Personalized Learning: What does this mean and how can we do it?
Personalized learning is really about "teachers helping students find what they like and want to learn about and what their strengths and needs are. Then, the teacher sets up projects that are in line with the students’ interest and with academic standards" ("Personalized Learning", n.d). This can be high tech or low tech depending on the student. The technology you use or don't use is not the key to personalized learning. Bunting (2015) points at that most teachers begin with this question when first stepping foot in the classroom: "What does this school expect me to teach?" Now this is not a bad question to ask yourself, but "too often a textbook, a set of concepts, a list of facts, or a canned curriculum." Now don't get me wrong content knowledge is important, but there is more to an education than just the content. "Lessons, units, and courses must start with a backward-design approach -- if you plan a trip, it's best to have the destination in mind! If the content is your destination, it's easy to miss the broader purpose of our work, and students' interests and long-term life goals often live outside of our content areas."
If we can access students lives then we can potentially unlock a key to a lasting education. We can shift the roles of teachers and students. "In traditional learning, the teacher is the leader and the student is a mostly passive recipient. In personalized learning, the student is the leader, and the teacher is the activator and the advisor" ("Personalized Learning", n.d). This can ultimately lead to the goal of "transferring the ownership of learning from teachers to students" (Cavanaugh, 2017). Bunting (2015) points out that if we can ultimately transfer ownership to students then students will be able to make their own meanings out of learning. Isn't this what we want? Students who can think for themselves and be self-reliant. In my opinion this can be the hardest thing to teach. As teachers we want to protect our students. They are our "kids" and we want to protect them from failure. But if they don't learn now then they will fall later on.
This idea of personalized learning sounds AWESOME to me the problem is how do we implement it? "True personalized learning calls for a 'rethinking and redesign of schools, which could require them to overhaul classroom structures and schedules, curricula, and the instructional approaches of teachers" (Cavanaugh, 2017). Getting everyone on board can be tough. It is hard to sell something that is not what most think of as an education. So if you can't change at a school level I do believe their are things we can do in the classroom. For me personally I have had a shift from testing students in the traditional sense to giving them projects in which they are graded on a rubric. This is not completely personalized learning but I do believe it is a step towards that direction. Another thing we have to keep in mind is that technology does not automatically make it personalized. The teacher is what allows for the personalization and how they do or don't incorporate technology is up to them. "Nothing replaces the teacher, and [a] teacher's ability to know a student and what they need. You can't get that from a piece of software" (Cavanaugh, 2017). Personalized Learning (n.d.) echoes this by saying that "the teacher has to know the student to customize a program and to offer advice." Below are a few ideas from Montpeiler High School.
Bunting, M. M. (2015, March 02). What Is Personalization, Really? Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/what-is-personalization-really-mike-martin-adam-bunting
Cavanagh, S. (2017, February 09). What Is 'Personalized Learning'? Educators Seek Clarity. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/22/09pl-overview.h34.html
Personalized Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/student-success/personalized-learning/
Questions for Reflection: How am I realizing my role as an online instructor? How does this role fit within my comfort level/traditional view of my own teaching identity? Do I need to adjust – if so, how?
I think the role of an online instructor is very similar to the role of a traditional classroom teacher. The big difference is that you may never meet the students you are teaching personally as an online instructor. So the big question is how can I close this gap and make my students feel like they know me and I know them. Liu, Bonk, Magjuka , Lee, & Su (n.d.) explain 4 roles that online educators have: pedagogical, social, managerial, and technical roles. (Pedagogical includes the way we teach, social is our interactions: student-student and student-teacher, managerial being our organization and the flow of the course, and technical roles include the use of technology and the barriers it might pose.) In their research they found that social was the lowest and the other 3 categories were rated positively based on student perception. "While approximately 60% of the students never felt lonely while taking the classes, about 25% did, in fact, feel isolated. In addition, 49% responded that they could not feel the emotions of other students in their online courses. Similarly, only 28% of students felt that they knew their instructors and other students well. Although the students felt a low level of social presence in online courses, nearly 90% indicated they felt they were part of a learning community when they took online courses." Based on this data the biggest impact as educators that we can have is to build that social connection into our class. I think this is where the class that I designed lacks if it were to be a truly distance class. My students work online in their own time but I am available for help personally and they use me and each other as needed. So I still have the social connection, but would have to work on this aspect if I were to use this class as a distance class.
Looking at the roles of a teacher most students I think the biggest 2 lie in the social and pedagogical categories. We need to plan out our courses so that students are prepared for each task and can by successful while also planning in interaction. According to Craig, Goold, Coldwell, & Mustard (2008) students believe that teachers should provide clear feedback and guidance, challenge student to think. and helping students to learn. "Only 16% thought that teachers should know all the answers." I think this last statement is huge. We want to know everything, but it is not possible. I think sometimes we have to realize the impossibility of knowing everything in order to relinquish ourselves from the idea that teachers need to know everything. I believe that the things I don't know can actually be a strength. It allows students to take the stage and teach us something. We just have to be willing to allow this change in our idea of education to fully play out. Giving students the opportunity to provide a learning experience can help students to build confidence and can help them to excel.
Technical difficulties are new area to teachers from traditional classrooms. In a traditional classroom you can help a student through these difficulties, but at a distance this can be hard because we aren't in the same place. Luckily for me I am able to trouble shoot after school with students, and sometimes during the day as my class schedule allows. Technical difficulties can cause learners to become isolated and frustrated. This also begs the question of who is responsible for helping a student through the technical issue? Our job is to teach not provide technical support. However, "many online instructors and trainers still find themselves in a position of being the first point of contact for learners with technical questions or issues. These instructors and trainers must decide how much they are willing and/or able to assist learners with technical support issues while balancing personal preference, technological knowledge level/skill, time constraints, and existing workload" (Shamsy, 2014).
I think the biggest thing I would need to consider in a truly distance class is the social aspect and my teacher presence. Right now my students know me but this would not be the case all the time. Vigil (2014) give some great suggestions:
I'm not sure I need to change my identity but more that I need to change to help my students. Things are constantly changing and we have to be ready to adapt. New challenges will always come our way and we just have to be ready to try to tackle these changes.
Craig, A., Goold, A., Coldwell, J., & Mustard, J. (2008). Perceptions of Roles and Responsibilities in Online Learning: A Case Study . Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://ijklo.org/Volume4/IJELLOv4p205-223Craig510.pdf
Everson, M. (2011, February). The Instructor's Role in Online Discussions. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1943211
Liu, X., Bonk, C. J., Magjuka, R. J., Lee, S., & Su, B. (n.d.). Exploring Four Dimensions of Online Instructor Roles: A Program Level Case Study . Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://uasinternship.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/v9n4_liu_1.pdf.
Shamsy, J. (2014, May). A Balancing Act Part I: Technical Support and the Online Instructor. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2627756
Vigil, V. P. (2014, August 06). Meaningful Learning: Teacher Presence & Learner Engagement in the Online Classroom. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/meaningful-learning-teacher-presence-learner-engagement-online-classroom
Internship in Virtual Teaching and Learning