This blog post is cross posted on the Rodel Foundation Blog (http://www.rodelfoundationde.org/connect/blog).

Students engaged through use of their own technology

Personalized learning has certainly reached trending status in the education community.  The phrase is being used in many places with many different definitions. For instance, the U.S. Department of Education, in its 2010 Educational Technology Plan, defines personalized learning as “instruction paced to the learning needs, tailored to the learning preferences and tailored to the specific interests of different learners.” The USED’s definition makes note that it encompasses both differentiation and individualization. In comparison, the Center for Digital Education in its special report called “Pathways to Personalized Learning” has defined personalized learning as “the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners, typically with the support of technology.” The CDE concludes the power of personalize learning is to excite students by turning on their “learning switches.” And Knowledge Works has created an infographic entitled A Glimpse into the Future of Learning. It “points the way toward a diverse learning ecosystem in which learning adapts to each child instead of each child trying to adapt to school.”

Forsyth County Schools (FCS) has also been focusing on personalized learning.  FCS was already making changes to move away from that “one size fits all” model of instruction. Delivering entire units of instruction to all students without variations of differentiation holds back those in need of remediation or acceleration – both in the classroom and online environment.  Forsyth County Schools recognizes the value of digital learning and offers a variety of options for students and we call this the Digital Learning Continuum.

The U.S. Department of Education selected Forsyth County Schools (FCS) as one of 49 grantees for a 2010 Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant. FCS is completing the project in partnership with external partners and the University of Georgia. The $4.7 million in funding was awarded to the district in September 2010.  FCS is the only recipient in Georgia and one of 12public school districts in the nation to be a grantee.

This transformational system eclipses the current paradigm that results in silos of data, replacing it over time with a fully integrated system, extended to include standards-based learner plans and a content management system where activities and resources are matched to students’ current performance level and individual learner characteristics. This system will be viewed in a user interface that engages learners as well as teachers, leaders, and parents.

The cornerstone of this project will be the design of a personalized learner plan, which includes the student’s longitudinal and immediate feedback data from prior courses, learning preferences, and intervention successes, that is modified based on the needs of the student.

Teachers will have the ability to sequence the assembly of learning activities and formative assessments in a student’s learning plan to reach proficiency. The teacher’s lesson plan is linked to aligned standards, objectives, instructions for teaching and expected outcomes. The teacher then uses these resources to inform daily instructional decisions in the classroom and prescribe personalized interventions.

Forsyth County Schools will triangulate benchmark assessments, real-time classroom learning data, and student self-assessments to accelerate mastery of district and national instructional standards.

Based on the student’s individualized learning preferences, habits, and progress, the system will recommend learning resources, content and instructional methods that will be filtered to a customized student portal.

Having a learning platform that can transform the educational experiences of students will do nothing unless there is a change in instructional practices. The district has begun working with teachers on the changing role of the classroom leader as it relates to personalized learning. Emphasis on a student centered approach has the classroom activities centered on providing opportunities for student voice and choice, while engaging them with robust digital resources.  Our goal is to develop a learning environment that provide students with the content they need, when the need it, and how they need it.

Stay tuned! This is an ongoing development project and we continue to share throughout this learning journey.

EngageME: PLEASE! (Personalized Learning Experiences Accelerate Standards-based Education)
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