Driving Change to Personalized Learning? Here’s How Three Leaders Have...

Personalized Learning

Driving Change to Personalized Learning? Here’s How Three Leaders Have Done It

By Molly Levitt and Megan McMahon     Jul 23, 2018

Driving Change to Personalized Learning? Here’s How  Three Leaders Have Done It

Moving towards personalized learning can be fraught with tension. How do you set a vision? What supports do you need in place? How can you get district and state level systems to work together to get a full picture of what is happening?

Ahead of our 2018 EdSurge Fusion conference in October, we sat down with three attendees to discuss the secret sauce of what is working in their communities.

Putting vision into practice

Any school district knows, creating a vision for personalized learning is useless if you do not provide staff the steps to actually get there. According to Adam Lindstrom, Supervisor of Instructional Technology, Marlboro Township Public Schools in NJ: “The vision is only as good as the action that comes after it.” Therefore, Marlboro set out to provide a roadmap for educators to understand how each element of their vision works in practice.

To do this they created "cheat sheet" charts, such as these for STMath and IXL to help educators know how to use the programs as well as resources to help educators interpret data. Each chart has details on how to use each report to target instruction along with what kind of activities students can do, including online and offline learning activities. This helps teachers see what their vision for personalized learning looks like in practice.

Creating teacher buy-in for personalized learning

Change management can be a lonely process. If you do not effectively engage your teachers, then there is a good likelihood the initiative will fail. Building on prior work in personalized learning, leaders in Greenwich Public Schools knew they had to start by building strong support within the teacher community.

Administrators began by asking for volunteers to be part of a pilot. Esra Murray, a third-grade math teacher, was among those who stepped up to be part of a two-phase pilot focused on continuing the implementation of personalized learning with a specific emphasis on pacing and mastery learning in elementary math. The pilot included six schools and 19 teachers across three grade levels.

Teachers wanted to create multiple levels of mastery that they could reach at their own pace. To do so, they started by evaluating their students’ learning and physical spaces. They tested teaching strategies that made use of a digital learning environment such as using playlists and learning progressions, as well as basing instruction more around centers and independent work versus a more traditional sit and get model. Throughout this process they sought opportunities to emphasize student voice and choice in the learning process.

With school and district support, Murray and her teammates took part in summer professional learning opportunities. More time was embedded in the school schedule for professional development, team meetings and grade level planning times. And they set up times to cross pollinate their experiences with the educators at other schools involved in the pilot.

Throughout the pilot, not only did Murray and others notice more student engagement in the learning process, but teachers increasingly saw themselves as coaches and felt encouraged by their administrators to take risks, try new ideas, and think outside their existing structure. The pilot supported them to embrace the idea of failing forward and become learning partners with their students.

If you are looking to understand how successful implementation of personalized learning initiatives directly empower educators in the classroom, Esra will be the person to meet at Fusion.

Setting a state level vision

How do you think about interoperability across an entire state education system? Ask Caitlin Dooley, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning at Georgia Department of Education, whose department in May 2018 won the platinum level IMS Global Learning Impact Award, a high honor, for their Georgia Virtual Total Learning Architecture.

Georgia set out to figure out how to share learning experiences and progress data across systems. State educational competencies are the connecting thread through the use of machine-readable open-source standards, where all learning resources are aligned within learning systems. From the time teachers select standards, to the time the student is assessed, objects remain linked to the appropriate learning standards, plus educators can use what others have created related to competencies and students carry their transcripts forward and earn badges along the way. Vendors can also easily find the learning standards. The Georgia Virtual Total Learning Architecture implementation is currently in pilot in 10 school districts in the state. Caitlin and her team are eager to share their learnings at Fusion this autumn.

Want to meet these educators, along with hundreds of other movers and shakers from around the country? Join us at the EdSurge Fusion conference, October 2-4, 2018.

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