Getting Personalized

Edtech to make personalized learning happen in K-12 schools. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Laura Henderson

CREDIT Epiphany LearningPersonalized learning is the education buzz that is sweeping the nation. From the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the US Department of Instruction, schools, educators and administrators recognize the potential benefits and, as a result, are eager to transform classrooms to make it happen. And while edtech is the underpinning of personalized learning’s successful implementation, the catalyst of change goes well beyond the technology itself.

This is an exciting time for education in our country. Personalized learning is on the cusp of transforming education as we know it for the benefit of learners.

The technological advancements of the past three decades have created a world where skills such as cursive writing and spelling are no longer as important as they once were. In fact, as we look to the future these once very important skills may become obsolete. The fact of the matter is that 21st Century jobs are demanding very different skills and knowledge and, as a result, are driving our country’s urgency around education transformation.

Personalized learning changes everything we know about classrooms if we think about the type of classroom we once sat in as children. Personalized learning says learners should own, drive and be accountable for their own learning; we need to teach them to become lifelong learners. It says learning is no longer about learners memorizing content because content is right at their fingertips. Personalized learning says we need to develop both a learner’s capacity to learn and the non-cognitive skills required to work in a rapidly changing global environment while not being able to fully realize the jobs that will be available in the next three decades.

What does this mean for our schools, our classrooms and our teachers? Technology implemented only a few years ago was designed around a traditional classroom, a classroom where teachers directed the learning. Teachers decided what students would learn and how and when they would learn it. Students were taught to, not with, and learning happened in an environment where there was a 1:30 teacher to student relationship.

Personalized learning says there is a 1:1 relationship between teachers and learners. Learners must first know themselves, their hobbies, interest and ambitions. This creates both purpose and passion in what they are learning and, more importantly, why they are learning it. They need to know how they process information, visually, kinesthetically or audibly so that they can leverage this in their learning and in their lives. They should know what their strengths and struggles are and be accepting of their struggles and mistakes.

The learning should be different for every learner based on this information and should be driven by the learner, not directed by the teacher. Learning should build on strengths while recognizing and developing struggles. Teachers should teach with the learners and spend more time recognizing non-cognitive skills and the capacity to understand versus focusing on surface content.

Knowing what personalized learning strives to accomplish as education changes, it becomes evident why technology is the underpinning of its success. The use of integrated technology allows each student to use the skills needed for our future economy, while making learning meaningful. The use of technology allows teachers to collaborate with students on a 1:1 basis rather than on a 1:30 basis in a traditional classroom. Technology also makes personalized learning implementation and execution more efficient and scalable. And, above all, it gives learners a voice and more choice in what and how they learn.

This is an exciting time for education in our country. Personalized learning is on the cusp of transforming education as we know it for the benefit of learners. Even more exciting is the fact that edtech holds the key to making it happen.

Epiphany Learning is the brainchild of its Founder and CEO, Laura Henderson, whose experience as a successful leader of a global technology business, the wife of a special education teacher, and a mother of five inspired her to develop a web-based tool that provides a new, personalized approach to learning which benefits teachers and students alike. Visit epiphanylearning.com.

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