Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Personalization in Education - Part 2

The first part of this series looked at what it mans to personalize learning and some of the key beliefs one must have to do successfully switch in a new direction. What I want to start to get into is how we do this in our classrooms. We are busy in schools gathering a lot of data. The problem is that we are gathering the wrong kind.

Personalization starts with PERSON. We need to gather more information about the students we serve. We have to gather real data on who they are, what makes them work, how they learn, what they care about, their challenges, their successes, and all of the important DATA. Nobody really wants to learn from a teacher that doesn't care about them and doesn't show interest in them as an individual.

We need to understand students as a person first and a learner second.


We have whole child initiatives out there and lots of big thinkers saying we need to drop standardized test data and become more personal. However, very few are telling how. It can happen know and technology can help make it happen. Personalization can be helped along by using technology to hold conversations with students asynchronously (to leverage time) and then teachers can use those same tools to provide timely feedback.

A conversation with a student offers far more and better data about a student than any test.


There are great tools out there for asynchronous conversation and the world has come to embrace them. Email, text, chat, social messaging all accomplish this. However, we are all afraid to use these technologies to hold a conversation with kids, after all, our litigious society has beaten all of the care out of us. My next post will show you how to use something as simple as a Google form or spreadsheet to set up a communications network that is kept between a teacher and student. The technology is there to allow for these discussions to happen, we just have to value the data.

As a teacher holds individual conversations virtually with students the amount of time they have for each student increases. Teachers know more about each student and can quickly jump to a point in a conversation when meeting up with the student face to face in class. As many of us realize at ISTE12, we communicate all of the time through virtual asynchronous (and sometime synchronous) social networks and when we meet up at a conference we jump right to a point in a larger conversation. The same concept applies to our students in our classrooms

Teachers that do value the information gathered through conversation will use it to adapt instruction and interact with students on a personal level.

Teacher must use what they are learning about their students inside and outside of the classroom through conversation to adapt the learning experience for groups of students or individuals. This becomes even more powerful if we combine the other data sets we are gathering about student progress through formative assessment, information about attendance and discipline, or collaborate with other teachers about a student. However, this type of data is secondary to what we learn through conversation. Even standardized test data may become valuable when folded into a greater personal understanding of a child.

Parents need to be part of the data ecosystem as well.


We rarely give parents the data they need to help us. If all of the data is kept between the student and teacher we are missing a leg in the stool. Parents need to be provided information and be involved in the conversation as well. This can be encouraged to happen from student to parent or teacher to parent. Sometimes a conversation involving the student, teacher, and parent is most appropriate. The seeds of this conversation can also be planted in virtual discussions. Involving the parent empowers them to become an active part of the student's personalized learning experience.

There is nothing more valuable than time.


We show what we value by where we spend our time. We should be spending our time learning about and valuing our students. We need to understand them as people before we try to influence their learning. Too often we dismiss a students ability before we ever get to know them. I believe in the power of human data. Let's use technology to become more human, and use the skills that technology can never replace, to show we care about students and make a difference in their lives.

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