As I’ve talked about in other blog posts, personalized
learning begins when a teacher creates a bond with her students. While the term
personalized learning may be somewhat
new, we know that the concept isn’t.
Good teachers have always sought to identify individual student needs,
tap into student interests and create personalized pathways for students that
engage them in their learning.
What is new, however, is how more and more teachers are
using technology to foster the teacher-student connection. Technology makes it easier to identify
students’ needs, strengths and interests. It makes it easier to customize
learning experiences. It makes it easier
to engage students and help them own their learning.
Technology makes personalized learning easier but it isn’t easy
just yet. We still have a lot to learn from research and from teachers who are
innovating and trying out different approaches in their classrooms. Their
work is a far, far cry from the notion that personalized learning simply means
a student in front of a computer.
I’ve shared a few stories about some of these teachers, such
Kaswell in Brooklyn, NY and Tanesha
Washington DC. And, I’m thrilled now to also
share examples of their personalized learning routines, rituals and strategies
that other teachers can explore and use for themselves.
Aaron and Tanesha, along with high school teacher Jessica
Anderson of Montana and eight other teachers, are part of BetterLesson’s
Blended Learning Master Teacher Project (BlendedMTP). The
project seeks to capture and disseminate effective personalized learning
practices through strategy videos and other classroom artifacts.
Their first 53 videos focus on building classroom culture
and routines that support personalized learning through both technological and
non-technological approaches. As Aaron
told our team, “Blended learning or not, there is still a culture, a
foundation, that needs to be built and, in some ways, it is more important than
By the end of the project, BetterLesson projects that there will
be another 200+ videos from the teacher team.
It promises to be a wonderful window into the work and thinking of a few
great teachers—and a valuable resource for all educators.
So, take a look:
Curious about how to individualize activities to build
specific skills for each student?
Review, a strategy developed by San Jose teacher Stephen Pham.
Struggling with how to smoothly facilitate student movement
on and off of technology stations? Watch elementary teacher Freddy Esparza
Or, perhaps you are wondering about ways to gamify your curriculum? Take a look at Jessica’s videos on Gamification
and Battling the Boss. Designed for her 9th
grade Earth Science classes, her curriculum centers on a story that includes
student quests, a quest contract (or grade contract), different levels of
activities, experience points (or points for mastery and completion of work)
and a leader board.
As Jessica explains, “The lower achieving students love it
because they can do something over and over until they’ve mastered it, and they
don’t feel like stragglers. The higher
achieving students love it because they don’t have to wait. And even students
who aren’t gamers love it because it changes the dynamics to be more
student-centered, not teacher-centered.”
What’s also interesting is that the BlendedMTP project has
evolved into a community of practice, with teachers dedicated to looking critically
at their own work. Both Aaron and Tanesha
emphasize the importance of the project to their own development as teachers.
“Even through we are called ‘blended master teachers,’ it is
almost a misnomer,” Tanesha explains. “We
are still hungry to learn and we are all about continuous improvement. I’m still on my journey in figuring this out.
It isn’t like riding a bike. I’m constantly learning about it, iterating on
what I’ve done in my classroom and learning more.”
Aaron adds, “I’ve done a lot of fine tuning of my own work. Documenting my work has helped me highlight
best practices and decide some other things have to go. It’s been a big reflection on my process. And, it’s a work in progress. We are putting
our work out there for people to take, use as a baseline and make it their
own. We hope they might become inclined
to try out blended learning themselves.”
I, for one, am excited to see what the next series of videos
from the BlendedMTP project brings!