Genius Hour 4: Why and How

personal

First, I am going to cover the main reasons WHY teachers personalize learning in a classroom. First off, students in a classroom come from all different backgrounds, languages, cultures, and learning levels. A teacher, specifically Early Childhood, must get a feel for each student’s ability in each subject. With a wide range of abilities, the teacher must begin at the starting point for each student in order to get real progress. Second off, personalized learning is seen as an opportunity to express student voice, which allows the students to influence the learning objectives and techniques within the classroom. This is vital to each child’s freedom, motivation, and academic success. Personalized learning makes it possible for each student to improve at their own level based on their own interests and efforts.

Referring back to my question, “How does using technology guide Early Childhood teachers to personalized learning for students?” I decided to focus more on specific methods of teaching. My research now addresses the HOW to personalized learning. A study from an Educational Technology Research and Development source used technology and goal-based approach learning for a classroom. Personalized learning was the main topic for this article, and “to cater for differentiated learning, teachers need to address the three characteristics of students: readiness, interest, and learning profile for each student.” (2) Readiness is the overall level and understanding of each student, interest is that spark of curiosity, and learning profile includes the choices on learning style. It is important to note that even when the students are more in control of their own learning, they still are involved in collaborating equally with teachers and students. Each of these three should be taken into account for an Early Childhood teacher before any assignment or project is given.

Since there are many methods to personalize learning, I’m going to give a few essentials, such as technology, experiments, goals, groups, and  field trips. Technology is the largest influence in my opinion, as it is also growing rapidly in our generation. Schools are allowing BYOD and assignments are largely centering on computers or cell phones. Experiments and field trips go together in testing out a child’s interests: What did they find exciting or engaging? Goals increase “intrinsic motivation,” which makes personalized learning easier to capture the attention of a classroom (3). Groups based on ability and shared interests are effective in the way that collaboration is used for various projects such as research ideas, PowerPoints, GoogleDocs, or videos.  Another finding discussed a specific classroom where many types of learning options were given to the children. “Learning menus are the latest way to personalize the learning experience for students, joining classes that are blended with online course work or project-based lessons.” (3)

“The increasing focus on student-centered learning is driving the development of new technologies that provide more choice and allow for differentiated instruction.”(1)

(1) http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

(2) http://web.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=283e2b29-97e2-4338-8afa-1672a492cc5d%40sessionmgr110&vid=1&hid=124

(3) http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/01/20/students-pick-style-of-learning.html

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Genius Hour 3: Interview

Introduction: I interviewed my mother, Mrs. Beasley, who currently teaches 3rd grade at Taylor Elementary School. She’s been teaching for 16 years and has much experience with strategies and useful techniques to teaching all different types of students. I asked her a few questions related to my topic, personalized learning, and her answers definitely gave me more information on it. It’s interesting hearing answers from an actual teacher’s perspective.

Q: In your opinion, what is personalized learning?

A: Personalized learning is meeting the different needs of all learners and differentiating within the classroom. It is important to personalize learning through math workshops, readers workshop, and various stations with different activities. The main way to differentiate students is according to their personal ability when they come to me in small group settings. At the beginning of the year, teachers get a feel for each student, as well as their levels in each subject, and then I set a plan for them in order to see personal progress.

Q: What are some effective ways you demonstrate personalized learning in your classroom.

A: One of the most effective ways to demonstrate personalized learning to me is small group instruction. When students are grouped and differentiated based on their personal levels, I know what I need to individually teach them and what kinds of activities to use in order to do that. A great method is also the use of technology, especially in math to teach multiplication, for example. I get a feel for advanced students, and also focus on lower math levels with various websites. Also, all of their material and books are posted on eClass through Gwinnett County for each learner to have personal access. Another site is Symbaloo, where students can log on and have access to different websites from home.

Q: How does personalized learning enforce student voice?

A: Within the workshop models, students are allowed to make choices through their choice boards. I also have a math wizard box to enforce student voice and 8 different activities that students can generally choose from. Each station has two specific activities that my students can choose to work on. Student voice is also seen through small group as I do teacher/student discussion and listen to what each student needs and how they would like to learn. I like to compromise, especially if there is an activity I know will benefit them that I have in mind. For reading, there are many books on my shelf within each student’s reading level and they have a free choice on what they want to read too. Each student sets his/her own goals in reading and math, but also has a choice in what to do when trying to meet those specific goals. A few more examples of students having a voice are being able to respond to what they read, teacher interaction, and picking between Independent or partner work.

Q: What are barriers that stand in the way of personalized learning?

A: All students are expected to meet the same state standards, with testing and Georgia milestones, making it difficult because teachers are differentiating learning throughout the year. Therefore, the material may not be at all at the same level to meet the required standards. Personalized learning can be hard because students are still always learning in their own way, but it might not show progression if they have different strengths and weakness. I see all of the personal progress within each student, but then some perform worse and it is difficult. Testing is tough because students are all learning at levels they work best at.

Q: In what ways could technology emphasize personalized learning?

A: Specific examples are http://www.frontrowed.com which I use for math. Students go in and take a math pre-test and it shows me math levels of each student and helps identify lower students and ones who need acceleration. Moby math and Xtra Math help find the differentiation that each students needs and helps with number fluency. Our eClass page is great for reading, where students have access to levels and books to read online to strengthen reading. There is also a  read aloud section to listen to books and become more familiar with words. All textbooks are online to each subject. If students have an iPhone or tablet, they can download personalized learning apps. I also use Learn 2 Earn, where students read books at their level and write responses and comment on each other’s blogs. Students see others love for reading, which influences them, and it’s a great opportunity to compliment each other and have ideas for different books to read next. Learnzillion.com helps me with teaching, and students with review, to go in and watch video clips on each math or language arts standard, full of activities and ideas.