Personalizing Learning; Changing Culture
by Leslie Wilson
We all know how important it is to personalize learning for each student. Many educators are engaging technologies to facilitate the personalization process and move to student vs teacher-centered systems. This is good news. “Through personalizing both teaching and learning, students can move beyond anonymity to become recognized and invested partners in achieving success in their classrooms”, says John H. Clarke, Ed.D. author of “ Changing Schools to Personalize Learning” (http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/changing_systems/introduction/introduction.pdf).
I think about how important culture is to the change/school reform process as well. How can administrators and teachers activate both personalization and cultural change required for successful reform?
Clarke discusses how the sense of community is interwoven with the school’s practices-all tied to relationships. School qualities such as equity, responsibility, expectations, opportunity and challenge directly impact students’ voice, choice, sense of belonging, imagination and success. These lie at the heart of the small schools movement some 10+ years ago. Now these qualities can be amplified and more efficiently and carefully fostered through the use of technologies such as social media, collaboration and communication tools, etc.
Personalization and cultural retooling can be accomplished simultaneously – on an integrated path. Personalization provides for students’ unique paths, pace, style – in essence ensuring that each learner is ‘known’ amid rigorous expectations. Students have got to be personally invested and engaged in their learning process. Teachers and students become partners in this effort. Teachers allow for students’ direction regarding process and needed resources and activate their learning.
Pedagogy is crucial. Inquiry-based-real life problem solving approaches-cause students’ curiosity and production of artifacts that demonstrate learning. Collaboration among peers is paramount – well aided by technologies and simple peer among peer activities. Personalization and collaboration create of culture of sharing, individual and group esteem, and the sense of efficacy for all involved. This leads to positive cultural ethos.
The social context for students’ learning is a grand instigator. We are all social learners. This makes it more crucial that the culture is a positive, sensitive ecosystem in which educators and students are engaged. Learning and growing are personal matters even when working in a group.
Co-author: Project RED