Tuesday, November 14, 2017

3 As to Ace Personalized Learning

LINC Personalized Learning Mastery Rubric

1) Assessment AS Learning:

Formative assessment is core to Personalized Learning. To master formative assessment as a pathway to personalizing the learning path, we need to make a critical mindset shift around assessment. Instead of thinking as assessment as the endpoint of the linear learning sequence, we need to think of assessment AS learning. By reimagining assessment as the spark of new learning, and specifically target self-assessment as that spark, we gain ground on helping students to become generative learners.

Traditional Sequence:

Present Objective & Access Prior Knowledge → Direct Instruction → Practice → Assessment

Assessment AS Learning:

Self Assessment & Goal Setting → Blended Learning & Reflection → Coaching/Teaching → Standards-Based Assessment (Student or Teacher created) → Reflection & Iteration

2) Alignment

The focus on blended learning models creates a rigor risk if activities are not standards aligned and measured. It’s quite possible to set up the perfectly timed and sequenced Station Rotation model with high student engagement while also missing the mark on personalization. Yes, blended learning is an efficient means to personalization but offline and digital activities must remain integritous to curricular standards. Further, it is critical for formative and summative assessments to demonstrate mastery of standards.

The use of rubrics and standards-aligned student learning logs can provide the essential skills backbone which allows for the flexibility of choice and agency in personalized learning. See our post on Lesson Planning for Personalization for a standards-based lesson template and challenge.

3) Agency

Student empowerment through agency is the ultimate goal in personalized learning. As students become more active drivers, they learn to communicate about their learning, set their own goals, and generate growth. Students can experience agency through conferencing, choice, creativity, and assessment. Self-assessment and reflection is also a way to help teachers efficiently manage a personalized learning environment. There is a time investment at the beginning which gets significantly easier as teachers develop systems of efficiency within their classes. At the heart of the personalized learning pitch is the power of technology, and this power can certainly be leveraged to help lighten the planning load as multiple paths open for students to learn different skills at different paces. However, the time needed to assess the data, align, and coach is an addition to the equation.

By creating a few simple systems for self-assessment (personalized learning log, data reflection & goals sheet, conference form, rubrics), teachers can empower students as agents and collaborate with them in planning for personalization.  

Click here to join the LINC PAACC Challenge by self-assessing where you are in the LINC Personalized Learning Self-Assessment Rubric pictured below and setting goals to earn a Level 1 and Level 2 LINC PAACC badge for personalization.


Not yet started
Working towards proficiency
Highly Proficient
I know my standards
I do not regularly check for curricular alignment to the standards.
I am familiar with the standards and regularly check for curricular alignment.
I know all the standards and am able to check for alignment in my subject.
I thoroughly know the standards and how they relate to my subject and across other areas.  
I know my students
I just met my students and am getting to know them.
I know each name, about each, what encourages and what challenges them.
I know my students well and actively seek to understand them academically and personally.
I engage students for ongoing feedback on their perspective of learning and where they are in their learning journey.
I personalize to meet the individual needs of my students
I cover material on the whole-group level.
I cover the standards and provide differentiated support.
I provide different paths for students to gain proficiency in and demonstrate each standard.
I engage students in understanding standards, setting goals, and co-creating learning paths.
I measure mastery for each student through formative assessment aligned with standards
I cover material and give summative quizzes or tests to check for understanding.
I cover the standards and align assessments to the standards.  
I align assessments to standards and track mastery based on assignment or an assessment.  
I track student mastery of standards with a portfolio of aligned, multimodal assessments. Students demonstrate mastery of standards aligned skills in a variety of ways with agency.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Evolving Role of the 21st Century Teacher

According to which futurist you ask, we stand to lose between 38%-50% of today’s jobs to automation over the next 20 years. The jobs predicted to fall to automation include those which are repetitive, predictable, and routine. The jobs predicted to continue to be relevant and to multiply are those which require genuine creativity, focus on building complex relationships, and respond to the unpredictable. With today’s students heading into such a highly unpredictable job market, we need to immediately shift the focus from teaching content in traditional subjects to all students to teaching 21st Century skills of agency, collaboration, creativity, communication, and problem-solving in a personalized manner. In other words, the time for personalized learning is now and the need is imminent!

But personalized learning is not about the automation of teaching through technology. I want to state that a different way for emphasis and clarity as the phrase “personalized learning” has been vastly misunderstood, misrepresented, and subsequently maligned. Personalized learning is not about what technology is being used in the class, and it is certainly not about technology replacing teachers. Anyone who has had the experience of feeling inspired by and connected with a teacher (which hopefully is everyone) can attest to the truth that software alone can do neither. The best use of technology brings teachers and students closer together and provides tools through which students can build agency and creative problem solving skills. In other words, personalized learning is about each person. Any effort to bypass the valuable human-to-human connection in learning will inevitably fail.

Having said this, it is essential to note that we as educators must evolve in our roles. We must recognize those practices which are routine, repetitive, and predictable. These components of teaching can be relegated in part to video instruction and adaptive technologies. To remain relevant, and more importantly, to truly maximize our impact on student learning, we must transform the core focus of our efforts to creativity, connectivity, and responsiveness to student needs within our classes. So what does this focus look like in a 21C classroom empowered by technology?

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 3.27.55 PM.png

Teacher as Creator and Conductor of Creativity

Tech Assist
Creating multiple pathways for student learning
Adaptive software
Engaging students in co-creating their learning pathways
Creating learning spaces that inspire learning and creativity, both online and offline
Class blogs
Creating projects and learning experiences by curating interesting resources and planning explorations online and offline
Virtual field trips
Open Ed Resources
Providing multiple tools for design thinking and creativity to engage students in next-gen learning and problem solving
Coding apps
Infographic tools

Teacher as Connector

Tech Assist
Using different ways of learning about students on a personal level and soliciting valuable student insight
Engaging students in ongoing self-reflection and learning to foster a growth mindset and connection to self
Formative apps
Learning journals
Connecting students with peers in meaningful discussions both in and beyond the classroom walls
Discussion boards
Using conference time gained from blended models to truly connect with learners on an individual and small-group level
Blended instructional models

Teacher as Early Responder and Mentor

Tech Assist
Using multiple pathways to understand and communicate with students and to help students through challenges
Reading and responding to the data narrative which can inform each student’s personalized learning path
Formative assessment software
Setting up systems of peer support and digital citizenship to facilitate healthy relationships and support social-emotional learning
Discussion forums
Facilitate intervention by connecting students with resources when in crisis or in need of social emotional support
Social media
Online resource hubs
Mentor students through co-creation of personalized growth plans which include academic and social learning goals
Digital portfolios
Mastery platforms

When we get it right, the role of the 21st Century teacher will most closely resemble a mashup of guidance counselor, coach, and teacher. As I shared a few years ago in a post about teacher style, every teacher will continue to bring that special element to the experience that makes their unique connection with students the strongest. For some, it will continue to be an impassioned lecture, but perhaps in a flipped delivery with more time spent engaged with students in the relevant application of that information. For others, it will be the combination of humor and sincerity they bring to their teacher-student interactions, perhaps sometimes shared in discussion forums. Whatever way we as educators continue to put the teacher in teaching, it will have to be in ways that enable technology to do what technology can do best while we continue to do what only humans can do best...create, connect, and inspire our students.   

Friday, August 4, 2017

How should educators understand "adaptive" and "personalized" learning?

At the Stanford Personalized Learning Symposium this year, I shared some thoughts regarding how educators can distinguish between personalized and adaptive. Where one puts technology at the center, the other puts the person at the center. I cannot emphasize enough the role of the teacher in personalizing learning.

Teachers have always and will continue to be conductors of both academic and social-emotional growth due to their connection to students. It is essential that we keep this in mind as we use technology to empower deeper understanding of and connection between students and their teachers, students and their peers, and students and their own curious natures that spark generative learning.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jumpstart the Year with #Agency: Designing the #BLinAction Learning Environment

In Blended Learning in Action, the hallmarks of effective practice are outlined by The PAACC: Personalization, Agency, Audience, Creativity, and Connectivity. One way to ensure we hit the mark in personalizing learning is to focus on agency from the start. A great way to empower students with agency and build a positive blended learning culture is to engage them in the design of their learning environment. 

As July’s long days come to an end, teachers begin to really focus on the school year ahead, anxious to set in motion the gems from summer learning and PD. A good portion of this energy goes into setting up the classroom, a huge task and one teachers feel must be done perfectly to warmly welcome their students for the new year. In a blended environment, teachers also ponder how to account for stations and flexibility in movement between learning activities. Recently on our #BLinAction chat, a participant asked just this question. My answer was to let the students co-create it alongside the teacher. Here’s how it could look in action:

Atmosphere & Decorations:
  • Voice: Instead a room filled with positive messages, students find headings that set the tone for the environment but leave space for their contributions. Ex: We believe… (students fill in the wall of beliefs about the way friends should learn and interact together)
  • Inspiration: On tables, they find magazines where they cut out pictures that inspire them to learn. They add these to inspiration corners or stations for choice-based discovery. Teachers use these to build an inspiration wall or sort them to create learning centers aligned with those inspirations. (Ex: adventurous pictures for Explore areas of the room; cozy pictures for Reading nooks). 

Seating/Learning Spaces:
  • BYOC: Instead of spending a lot of money on cozy, flexible seating, there is an invitation to students to BYOC, or Bring Your Own Chair. Teachers review guidelines with students and student bring in a cozy chair that fits the guidelines if they choose to. 
  • Centers: Teachers lead a discussion on which centers will be part of the basic setup and ask for suggestions on other centers. Students receive a blank paper on which to suggest seating clusters and room arrangement. 
  • Choice: One corner of the room could be assigned to students to design on a rotation. They choose the learning activity there, bring in the decorations and teach the class about the purpose of the station for the weeks it is there. 

  • Models: Teachers can explain the blended models which will be used in student language. Starting with just one (ex: Station Rotation) may help build understanding in a scaffolded manner. Teachers can engage students in the setting of rules/expectations for each station, from how it should look/feel/sound to how to get help if not at the teacher station. 
  • Peer Support: Teachers can engage students in thinking about what types of class jobs would help make sure learning is consistently the focus in class. These can range from a Tech Desk help to Chief Cheerleader. Students can apply for jobs listing their qualifications and contribute to thinking on length of term and how the jobs should rotate. 
  • Digital Contract: Guiding students through the creation of a digital contract is an essential component of Blended Learning success. Rather than have an honorable use policy already in place, teachers can facilitate the collaborative creation of one. 
  • Transitions/Choice: In blended learning, there are a lot of transitions to plan for: coming into the class, rotating on/off devices, moving between stations. Sometimes these are dictated by routines and timers, which other times the movements is more flexible by choice. Teachers can engage students in creating the expectations for transitions and a way to show accountability for choice where agency is high. For example, you may design a system where all stations are listen on a wall and students put a clothes pin with their name where they are moving.  

Even choosing one strategy for building agency in classroom design is a significant opportunity to teach students about 21st century learning, set expectations for the class environment, and build agency. By setting the standard for agency at the start of the year, we create a culture of personal accountability for self and class community. We also gain back some valuable time before the doors open to shift planning energy to maximizing personalization and engagement in learning. 

For more reading on getting ready for the school year, check out my #BLinAction coauthor, Catlin Tucker's great post on how to get the most out of the first day of school: "Don't Waste the First Day of School."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Building Student Agency Through Flexible Station Rotation

@RAndradeK's Flexible Station Model

In my last post on Teacher Trailblazer Appreciation, I used a picture I took while working with teachers at Bang Elementary School in Houston, Texas. One reader asked me about the picture, so I thought I would share what I observed that day which caused me to pause and capture such a great #BLinAction strategy: flexible station rotation by student choice.

When we think of student agency in learning, we often think older. But this practice came from Rosana Andrade's Kindergarten class where students were actively engaged in designing their own learning paths and setting their own paces. Ms. Andrade set up a station rotation model in her room where devices are limited - students worked on digital adaptive tools, offline practice, reading, and collaborative activities. However, she added an agency-building twist. In this Station Rotation, Ms. Andrade allowed for student choice over sequence and pace completely. Students selected where they wanted to go, moved their clothespin to that station and began work at it, later moving to another when finished.

In many ways, this model is a hybrid of Station Rotation and Playlist in the shuffling aspect of stations. In using a flexible rotation model with more student agency, some additional structures in place will make for more success within that freedom. Here are a few tips to make it work:

  • Max Students - If there are only a certain number students permitted at a particular station due to space or devices available, then this can be outlined ahead for students. 
  • Start Point - To avoid a rush-to-favorite-station moment, randomized grouping method or intentional grouping method can be applied to decide a starting point with flexibility from there if needed. 
  • Assessment - For students to stay on task and efficient, or at the just-right stretch for their learning path, it is critical for ongoing assessment to take place. Specifically, in the absence of timers, students benefit from setting a predicted time and learning goal for each station and then recording both after learning. Additionally, teacher checkins to provide coaching moments help maximize learning amidst more student choice. 

Giving flexible station rotations a go? Share out your practices and reflections at #BLinAction! 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Teacher Appreciation - #BLinAction Trailblazer Style

For me, teacher appreciation week 2017 began in the Dominican Republic where our school was wrapping up its fifth annual service trip. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the whole experience and the love and learning from the children at Orfanato NiƱos de Cristo. But I had a special appreciation for our team of teachers, those who agreed to join me in giving up a weekend to take 21 teens out of the country and those holding down the fort back home. And caffeine...I was very grateful for caffeine.

As I recovered from some lack of sleep and settled back into the flow of the week, I reflected on the experience of teacher appreciation. A week is a short time to spend in acknowledgment of the nearly Herculean feat teachers are called upon to perform on a daily basis (see every little thing, connect with each child, monitor ongoing progress, gather data, read the data, differentiate on the go, meet those standards, teach creatively...but ace the test...oh, and don’t forget to smile!) But still, it’s important we pause and bring awareness to what we ask of teachers, and how much teachers put forth that is unasked for and often done without anyone else knowing.

As this week progressed, I found myself thinking about the impact of the work being done by teacher trailblazers in the blended learning space. For these teachers, there are unique contributions being made for which we should all be appreciative. Through them, we are engaged as a profession in the transformation of learning from a passive, industrial experience to an engaging, personalized, and meaningful one. Here’s my top 5 list...please share out yours #BLinAction as we bring teacher appreciation week to a close.

#5: Empowering Human Connection
Blended Learning teachers have all stumbled upon the hidden gem of technology - the way it helps connect humans on a deeper level. This is especially the case when teachers open multiple pathways of communication between peers and between their students and themselves. As a BL teacher, you come to see the children who are disappear in a large face-to-face group; you hear their voice and bring recognition to the importance of that voice. Through this deeper knowledge and connection with our students, we build a bridge for those who would otherwise remain inside and insecure in the power of their voice.

#4: Cultivating Leadership & Agency
The best Blended Learning practices follow the PAACC hallmarks: personalization, agency, authentic audience, creativity, and connectivity. By following the PAACC model, blended learning teachers are not just planting seeds for tomorrow’s leaders but providing leadership opportunities in real-time today. Students who have choice and voice in their projects and who co-author their learning path alongside their teachers are engaged in personalized leadership and relevant learning.  

#3: Modeling Growth Mindset
Teachers who innovate embrace a “fail forward” mentality. They realize there is no “good at” or “bad at” in the process of tinkering with technology. Everyone is learning alongside one another, trying out new ideas and committing to reflection and iteration. This is immensely helpful in contributing to a positive faculty culture, but it is also critical to shift the mindset for student from an early conditioning centered around good or bad, talented or not talented, succeed or fail to one that is much more centered around process and growth day to day.

#2: Adventurous Learning in Action
As an adventurer myself, I highly appreciate fellow adventurers in my pack. Blended learning trailblazers see new tools or models, and they get excited! They ask questions like where can I go with this? What can I see and do? Where and how far can I take my students using this? There’s a gearing-up-for-action mentality that plays out, and just as gearing up for an adventure in life sparks anticipation and excitement in a travel group, so too does such gearing up in a blended environment spark anticipation and excitement for students to learn.

#1: Teaching the World 1-1
Blended Learning trailblazers are teaching 1-1 in a group environment. They are coaching, personalizing, and communicating on an individual level with students even in the midst of group movement and conversation. But that’s not all. They are teaching everyone because they share practices and engage in collaboration and conversation both within their schools and within PLNs.

For all these reasons and more, thank you, thank you, thank you to the teacher trailblazers out there! Each day I learn from those around me, and through this process remain inspired, challenged, and hopeful of the adventurous future before us.