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January 4, 2018

My Thoughts on Personalized Learning - Part 1

What does this...

Have in common with this...

Or maybe this

and this... 

Do not worry, I will tell you...

All of those activities use some type of personalized learning.

Activities such as basketball and football have more in common with the academic world than we would ever have dreamed. Having been a coach, I never really put that into perspective until I was listening to a recent keynote. The speaker made a reference to the method a line coach or a quarterbacks coach may use to prepare his or her players for the upcoming game.  Sure, things are practiced together but where the biggest impact occurs are when the linemen learn with the linemen, the quarterbacks with the quarterbacks or the offense with the get the idea. 

As a basketball coach I routinely had practices within practices where the post players would work on inside drills and the guards would work on outside drills. Or a combination of posts and guards would work on drills that were relevant to their levels. In fact, we had six goals on our basketball court and unless we were doing whole team drills, all six of those goals were being used. The coaches and players knew what they needed to work on and those specific skills were addressed within the regular practice. We met the players where they were. 

Interesting thing, you know where else I have seen this practice??


The band folks do it too!! Sure they practice as a whole but a large portion of their preparation occurs within a group of common instruments. We could go on all day about where personalized learning occurs. 

Here is an interesting observation...this simple concept of meeting the "people" where they are, does not always appear in an academic setting. This is especially rare in the secondary and higher education world. When thinking about my preparation for teaching, we did have some instruction on the pedagogical side of things but there was an even larger emphasis on the content side. It is not that secondary people or higher education people are not capable of personalizing. It is just that personalizing instruction is somewhat of a foreign idea, unless of course you were trained as a special education teacher. 

Here is a story that may reinforce my thoughts...because remember, I do not claim to be the guru, nor do I think I am always right...simply my observation.

As a high school social studies teacher, I quickly realized there were students who would always do my work and there were some who would never do my work. I really assumed the ones who did not work were being disrespectful or obviously just did not have the same passion for history like I did. It was FRUSTRATING. 

Fast forward several years when I become a principal at an elementary school. First, here is a disclaimer, before becoming a primary principal, the last time I was in an elementary school was when I was in elementary school. What I discovered after my involvement with reading intervention at the elementary level was, my high school students could not least they could not read at their appropriate grade-level. I had NO IDEA!

Now before you pass judgment, I believe that some of you secondary folks are thinking to yourself..."I had the same experience." It is ok if you did not but I am telling you it was a slap in the face, a wake up call.

Long story short, I realize that if I teach today, my classroom looks completely different than it did when I first started. In fact, I would go so far to say my classroom could potentially look more like an elementary classroom. Yes, my secondary U.S. History classroom would be full of opportunities to learn in work stations, learn with manipulatives, learn at different reading-levels and so on. I would guess that my outcomes would be different and frustration levels would also decrease. 
What my high school history class could potentially look like is an entirely different post...and that post will be coming soon. 

What I have discovered in all of this is that it is no different for adult learners. Our attention-span may be longer (probably not mine) and we may be more mature (that may be a stretch too) but we still have different learning styles, we still learn at different rates. I think that is why I see more and more excitement about EdCamps and Twitter Chats. It allows people to personalize their own learning. 

So...what do we do next?

Simple. Start mining for information on how to personalize learning. Simply Google it and you will find a wealth of information. I also suggest following me on Twitter and other too for that matter. I am always finding and sharing information that could help. So do the people I follow. So, when you do find what you are looking for, start small.  Take steps to improve on one technique and only move forward as you are comfortable. 

For those of you already doing it...share what you know. Get people excited because we all know enthusiasm is contagious!


July 14, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology Weeks 5 and 6

We are down to the end of The Not So Scary World of Technology. One week left and I know I will be disappointed when it is over.

The good news...people have asked if I will do this series again. Of course I said yes!

The past two weeks I really think we made some serious strides. I have the participants asking good questions. They are also finishing some of my statements...which is great because that was my intention. For example, I ask every week, "did anyone break their device..." Of course, they all respond no and remind me that they would have to drop them on the ground or flush them in the toilet.

The key is...I can see the fear leaving. I see evidence of more tinkering and I LOVE IT! The participants are still apprehensive about certain things but I can see their minds ticking and their problem-solving abilities increasing.

One of the biggest takeaways so far happened this past session. One of the participants said she had an issue with her device. She asked her kids and they ultimately solved the problem. She was then able to explain to me the exact steps they took to solve that problem. Of course I commended her on remember those steps and told her she did exactly what she should have done. And now she knows what to do if something goes wrong.

But wait, there was more.

I told her to repeat the problem she had. As she repeated it, I typed it into a Google search.

Guess what happened??

The steps she used to solve the problem were the EXACT ones listed on the Google search. Why do I share this? It is simple, I showed the participants the simplicity of typing their question into Google to get an answer.

Pandora is stuck, what do I do??  Google answers it.

My carburetor is dirty, how do I clean it?? Google answers it.

Something that I have known for a long time was fresh and valuable information for the participants. They seemed to be relieved that they had another tool to solve problems.

We did the same strategy with YouTube. I showed examples and we played around with Google searches as well as YouTube searches. I gave them a great example using my increasing interest in making things with concrete. I wanted to make a round concrete table top and was not exactly sure how to make that happen. But, I showed everyone the process I used (Google and YouTube) and believe it or not, made it happen. Like students of all ages, I think it was important they saw a relevant example of how the process works.

In case you are wondering, here is how the round table top turned out...

 This is prior to cleanup, it looks awesome!

Back to technology...

The week before, we spent most of the time signing up and logging into the participant's Google accounts (some actually already had one). We also explored the specific icons that will help them find what they need and even looked at apps that would be beneficial to them, such as Google Keep and Pocket.

Throughout the classes, I have not pushed Google to the participants but have encouraged it for two main reasons.

1. It is FREE
2. For the most part, it is not device-specific.

This was reinforced this past week when we began searching YouTube and playing with Keep and Pocket because they were able to log in with their Google accounts and subscribe to videos and articles that were interesting to them.

This was a game changer.

In the future, when I facilitate this class we will start off earlier with the concept of searching and how it can benefit problem solving. I have told many of them to be careful because people were going to start asking them how to do things with devices. The biggest response was a laugh and a quick comment stating that they did not need to be that person. But in all seriousness, it will happen. As they get more comfortable, they will become the teachers...and I LOVE that!

One interesting observation...a participant asked how I knew all of these things to look for and to tinker with. I responded that basically one click leads to another. Once people become more familiar with technology and less apprehensive about using it, those helpful apps, websites, devices, etc become more visible.

A word to the not let it consume you. Pick something that you want to learn more about, learn more about it and then it is time to move on. A feeling of being overwhelmed is a ticket to leaving the Not So Scary World of Technology. Everyone should explore at a pace that does not confuse, anger or overwhelm them. That includes me too!

Remember, it is not lack of ability which restricts us it is the mindset.

Happy Clicking!