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Personalizing Learning and Doing What’s Best for Kids

Posts from WOL - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 8:00am

Personalized learning is integral to the learning community at Navin Elementary School, and the rest of the Marysville Exempted Village School District. For Lynette Lewis, the school’s principal, making sure her teachers are on board with this learning style is important.

“It’s important for our staff to understand that we’re following personalized learning and competency-based education,” Lewis said. She and her peers have seen education fads come and go and she wants her team to know that personalized learning is not as fad.

“This personalized learning, this growth mindset, this competency-based education is really grounded in science,” Lewis said.

Have that back-up of science and formal research is important for Lewis in shifting teachers’ beliefs and rallying the community around personalized learning because it is “what’s best for kids.”

Watch a video of Lynette Lewis talking about personalized learning and competency-based education at Navin Elementary School:

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take the self-assessment to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

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These States are Making Moves toward Competency-Based Education

Posts from WOL - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 8:00am

Legislators in North Dakota, Utah, Illinois and Idaho are making moves.

Each state has used policy to intentionally create flexibility for districts. Through pilot programs, grant programs and awareness campaigns, districts now have opportunities to create innovative learning environments, including competency-based and mastery education.

As Anne Olson writes for edCircuit, these policies open doors for districts to personalize learning for students.

“When a state creates opportunities for districts to personalize learning for their students, through pilot programs, innovation zones or through other allowances through their state education agency, they send a message to districts that they are committed to growing and sustaining this work over time. They are making a commitment to innovative learning.”

Learn more about how states are expanding student learning options. Read Olson’s edCircuit article, “From Bismarck to Boise: States Take the Lead on Personalized Learning.”

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Strong School-Community Partnerships Benefit Everyone

Posts from WOL - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 8:00am

Prior to opening Marysville Early College High School, Principal Kathy McKinniss thought about community partnerships as a one-way assist, a sort of network that the school could call on for help. As her school has evolved, so have her views on strong partnerships.

Marysville Early College High School is Ohio’s first manufacturing-related STEM early college. When the Marysville Exempted Village School District started down the path of starting an early college, they looked to their community for partners. Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc., was a perfect match. By partnering with Honda, Marysville could ensure their students had access to hands-on real-world learning opportunities.

“The partnerships have to be beneficial for the school the partner,” said McKinniss. “From the inception of the [school] building, we sat down with our community partners and planned curriculum, we talked about the kind of equipment we would need to train students on and we spent a lot of time on the soft skills as well.”

Hear more from Principal Kathy McKinnis about Marysville Early College High School:

Learn six ways to maximize your school partnerships.

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Teaching in a Competency-Based Education Environment

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/30/2017 - 8:00am

When I describe competency-based education to friends and family — students moving through education based on mastery of skill rather than seat time, lessons personalized to the individual and students taking ownership of their learning — the reaction is generally “that sounds better.” Unless that friend or family member is a teacher, in which case a host of very good questions arise about the practicalities of teaching in a competency-based environment.

“I have 30 kids? Do I have to plan a different lesson plan for each of them?”

The answer to this is no. A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean the teacher plans lessons for each student. Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning, explained that you don’t have individual lesson plans for every student: “Students co-determine with the teacher what learning targets they need to accomplish and how they could show evidence of their learning. This is possible through agency and equipping students to understand themselves as learners.”

“How do we get the kids to own it?

Student agency begins with the culture, shared vision and standard operating procedures. “The standard operating procedures that you design with the students should address problem-solving, beginning the process to get to student agency,” said Laura Hilger, KnowledgeWorks Teaching and Learning Senior Coach.  For example, create a procedure for collaborative work groups, so when a student gets stuck they know what to do. Hilger goes on” Once students begin to demonstrate mastery with the cultural pieces, you then move those exact same expectations over to content through processes that require them to monitor their own learning.”

“How do I manage all the levels? “

Ideally, logistics will support learners, things like developing a schedule that supports your vision and utilizing learning spaces. “Regardless of how many levels you have, when you are planning a new learning unit, you could look at what most of the class needs when it comes to writing,” said Laura Hilger. “Let’s say a lot of students need persuasive writing. You would analyze what mastery looks like, and design focused lessons and activities that would support those levels. This lesson addresses the entire group, and then you would move into workshop model where everyone works towards the daily learning target such as rough drafting. While they are working, you might be pulling small groups to go deeper on the focused mini lesson or individuals that need further interventions or support.”

Hilger said that in the beginning of the process, teachers have more control of the flow and format. As teachers develop their classroom and culture, this format becomes more student-driven. As student demonstrate readiness, more voice and choice is given to them.

“How does working with students at different places impact the larger group?”

Heather MacLaughlin, an instructional coach with Marysville Exempted Village School District, said that when teachers were first introduced to personalized learning, many wondered with students working at different levels, how their whole group instruction would be impacted? As they collaborated to implement learner-centered practices this year, they began to see that while whole group instruction is still a strategy, much of the instruction occurs within the flexible groupings of the kids, and within math and reading / writing workshops.

Transitioning to a competency-based education system is a process and developing the right classroom culture and transparency to support student agency takes time. KnowledgeWorks helps school districts navigate these challenges and partners with teachers to effectively support individual student needs.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take the self-assessment to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

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Competency-Based Education: Helping One Graduate to Help Others

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/30/2017 - 8:00am

Graduation is a special time of year, and it’s great to see how our learners are doing exceptional things as graduates and professionals, to see the goals they set in high school continue to grow and blossom into fruition.

Emily Levasseur is a student who had big dreams from the very beginning.

I can recall having conversations with Emily when she was a high school student at Monmouth Academy in RSU2 in Maine, when she was looking for ways to accelerate her learning and get to college as quickly as possible. She made it happen, in part because we were implementing competency-based education at the time and she could move more quickly through material as she could demonstrate what she knew at any time, regardless of what grade she was in. Additionally, she was motivated to get her collegiate and professional life started.  She graduated a year early in 2015.

But the piece I really remember about Emily was how much of a giant heart she had for her friends. She was always willing to help them learn, help them acquire new knowledge, and really just be there for them as a friend. She was also an exceptional student athlete and one of the first female wrestlers in the state. She didn’t think that was a big deal; she just wanted to win. Even when Emily was hurt and couldn’t participate in matches, she’d be on the sidelines, helping her coach and teammates with strategies.

Emily is studying a form of experiential therapy now, adventure therapy, and she couldn’t be more suited to the work of helping others.

Self-Reliance = Success through Competency-Based Education.To learn more about Emily and how her experiences in a competency-based environment are helping her to help others, download her profile.

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Thinking Beyond the Schoolhouse

Posts from WOL - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 8:00am

My ten-year-old nephew is in fourth grade in North Carolina. He plays the recorder, as all fourth graders in North Carolina do. Thirty-seven years ago, I went to fourth grade in North Carolina. I played the recorder, as all fourth graders in North Carolina did.

I realize that there are developmental reasons why schools introduce band around fourth grade. I realize that the recorder is considered relatively easy for kids to learn (though a quick Google search suggests that not everyone agrees). But for me this example illustrates vividly (and in screeching, haunting tones) how deep-set education traditions can be.

It’s hard to think about school being different than it is today. Most of us hold strong memories of its rituals: the first-day-of kindergarten picture on the front steps, the field trips, the progression from one grade to the next, the joy of summer break, learning to move among classrooms in middle school, the glare of Friday night lights. Many of the features that are strong and stable about school have stayed that way for good social and developmental reasons.

But as we consider possibilities for the future of learning, we need to remember that every one of those features represents design choices. Sometimes those design choices were singular and deliberate; sometimes, they developed over years of small decisions. If we want to achieve different outcomes for education – for example, to address persistent inequities or to shift what students learn so as to help them prepare for a future in which people could be working alongside and competing with smart machines – we need to make some different choices. Not necessarily all different choices, but some.

We need to question our assumptions about what school looks like. About why “We’ve always done it that way.” About how we frame the problems we are trying to solve. That way, we can identify new options. We can, potentially, find breakthrough solutions that could create better outcomes for learners. By outcomes, I don’t just mean better test scores. I mean things like more engagement with learning, stronger social-emotional development, deeper understanding of academics, and a stronger vision for one’s life. Or whatever you care about and are designing for.

When Jason Swanson and I work with educators and others to explore the future of learning, we draw upon a toolbox of activities and approaches designed to help people see and explore new possibilities. Those tools draw from several fields: strategic foresight, creative problem solving, systems thinking, and design thinking. We use cycles of divergent and convergent thinking to help people consider options, select ones to explore further, look at them from fresh angles, and identify pathways forward. It’s fun! We very deliberately play with possibilities, in hopes of helping people see something they haven’t seen before.

As I was reminded in a course on everyday innovation recently, sometimes problems can’t be solved unless we think outside the lines of our existing frames, as the classic nine-dot puzzle below illustrates:

Sometimes problems can’t be solved unless we think outside the lines of our existing frames, as the classic nine-dot puzzle illustrates.

When I tried to solve this puzzle, I couldn’t, because I tried to draw the lines within the frame of the box formed by the nine dots. I assumed that I had to work within the apparent space. Similarly, the assumptions and mental models that we bring to education design choices help create its deep-set traditions and govern what we think of as being possible for the current system. They also affect what we believe is possible for changing the system. Reframing techniques can help us break through those assumptions and shift our mental models so that we can see new solutions.

Some of our education problems won’t be solved, nor our hopes for the promise of personalized learning realized, unless we think beyond school as we know it today.

How are you planning for the future of learning and personalizing learning for students?

Learn more about the KnowledgeWorks approach to personalized learning and read “The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code” to start planning for the future now.

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Do the Labels We Assign Students Inhibit Success?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 8:00am

When I graduated high school, I was branded with the what have become in education circles the three universal labels of expected academic trouble: minority, low-income and first-generation. These adjectives are freely tossed around in education research, grant proposals and conference presentations as the most surefire indicators of determining whether a student is unlikely to succeed. Education professionals all understand that students who fit this profile are, above all else, “disadvantaged.”

Certainly, the data bear out that this population academically underperforms more affluent, white students. However, for those who wear these labels, their primary use as markers of deficiency overwhelms their influence as sources of pride and resolve.

Over the past month, I have attended three public events where young people who fit these descriptions shared their stories of achievement. Each time, they were introduced as “at-risk” because they wore one or more of these labels rather than as exceptional and promising because of them. Each time, I cringed.

In an article I wrote for Insider Higher Ed about a year ago titled “Beyond a Deficit View,” I propose that education professionals who proclaim to be focused on “student success” commit ourselves to revising the deficit language and terminology we use to casually describe these students and the programs we assign to assist them. In the article, which I wrote when I was employed as a university vice president, I write:

“As long as being a person of color or of modest economic means, or the child of parents who did not go to college, is deemed to be, first and foremost, an indicator of potential failure, the integrity of our proclaimed expectation of success is undermined.”

If you’re interested in learning more of my thinking on this topic, read my complete article, “Beyond a Deficit View” on Insight Higher Ed.

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Interview with Abbie Forbus: One Way Data is Being Used in Schools to Personalize Services to Students

Posts from WOL - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 8:00am

Data is being used in every profession across the globe to expedite services, to increase product effectiveness, to predict consumer desires, and so much more. How and why is data being used in schools across America and where do educators face barriers? I’ve asked my colleague, Abbie Forbus, Lead Learning Designer and Facilitator, to speak about how she used data in her former position at Lindsay Unified School District as a counselor and later as the Dean of Culture.

Drake: Hi, Abbie. Thanks for joining me! On what looks, feels, and sounds like a rainy, chilly, Cincinnati day in early May.

Abbie: No problem, I’m glad to be here.

Drake: Now, let’s be honest with our readers. You are actually speaking to me from Dallas, where I assume you are enjoying nicer weather?

Abbie: (Laughter) Yes, I can’t complain!

Drake: Well, let’s get down to it, shall we?

Abbie: Fire away.

Can you briefly tell me about your former position at the Lindsay Unified School District?

I was a high school counselor for six years at Lindsay High School and then went on to be Dean of Culture where I helped learners with academic and/or social needs.

What data systems did you use and were they used across the district?

We used Empower by 3 Shapes to monitor learner progress data and Aeries was our student information system. Both are used district-wide.

What indicators did you utilize to identify at-risk students?

The two biggest indicators we used were, one, data that signified students were behind pace for the target graduation date and, two, data that identified students that were behind pace in a current course. Our goal was to catch learners who were falling behind in a course and offer interventions and supports to prevent them being behind for graduation.

After the data system identified students who needed extra supports, what actions would you take?

We offered lots of interventions that we tried to tailor to the needs of the learner. Examples of interventions include tutoring in the after-school program; extra support during weekly “Personalized Learning Time,” a flextime offered to all learners during the school day, spring break and summer interventions and parent meetings.

What challenges did you face with the data systems available?

We often struggled with getting all the information we needed in one report. Sometimes the information we needed was stored in the SIS and sometimes it was stored in the learning management system (LMS). Getting information together that would help us make the best data-driven decisions sometimes took a while, but was worth it if it helped us better meet the needs of each learner.

Did you have to do any communications with the community and families to help them understand the supports?

Yes, our parent population was mostly Spanish-Speaking and lacking computer literacy, therefore communication with parents was most effective when we reached out to them via phone or in person. The Lindsay community wanted their children to be successful in school and was very receptive to extra support for their learners.

In an ideal world, what data or data system would have allowed you to do your job better?

If all our systems could talk to each other, that would have been great! Sometimes we had to hand enter information from a program that we were using just so it could be stored in a place where learners and learning facilitators could access it, and could easily be queried. For example, we would use Reading Plus and Scholastic Reading Inventory for literacy data but had trouble getting this info in a place where it could be accessed by each of the eight learning facilitators a learner might have in high school. And then to go a step further we were looking to pull reading levels of learners by period class alongside their English language level, a report that would take several days using loads of queries from several systems.

Is there a difference in the role that data use plays in a competency-based education (CBE) school when compared to a traditional school?

The biggest difference I noticed in Lindsay’s journey from traditional to CBE is that in CBE the data is continuously changing, since you are looking at growth not set grades. As a high school counselor in a traditional system, it was “easy” to pull the D and F list at the end of each grading period. However, in a CBE system a D and F list does not exist. We would look at progress or lack thereof. Once we got a list of learners who were not making significant progress, we would drill-down even further and figure out where each learners’ gaps were and which interventions would be appropriate.

Can you describe the advantages of being able to provide students with personalized data-driven services?

As a counselor, it’s so refreshing to be able to look at the whole child and have a conversation with them to see how we can best meet their needs. Generally, we found that our high school learners knew exactly what they needed to do to get back on pace; this is a byproduct of a transparent curriculum. The counseling team empowered learners to choose appropriate interventions based on individual needs and the number of targets they needed to complete.

Drake: Abbie, thank you for answering my questions and giving our readers a little taste of how and why education professionals are using data and where barriers may exist.

Abbie: It’s been my pleasure!

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Encouragers and Inhibitors of Personalized Learning According to Teachers of the Year

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 8:00am

In a conversation with 27 of the current state teachers of the year and the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, KnowledgeWorks had the opportunity to tap into the minds of the best of the best in the world of pedagogy. This group of great thinkers gave some insight into the positive and negative forces that affect the journey to personalized learning.

What are the positive forces that encourage personalized learning?

  1. Educators Want Students to Succeed: Teachers want their students to have buy-in. They want a positive school environment for their students that includes authentic relationships. Teacher leaders have an intrinsic motivation to impact student learning.
  2. Changing World: The information age and our rapidly changing world is driving innovation in schools. We can no longer ignore the fact that our children all have different needs. There is an increased awareness and focus on meeting individual needs. Our students are becoming globally aware and have a desire to increase their global awareness.
  3. Interdisciplinary Learning Movement: Cross-curricular instruction, STEAM, and Project-based learning are a few of the edu-speak terms nowadays that encourage incorporating multiple disciplines into lessons and activities. This movement also highlights a focus on authentic student learning rather than the seat time.
  4. Technology: Technology is changing the way teachers “do business.” Resources are becoming plentiful and more accessible; teachers are utilizing these resources in the classroom to better meet the needs of their students. Technology is also transforming how we monitor learning progress and learning goals of individual learners.

What are the negative forces that inhibit personalized learning?

  1. Traditional Structures: Many of the age-old structures that exist in schools today no longer make sense. Some examples of these structures: accountability structure, funding formulas, allotment of resources. A highly structured school schedule can also be a barrier to personalized learning. It takes a lot of time and effort to build new structures that make more sense.
  2. Fear of Change: Change can be hard no matter what profession you are in; we tend to be comfortable with the status quo. Teacher mindsets can inhibit personalized learning as well as the fear of going away from a traditional structure in the classroom. Teachers are aware of the collaboration time needed to personalize learning and the time it takes to create tiered resources. There is a lack of professional development when it comes to personalized learning.
  3. Lack of Clarity of Vision and Lack of Communication: It takes a lot of time and effort to create community support and transparency. Often there are politics that a district must navigate through to create change. Sometimes the district or site leadership is not equipped or committed to change which could be a huge barrier in a shift to personalized learning.

In order to address the negative forces toward personalized learning environments for our students, the Teachers of the Year suggested that we begin to transform professional learning. They stated that professional learning needs to be personalized and ongoing. It should be job embedded and sustainable. They are asking that teachers have the resources and climate to support personalized learning implementation. And finally, personalized professional learning should be both bottom up and top down.

Professional learning needs to be personalized and ongoing. #PersonalizedLearning
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 Personalized Learning According to Teachers.’For more on implementing professional development in a personalized learning environment, including teacher interview excerpts and school and district examples, read “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”

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There is No One-Size-Fits-All for School Communication

Posts from WOL - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 8:00am

How do you engage an audience around a goal? How do you convince them to care?

These are constant questions for communication professionals in any field, including personalized learning.

Throughout the field, communicators have used various strategies to share why personalized learning is the best path forward for education. We’ve written inspiring student success stories and told tales of school transformation. We’ve pulled graduation data and shared dire data about a future filled with unknowns. We’ve created videos and taken beautiful photos, shared parent quotes and explored teacher perspectives.

Unfortunately, these messages fall flat unless you tap into the audience’s specific motivations. Parents may believe an education system that worked well for them will also work well for their children. Community members may be skeptical of ‘feel-good’ messages without concrete facts. Educators may disengage around ominous data.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for school communication and community engagement.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for #schoolcommunication and #communityengagement.
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Lessons learned from one community on effective communication to the community

Recently, I chatted with Lisa Snyder about the need for Lakeville Area Public Schools to figure out their ‘compelling why.’ When the Minnesota district started exploring personalized learning, the entire community needed a mind shift and better understanding to support the movement. There was a common argument among parents: “If I was educated in this way and am now a successful adult, why won’t it also help my child succeed?”

Students will grow up and enter a world where work and life look very different than today, Lisa explained. Education isn’t preparing students for that future.

To effectively communicate, she knew the district needed to learn more about their parents and community members.

“We weren’t connecting with our stakeholders and understanding what parents wanted for their kids,” Lisa said.

The district dug deeper into community motivations and concerns through a survey, with one main takeaway: Parents were concerned their children might not find work in the region after school, forcing them to move home or across the country for work.

District leaders then looked to local economic data and found that by 2020, most jobs in Minneapolis and St. Paul – the nearest urban area – would focus on healthcare and technology. With that, the district considered the curriculum and any gaps in preparing students for those fields, and they readjusted their communications approach and strategic plan. They focused on telling a data-driven story about how to prepare students for a successful career with a local company.

Since implementing community surveys, the district has not only built community will around personalized learning, but has also passed three school levies in six years.

“We asked the right questions and aligned our responses to what parents and communities said they wanted for kids,” Lisa said.

Are you looking to rally parents around personalized learning? Here are twelve tips from Superintendents in districts that have already made the switch.

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Do the Benefits of College Outweigh the Financial Costs?

Posts from WOL - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:00am

Is college worth it? It’s a fair question to ask, especially when looking at tuition costs, impending debt from student loans and thinking about the potential financial return on investment.

In 2014 I asked that question and the data showed that college was indeed worth it. The data then showed that individuals with an associate degree earn more, on average 21% more than high school graduates.

Is that still the case? According to a new study from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education, people with an associate degree earn significantly more than people with just some college credits but no degree.

  • Women with an associate degree on average earn about 26% more than the earnings of women who have some college but no degree
  • Men with an associate degree on average earn 18% more than men with some college and no degree.

Those numbers reinforce the value of programs like early college high schools, where students can earn up to 60 hours of college credit, or an associate degree, while still in high school. Or, said differently, students can graduate from high school with college credentials in hand, but none of the debt, ready to out-earn their peers by a significant amount.

According to The College Payoff, a report published by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, the earning gap between people with and without degrees is even larger as degree attainment goes up.

  • The average worker with a Bachelor’s degree will earn 35% more than someone with an associate degree
  • The average Master’s degree-holder will earn 17% more than someone with a Bachelor’s degree
  • The average Doctoral degree-holder will earn 33% more than someone with a Master’s degree

These numbers assume degrees in job markets that are healthy and growing. That doesn’t apply to all fields and geographies. But, as an investment in your future, currently college is a wise one.

Seeing how much the data has changed over just three years reaffirms for me the need to continue to monitor the value of a degree. As the world of work and definitions of career readiness shift over time, these numbers will continue to evolve.

Learn more about early college high schools, which put students on the fast track to degree attainment.

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Three Students Win for Imagining #FutureEd

Posts from WOL - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 8:00am

KnowledgeWorks and Teach the Future are thrilled to announce the winners of the Imagine FutureEd student design competition!

Savannah Vangotum and Layne Shelton of Cadiz, Kentucky, won for creating compelling scenarios of the future of education. Their teacher Michelle Strickland, of Trigg County High School, also receives recognition for supporting the creation of their entries.

In addition, Sierra McLeod of Charlotte, North Carolina, who attends Lake Norman Charter High School, won for creating both a compelling scenario of the future of education and a distinctive artifact of the future illustrating that scenario. Sierra entered the competition independently.

The Imagine FutureEd competition sought to elevate students’ perspectives on the future of learning and provide students and teachers with tools for developing long-term thinking. It invited youth aged 13-18 and living in the U.S. to submit written scenarios, or stories, describing possible futures of learning. Participants could also elect to produce accompanying artifacts from the future, or images that illustrate some aspect of their scenarios. The competition ran from January through March 2017. It attracted submissions from high school and junior high school students in four states.

The winning scenarios, excerpts from other scenarios, and interviews with the winners will be published on imaginefutureed.knowledgeworks.org and featured in blog posts on KnowledgeWorks’ and Teach the Future’s websites. In the meantime, here are some possibilities raised by the winners’ entries to ponder:

  • From Layne: Could the school supply list get shorter and the line for the eye doctor get longer as learning becomes almost entirely mediated through computers?
  • From Savannah: Could a robot called Nan be assigned to a child for the school year as a learning companion?
  • From Sierra: Could holographic, interactive images be projected throughout a classroom for students to explore?

Stay tuned for more perspectives on what the future of learning might look like, why those possibilities came to the fore of students’ exploration, and what it was like for Layne, Savannah, and Sierra to imagine the future of education.

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Demonstrating Mastery is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Process

Posts from WOL - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 8:00am

In a traditional classroom, students might demonstrate mastery of a concept by taking a test. Or maybe the whole class writes reports. Perhaps the teacher assigns a public speaking exercise. Any one of those exercises surely demonstrates mastery by some students, while potentially leaving out others.

In a personalized learning environment, each individual student can work with their instructors to develop ways to demonstrate mastery in ways that make sense for them. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all assessments that work for few.

Ashley Howard works at Navin Elementary School in the Marysville Exempted Village School District in Marysville, Ohio, and has been working with second graders on how they show mastery of non-fiction text features.

“We talked about how we learn best,” Ashley said of her discussions with her students. “Every brain is different. Everybody has strengths with a lot of different things.”

The ways students chose to demonstrate mastery ranged from creating posters to writing and playing songs.

“That was really neat to see them demonstrate their learning in a different way,” said Ashley.

Learn more: Watch a video of Ashley Howard discussing personalized learning in her second grade classroom.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take the self-assessment to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

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The Current and Desired States of Personalized Learning According to Teachers of the Year

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 8:00am

Recently, KnowledgeWorks sat down with 27 of the current State Teachers of the Year and the 2014 National Teacher of the Year to gain their insight on the state of personalized learning. When you have uninterrupted time with the best teachers out there, great conversation ensues! KnowledgeWorks wanted to know what this esteemed group of teachers is currently seeing in the field with personalized learning but also wanted to know what they desire to see.

What is the current state of personalized learning?

  1. Teachers are utilizing student interests. Teachers are sporadically using their students’ passions to drive learning, allowing them to incorporate passions into products. They are teaching to individual learning styles.
  2. Teachers have an awareness of a need for change. Teachers are aware that something different needs to happen and some are unaware of the possibilities. Many times, this awareness is enhanced when teachers are required to use pacing guides with benchmarks that must be met; teachers know that time based instruction doesn’t acknowledge that students learn in different time frames.
  3. Teachers are utilizing technology. With the addition of 1:1 technology in many schools, teachers realize that students have a wealth of additional resources at their fingertips. Teachers are finding that technology can help to differentiate instruction.
  4. Teachers are starting to shift from teaching to facilitating. Our teacher-driven classrooms are starting to see the benefits of becoming more student driven. Generally, teachers have done most of the talking during instructional time but would like to get the students to do more of the talking.

What is the desired state of personalized learning?

  1. Teachers will meet all students where they are. This will require flexible pacing for students to allow for mastery. Meeting students where they are will lead to increased motivation and engagement.
  2. Teachers will produce lifelong learners. Teaching social emotional learning and growth mindset alongside the academic curriculum will create college and career ready graduates. Assessment will be used as a positive tool for learning, creating learners who are reflective of their learning.
  3. Teachers will foster student ownership. Students will know where they are, where they are going, and how they will get there; they will be aware of their progress toward mastery. Students consistently drive their own learning everyday according to their own lives, strengths, needs, and passions. As one teacher put it, “students become captains of their own ship.”
  4. Teachers will take on the role as facilitator. They will become the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage. Teachers will offer personalized feedback to their students and allow for voice and choice to encourage student agency.

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take this four-question quiz to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

The post The Current and Desired States of Personalized Learning According to Teachers of the Year appeared first on World of Learning.

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How Culture, Transparency and Vision Apply to Personalized Learning at RSU-2

Posts from WOL - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:00am

A focused attention on vision, culture and transparency is essential to effectively scaling personalized learning approaches like competency-based education. Those themes get brought up again and again as we’ve interviewed teachers and school leaders, spoken with superintendents and district leaders and worked with districts and schools to personalize learning for their students.

Jesse Moyer, the Senior Director of School Development at KnowledgeWorks, recently spoke with Bill Zima, Superintendent for Regional School Unit 2 (RSU-2) in Hallowell, Maine, about how these themes are important in his district, which uses competency-based education. Here are some highlights from what Zima said during that conversation.

  • Vision: “Vision isn’t something you put up on a plaque,” said Zima. “It really needs to be revisited and thought about and talked about. Is what we’re doing aligned to our vision? If not, do we need to readjust the how or why to make sure everything is aligned?”
  • Culture: “Culture is not part of the game–it is the game,” said Zima. “Everything that happens throughout the district is either a result of or impact of the culture.”
  • Transparency: “Transparency focuses on ensuring all kids, parents and teachers know what the learning expectations are, where students have been, where they are now and where they need to go,” said Zima. “In classrooms throughout our district, there are curriculum charts and student binders so learners can easily track their progress.”

Read more of Moyer and Zima’s conversation on their Getting Smart post, “A Maine School District’s Approach To Personalized Learning.”

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Teacher Empowerment Through Personalized Learning

Posts from WOL - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 8:00am

A phrase that comes up often in discussions of competency-based education is putting students in charge of their own learning. The KnowledgeWorks team has talked to many people about what that means from the student perspective and in the classroom, but I’ve often wondered about the teacher perspective. When you empower students to lead their own learning experiences, how does it affect how a teacher feels about his or her role?

For Erin Morrison, a third grade teacher at Navin Elementary School in Marysville, Ohio, the move to personalized learning has been positive. She feels empowered to better serve her students.

“The thing I like best about teaching at Navin is the flexibility that we have here,” Morrison said. “The whole view of competency-based education and personalized learning has really made me feel that I can take my students lead and do whatever I feel is best for them.”

Hear more from Erin Morrison about teaching in a personalized learning environment:

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take the self-assessment to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.

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Student Thanks from Marysville Early College High School

Posts from WOL - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 8:00am

At Marysville Early College High School in Marysville, Ohio, the relationship building between students and teachers is a critical component of their success. The students are doing incredible things, and they’ve got incredible teachers supporting them along the way.

To help illustrate this special teacher-student bond, graduates of Marysville Early College High School get to select a teacher to hand them their diploma at graduation. We asked a few students to share who they selected and why.

What teacher will be handing you your diploma on graduation day? If you could thank them personally, what would you say?

Mrs. Wanamaker really took to heart what I was interested in. She wanted to make sure that I was learning correctly and properly, almost treated me like her child and even sent me home once when she knew I wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to do well in her class. – Colt Biehl, Marysville Early College High School student

Mrs. Bentz was my volleyball coach, both at school and club, and have known her for a long time.  She always pushed me to do my best and a good person to look up to. – Kennedy Dunn, Marysville Early College High School student

Mrs. Burns is my favorite teacher.  I was her teaching assistant and she would bring us pizza. – Cameron Rufus, Marysville Early College High School student

Take advantage of this Teacher Appreciation Week to #ThankATeacher in your life.

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Student Thanks from Akron Early College High School

Posts from WOL - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 8:00am

At Akron Early College High School (AECHS) in Akron, Ohio, the relationship building between students and teachers is a critical component of their success. Most of the early college high school’s students are among those traditionally underserved in a college setting, lower-income and first generation college students who go on to earn an average of 60 college credit hours toward an associate degree. They’re doing incredible things, and they’ve got incredible teachers supporting them along the way.

We asked a few students to share their experiences with us in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, because their words have more impact than anything we could share.

What teacher has made a positive impact on you? If you could thank them personally, what would you say?

“Each and every teacher at the early college has made an impact on me. However, I believe one of the teachers that had the biggest impact on me is Mrs. Chaplin. The skills she has taught me have allowed me to grow and accelerate in my college classes.

You’ve allowed me and many other students to show our imaginations and creativity through everything that you do. Thank you for being the amazing teacher that you are and your contributions for our school. Our school family is very lucky to have an amazing teacher like you. I am truly humbled to have been your student.” – Mai Lor, sophomore at AECHS


“Each and every teacher at the early college has made an impact on me.” #ThankATeacher #Akron
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“A teacher that has made a positive impact on my life would have to be the 10th grade biology teacher Ms. Andrews. She always pushes me to give my all into everything I do. She doesn’t accept second best. If I could thank her personally I’d say, “I’ve never had a bond with a teacher until this year, and that she makes me feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind too. She’s like my mom away from home, and isn’t afraid to tell me the hard truth. There’s no way to fully express my gratitude to her in words, but if I had the patience I’d say thank you to her a billion times!” – Annika Bragg, sophomore at AECHS

“There’s no way to fully express my gratitude to her in words.” #ThankATeacher #Akron #EarlyCollege
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“My Biology teacher Ms. Andrews has made a positive impact on me. She has pushed me to where I thought I would break, and then pushed even more, because she knew that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. She has also helped me with any problems I had whether they were school related or personal. Overall she helped me to grow as a student and person.

I would love to tell her thank you for everything she has done for me. I probably would not have been able to survive Akron Early College without her making me laugh everyday. She showed me that I love Biology and love learning new things and for that I am truly grateful.” – Heather Jandecka, sophomore at AECHS


“She showed me that I love learning new things and for that I am truly grateful.” #ThankATeacher
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“Mr. O’Neil (Larry) – Thank you for always being there for me and through all the support. I am glad to have a teacher like you.

Mr. O’Neil (Tom) –  Thank you for the support. You do help AECHS students a lot and keep us on track. I always had a smile on my face after a little conversation with you.

Mr. McCown –  You have your jokes and games which can really light up someone’s day. It made mine. Thank you for everything.

Mrs. Chaplin – You always supported your students to do their best and offered the help when in need. I know that I can always come to you and open up when I have a problem either from home, personal self or school. You help guide us and keep us on track.” – Lyi Sorn, sophomore at AECHS


“I know that I can always come to you.” #ThankATeacher #Akron #EarlyCollege
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“The teacher that has left a positive impact on me is our Spanish teacher, Mrs. Martinez-Pinzon. Unfortunately, I only had Sra. Martinez for one year, then I moved on to college Spanish. Sra. Martinez truly preaches diversity and acceptance to her students.

If I could thank Sra. Martinez personally, I would say to her ‘thank you for not making class only about learning the concepts of Spanish; I’m glad you taught us a valuable life skill that we can build off of and carry with us for the rest of our lives.’” – John Fuller, sophomore at AECHS

“You taught us a valuable life skill.” #ThankATeacher #Akron #EarlyCollege
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“Each and every teacher at AECHS is willing to help us in any way that they can. Knowing that they are there for us and that I can go to them for help, which I have before, is my most positive experience at AECHS.

The teacher that made a positive impact on me was Mr. Konate. Although Mr. Konate is still new at teaching, he has made me realize what I can still do. I am aware of my own potential but Mr. Konate made me realize what else I can improve.” – Vang Lor, junior at AECHS

“He has made me realize what I can still do.” #ThankATeacher #Akron #EarlyCollege
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“I’d say Mrs. Keaton has made the most positive impact on me. Whenever we’re stressed or just depressed, Mrs. Keaton takes off her ‘Keaton hat’ and replaces it with her ‘Wendy hat.’ The things she says whilst wearing that ‘Wendy hat’ has helped me get through my academic as well as personal struggles.

All I can possibly say is ‘Thank You.'” – Reasmey Keo, Junior at AECHS

“All I can possibly say is ‘Thank You.'” #AECHS #ThankATeacher
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Take advantage of this Teacher Appreciation Week to #ThankATeacher in your life.

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#ThankATeacher: Memories of a Sixth Grader

Posts from WOL - Mon, 05/08/2017 - 8:00am

On a recent Sunday, I received a call from my mom, who relayed that she had “sad news.” The obituary of Emily Lazzio was in our local paper back home. Miss Lazzio had been my sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Niles, Ohio in 1967. I learned from reading about her that she and I shared many of the same milestones:  both born and raised in our small town in Trumbull County, both graduates of Niles McKinley High School, both graduates of Youngstown State University, both having a career as teachers.

While as a student I did not know those details of Miss Lazzio’s life, I am also sure that she did not know this about me: I consider her largely responsible for my decision to become a teacher.

As we go through life, we have all asked and answered those universal questions: Who were your favorite teachers in school? Who are the teachers you remember? My answer is and will always be “Miss Lazzio.”

Who were your favorite teachers in school? Who are the teachers you remember? #ThankATeacher
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While we can unfortunately recall those classrooms that did little to motivate us as learners, we also have those golden memories in our hearts of teachers who made a difference. For me, and I suspect for many of my classmates, that teacher making the difference was Emily Lazzio.

Robin Kanaan pays tribute to a teacher that made a difference in her life. Take time today on Teacher Appreciation Day to do the same. #ThankATeacher.

That sixth-grade year was a special one that has remained in my memory over the course of my life. A focused task-master, Miss Lazzio made it her business to get the best out of her students. We worked on projects and on teams, devouring the content in the days before standards-based education. A field trip to Cleveland and the Museums of Art and Natural History provided the backdrop for learning beyond the school walls. Miss Lazzio put students at the center and provided a safe place to learn, to fail, and to try again. We were her kids, and while she expected our best, she made us feel a part of something special.

As I work today with teachers around the country implementing personalized learning, I am reminded of Miss Lazzio and of what is most important in our classrooms, in our schools:  relationships and a sense of belonging. Her belief in her students and their potential was powerful, and that remains true in classrooms today where teachers are purposeful in building positive connections with kids.

While much has changed since 1967, that guiding principle has not. My wish for you and the children who are closest to you is that you will have a Miss Lazzio of your own. As for myself, I will honor her memory in the work that I do, and every now and then I will let myself wander back in time to those special sixth grade days.

Thank you, Miss Lazzio, for your life’s work.

Help celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day by thanking the special teacher(s) in your life. You can join the conversation on Twitter at #ThankATeacher.

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How to Rally Parents Around Personalized Learning

Posts from WOL - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 8:00am

“If the school system worked for me, why can’t it work for my child?”

In many districts that are moving to personalized learning, parents can be apprehensive around change in their child’s classroom.

“There’s great trepidation around changing education in a system that worked for them 23 years ago,” one superintendent said. “There’s a fear about treating kids like guinea pigs.”

And who can blame them? Without clear, transparent communication around how personalized learning works for each individual student, parents are bound to be nervous about this transformation.

In talking with district leaders throughout the country, we’ve sought to better understand their roles, goals, motivations and challenges. Through these conversations, we’ve learned that districts are facing similar barriers to personalized learning.

One common challenge is clearly and articulately explaining personalized learning, while encouraging parents to become advocates.

Districts have taken various approaches to remedy this challenge. Whether through a community survey or classroom visit, all approaches depend on intentional communication and parent engagement to build public will.

Here are some ideas for how to better engage your parent community around personalized learning:

  1. Be upfront and transparent about personalized learning from the very beginning.
  2. Attend other, non-district events in the community. By being involved in local events, parents will become familiar and comfortable with you and your staff.
  3. Plan community focus groups to have honest conversation and gain insight.
  4. Meet parents where they are. Schedule meetings outside the school walls where parents are comfortable.
  5. Allow time for parents to visit classrooms to see personalized learning in action.
  6. Conduct a community survey to learn about common concerns and consider how to address those concerns.
  7. Ask parents for their insight. Value that insight by using it in future communications plans or processes.
  8. Continually use common language to create better understanding. Once you choose a term for personalized learning, stick with it. Inconsistent language can result in confusion, which can cause apprehension.
  9. Host informal principal chats where parents can come discuss and learn about personalized learning in individual schools.
  10. Invite higher education partners to dispel myths about the transition from a personalized learning environment to postsecondary institutions.
  11. Focus on strong, strategic online and virtual communication. Use the website and social media sites to your advantage.
  12. Sit down with a family and understand from where they’re coming. Build relationships with them.

While parents can be a barrier to some personalized learning paths, they can also be the biggest advocates for the school community. By carefully (and strategically) communicating, schools can build support throughout the parent population.

Transparent communication is one step towards scaling personalized learning. Do you think your school is ready? Take this 4-question quiz to find out.

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