Sunday, November 27, 2011

Opening Doors

"How do you start personalizing instruction in your classroom?"

This is the question Whitney Hoffman asked in her post on Edutopia...and here is my response:

Hmmm...this one made me dig deeper into the ideas of differentiation, personalized instruction and individualization. While there is certainly some overlap here, I think it behooves us to tease out the ways in which they are different but perhaps more importantly, to consider the lens from which we view these ideas.

I started with the National Educational Technology Plan:

"Throughout this plan, we use the following definitions:
Individualization refers to instruction that is paced to the learning needs of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but students can progress through the material at different speeds according to their learning needs. For example, students might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information they already know, or repeat topics they need more help on.

Differentiation refers to instruction that is tailored to the learning preferences of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them.

Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization)."

This shines some light on the differences between individualization, differentiation and personalization but honestly I find myself struggling; struggling because they all tend to focus on the teaching not the learning. All of them still perpetuate a teacher-directed classroom vs a student-centered classroom.

In my humble, still growing opinion, we should be talking about personalized learning and the only way for teachers to understand, truly understand, personalized learning in the 21st Century is to be a networked learner because something dramatic and powerful happens when teachers immerse themselves in networked spaces; a vast array of doors are opened... by the learner.

So, to answer your question, Whitney, I wouldn't begin by personalizing the instruction, I would...

  • grow my own powerful personal learning network to include uplifting, thought-provoking people, resources and ideas
  • use the vast array of technology tools to help me connect and learn with these people, resources and ideas

and then...then...I would...

  • create spaces for my students that permit them to create their own spaces for personalized learning to occur and I would be there to guide and support them in their explorations. It requires refocusing on learning...not teaching. (The instructional practices will be driven by the learning.)

Just some beginning thoughts...

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