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3 Questions to Ask Before Implementing Personalized Learning

Monday, September 26, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Between the ever-increasing ubiquity of technology and our deepening understanding of the learning process, we as educators are finding ourselves closer than ever to truly personalizing the educational experience for every child. It’s a meaningful ideal to strive for, but it also requires a lot of forethought and a clear plan. So, before you embark on your own personalized journey, here are three questions to ask yourself:

How do you define personalized learning?

If you poll the educational community and asked “What is personalized learning?”, you’ll get nearly as many answers as you have participants. Most will be something close to your own ideas. But what if they don’t match up?

Personalized learning isn’t about computers or curricula (although they do play a part). It’s much more about allowing students to direct how they learn. In a personalized learning model, students have more autonomy. The teacher’s role is not to push ideas; it’s to facilitate the learning process for each child and their unique needs.

How much freedom is too much?

When the overall goal is autonomy, there’s a natural level of freedom that comes along with that. But, it can be daunting for teachers to give up too much control in their classroom. So, what level of control are you comfortable handing over to students?

There is no right or wrong answer, just a best answer for you.

Personalized learning can work in both strict and more free-flowing classrooms. You’re giving students options on what they study, how they study, and what kind of work they want to produce. You can still control what the day’s schedule looks like, the appropriate use of that time, as well as how the students interact with each other. In that regard, nothing will change from traditional classroom management practices.

What resources are available?

Yes, in most successful personalized learning classrooms, technology plays a major role. It informs instruction, shapes curriculum, and scaffolds lessons. These are all great benefits for teachers, who are then allowed additional time to work closely with students.

But, not everyone has significant technology resources at their disposal. And, to offer an authentic personalized learning experience, you have to think beyond technology. Every educator knows that students can be incredibly innovative, and demonstrate their learning with whatever is on hand. The onus is then on you: how hard are you willing to work to identify each students’ strengths, weaknesses, and preferences and take the time to build those into your lesson plans? You can do it, because you’re outstandingly crafty, too. It’s all about taking the time and effort to plan; and the more tools you have (and the more fully you utilize them), the easier your job will be.

Want to learn more about what a personalized learning model looks like in the classroom? Check out this infographic!