Fall for Personalized Learning
A teacher’s job seems to be never ending, with multiple meetings to attend, lessons to teach, and new strategies to implement. It can be tough getting teachers on board with a new initiative or idea when they may feel it doesn’t fit into their classroom vision or they feel they don’t have the time to devote to learning a new skill or strategy. Personalized learning is an amazing method that can help students fall in love with learning and helps teachers find ways to reach all of their students on personalized and individual levels. Just like any other strategy, however, a teacher must totally buy in and feel that it is what is best for their classroom and students. Here are a few tips to help teachers “fall for personalized learning.”
Give them a Voice
It is so important to allow teachers the ability to use their voice to advocate for their classrooms. Teachers spend all of their time with the same students and know better than anyone what their classroom needs, along with what individual students need. It is so important to take time to sit down and listen to teachers as they express concerns or interests they have for their students. Just like personalized learning is personal for each student, teachers need to find the appropriate aspect of personalized learning to get started and buy in. Some teachers may want their children to experience more with different types of activities or assessments, making choice and voice the area of personalized learning to focus on. Seesaw or Flipgrid (pictured to the right) is a great tool for the reflective aspect of choice and voice, while providing choice boards or flexible seating gives students choices in their learning. Another teacher may feel that their students just aren’t getting it and need more time with instruction, leading to just in time direct instruction. Teachers may use screen recorded lessons or data collection tools such as Plickers or Kahoot to gather information about their students’ understanding of content. Students may access the screen recorded lessons or even teacher-shared videos to help them receive instruction when they need it for just in time direct instruction! By listening to a teacher’s voice and ideas, they will feel more like a partner in the process of implementing a new strategy in their classrooms! When they feel like a collaborator and a partner, teachers will be more open to experimenting and learning how to implement methods of personalized learning because they have a voice in the process.
Let them Explore
Just like our students, it is so important for teachers to explore and play with different types of activities, lessons, and technology tools. Some teachers need time to experience a personalized learning lesson or tool so they can develop a better vision for how it may be implemented with their classrooms. Teachers also enjoy exploring together, planning different ways a tool or lesson could be used in one classroom. Opportunities like “Lunch and Learns,” or “Stay and Plays” (pictured to the left) are great moments where teachers can take some time out of their day to simply explore a new tool or idea they are interested in implementing, while finding peers that they could bounce ideas off of and plan with. Teachers may fall in love with a strategy or connect instantly with an idea by simply being provided the time to explore and experiment with it!
Let Them Fail
Sometimes technology is down, plans go awry, or the strategy implemented isn’t well received by the students. This is okay, in fact, this is necessary for teachers to develop their practice of personalized learning in their classrooms! Teachers need to know that just because something didn’t work well the first time, doesn’t mean that personalized learning will always fail or that the strategy implemented doesn’t work. Failures simply open a door of communication among the teachers, coaches, and other collaborators. What aspect didn’t work? Was something not explained well? How can we improve in the future? Part of personalized learning is learning what works for some students and what doesn’t work for others. Failures should be received as conversation starters to benefit the future implementation of a strategy or tool.
Praise the Small Moments
Anytime a teacher tries something new, no matter how small, that should be celebrated! It can be tough for veteran teachers that have been teaching in a certain way for ten years to change their routine. When a teacher chooses to implement a new tool such as Seesaw or Office 365, or a personalized learning strategy such as choice and voice, they are giving their students the opportunity to explore and learn with them. It is so powerful for students to see that their teachers are also learning along with them, opening up doors for communication and mutual learning among teacher and student. The simple effort alone can be a daunting task for some teachers who are already so strapped for time. Simple notes of praise or encouraging emails can help teachers continue along the personalized learning path. When I walk into a classroom, I leave sticky notes with something I saw them doing well in their classroom along the lines of personalized learning. No matter how small, “I love the anchor charts to guide choice in their writing process,” teachers appreciate those notes! I also provide monthly tips and encouraging messages for my teachers (pictured to the right)! Once teachers feel the success and encouragement for one lesson, they will continue to implement another and learn more. Small moments become the big moments as those small steps lead to a larger implementation.
Personalized learning is an amazing concept of education that will help students become more independent, more critical in their thinking, and better able to succeed with the skills provided through this method of teaching. Personalized learning strategies can take time as they constantly evolve and develop with each student. When teachers are given their own voice, time to explore, the ability to fail, and encouragement for their small strides, they will fall in love with the ideas of personalized learning, allowing it to develop and thrive among their classrooms and students.
Instructional Technology Specialist
Kennesaw State University iTeach