Saturday, January 11, 2014

Personalized Learning for K-12 in 2014

Students in Elementary, Middle and High Schools across the United States are back from their winter vacations.  While celebrating the holidays, enjoying lazy afternoons, frying their brains on first-person shooter video games, and sleeping until noon, it's back to the business of learning.  For most of these students, however, getting back into the daily routine of "one-way" learning at school will be more difficult than ever.  As each year passes, and schools throughout the nation fail to change how students are engaged and taught, we face a learning crisis that is more damaging than we dare to imagine.

  • The #1 gift in the 2013 holiday season to children in the U.S. was a mobile device (  Whether an iPad (still the top leader in tablets in 2013), a Kindle, a Chrome-book, or just a SmartPhone, kids spent their time off during winter break drenched in the electronic world of mobility.
  • These same students went back to school without these devices only to sit in a classroom where learning occurs in a force-fed, one-way, traditional environment.  Students sit, teachers talk, test scores drop.  How many published, scientific studies on learning must be presented to our local school administrators before they get it?  
  • In 2013, the situation was so bad, that many states and the federal government took action.  Obama introduced legislation on providing broadband internet to students.  State regulators got involved to demand learning reform.  Many school districts began a long (and expensive) journey to determine how best to meet the challenging demands of better student engagement and new ways of teaching/learning.
  • In 2014, doing nothing will simply not be an option for K-12.  The evidence is in:  kids learn better in non-traditional environments.  These new learning methodologies go by many names:  Personalized Learning, 21st Century Classroom, Flipped-Classrooms, Blended Learning, and others.  Tools being utilized to enable these new learning methods have one thing in common:  mobility.  The objective is simple:  get rid of the traditional obstacles to learning by introducing new processes.
  • Personalized Learning means changing how students learn at a fundamental level.  While many models are showing dramatic improvements in teaching, a few methods are floating to the top:
    • 1:1 or Mobile Enablement.  Allowing students to interact electronically, wirelessly to a device (rather than a textbook or workbook), instantly changes everything.  Content can be modified on-the-fly, teachers can see (in real time) whether a student is absorbing the lesson, student engagement soars and the applications available to provide feedback to improve learning is growing.
    • Flipped Classroom.  Let the kids learn lessons via multimedia sessions at home, and then help teach each other the next day.  Teachers facilitate learning.  Understanding is performed through collaboration - not lecturing.
    • Blended Learning.  Turn the classroom into a "collaboration-room."  Let the students rotate in smaller groups, tackling learning together via curriculum built specifically for this purpose.
Once our schools realize they must change, the next steps are complex.  It's important to collaborate at a Superintendent /  Curriculum level with other schools.  Engage learning consultants.  Develop the technical infrastructure and a pervasive wireless environment - no matter what technology is chosen.

Let's make 2014 the last year of sending our children home with a five-pound textbook, a photocopied workbook from 1993, and expect them to memorize a list of facts without the assistance of multimedia.  What will that take?  Who will lead the vision?  What can you do to help?

The solution lies with all of us:  Educators, Administrators, Parents, Community-Members, and Personalized Learning organizations.

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