’ll be required to adopt a different teaching role. They’ll need strong management skills and a commitment to disruptive innovation. In addition, the current constructs of the education system may hold us back. What if we could make this dream of personalized PBL a reality? I say that we work toward it, creating a push on the system that demands change in the education of our students.


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This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >

 


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Personalization is quickly becoming a buzzword in education, especially in terms of blended learning and educational technology. I joined a team of educators on a panel on the same subject on the Whole Child Podcast. We unpacked what it is and what it might look like in the classroom. We talked about its challenges and benefits and collaborated to explain its implications for education. Most importantly, we talked about the critical role of relationships. When you break down personalization, most of us would agree that there are great aspects. Take a look at this chart.

I think one of the most overlooked pieces for personalization currently is that the learner “connects learning with interests, talents, passions, and aspirations.” Those who know personalization believe it is a critical component, but in the implementation it can be lost or “put on the back burner.” There are couple reasons for this.

First, the language is key. Here the learner is in complete control, and it almost seems as if a teacher is not part of the picture. In fact, a teacher is still integral to personalization, not only in helping provide scaffolding and instruction, but most importantly the engagement. A pitfall is to look at this language around personalization and engagement to a point where teachers have no role in it. In fact, student engagement—whether in a model of personalization, differentiation, or individualization—is arguably the most important factor. If you ask teachers what their biggest concerns are for the classroom and education, student engagement is at or near the top of the list. We need to remember that this is still true in personalization. Relationships and the creation of engagement still remain a critical component of personalization.

Secondly, there is a danger with regard to personalization and technology. Much of personalization is done through blended or online learning. I, myself, am a big advocate for online learning. However I have major caveats and critiques. I have seen digital courses where students still receive the “sit and get” instruction, where they is no choice in what they learn or how they show their learning. The digital curriculum may have amazing tools, such as videos, games and more; but the model of learning is still grounded in traditional instruction. Yes, students may have control over time, place, and pace, but often the engaged tenet is not truly manifested in this model of personalization.

As we move forward with personalization, we need to make sure not to forget student engagement and its implications for truly personalizing learning, where student passion and interest are not only allowed, but a critical component of the model.


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This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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Recently NPR did a story that had the general title The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course. And yet the article was focused solely on MOOCs (massive open online courses). Let’s be clear that MOOCs are just one part of the so-called online learning revolution. (Don’t forget blended learning, the flipped classroom, etc). The story was a strong critique on MOOCs and their effectiveness. For instance, the article cites one case at San Jose State University in California:

But by all accounts, the San Jose experiment was a bust. Completion rates and grades were worse than for those who took traditional campus-style classes. And the students who did best weren’t the underserved students San Jose most wanted to reach.

Even Udacity’s co-founder called their MOOCs a “lousy product.” Obviously MOOCs are not as successful as was previously hoped. In fact, much of this was not a surprise to me. MOOCs can run into the same pitfall that swallows other iterations of online education. Let’s use this iteration as an opportunity to improve practice for online learning.

1. Retain the Human Element
Education is about relationships. We know this, and the creators of MOOCs have started to adjust based on this. Course mentors are being added, as well as more 24/7 support specialists. We can no longer continue with the “factory farm” model of online education and push students through it without the close relationship and coaching of a teacher. Online and blended-learning teachers need to continue building relationships with students to truly personalize learning. You can’t personalize learning with a 100:1 student:teacher ratio!

2. Foster Focused Collaboration
While MOOCs have had a lot of tools for open collaboration, engagement in these spaces may be hit or miss. Participation in discussion boards can in fact be a good metric to gauge a MOOC’s success. In order to increase participation, give students authentic issues and problems to address. In addition, create affinity or project groups, or have students self-select for these groups. This will create not only a focused cohort of colleagues, but also a focus on topics and problems.

3. Provide Ongoing Feedback
If students receive needed and timely formative assessment feedback, learning can be more personalized, and they will be getting the attention they need. There can of course be self, peer, expert and teacher assessments, along with assessment by other agents, but it must be ongoing. We need to build more of this into MOOCs and online education in general.

4. Blended Is Best
I would make an argument that one of the best ways to work on all the above recommendations is to take on some sort of blended model. There are many of these models and implementation methods. When a course is blended, ongoing feedback and assessment can happen more readily, relationships can be strengthened, and collaboration can happen in varying spaces that meet student needs. Even Coursera is seeing this as important and is building “learning hubs” that include weekly in-person instruction. Anant Agarwal makes the case in a recent TED talk that MOOCs, despite the issues we’ve discussed, can still be used to supplement instruction. In fact, Anant pairs online instruction with face-to-face, creating a blended environment.

We know these strategies and recommendations work! Another important thing to consider, however, is how we are measuring the “failure” and “success” of MOOCs. Perhaps MOOCs are disrupting the traditional mold of education and are still being measured using the quality indicators of Education 1.0. In fact, the Atlantic recently published an article that explains how “tricky” it is to measure the success of a MOOC. In addition, Anant Agarwal believes that MOOCs can still be a useful component of blended learning. And so, regardless of this rough patch, we can still learn from some of the bumps and, in learning, we can improve digital education for all.


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