What is personalized learning? How do you introduce this concept in a school district? What is the relationship between the roll out of our 1:1 Chromebook devices and the concept of personalized learning? These questions are among the many we are considering in our district this year as we explore this initiative for our students.
The personalized learning advocacy group iNACOL defines personalized learning as, “Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests- including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn- to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.” www.inacol.org
As we introduced 1:1 devices in our district we asked the essential question: “Now that we have these devices, what will teachers and students be doing differently?” We hope that this guiding question has allowed our educators to consider the possibilities and benefits for students of embracing personalized learning approaches.
Our journey began in 2016, when we took the Future Ready Schools pledge as a district. At this time we agreed to explore the concept of personalized learning, both for our staff and our students. At our summer retreat that year the administrative team took a series of surveys in order to review our understanding and refine our vision around personalized professional learning. The results have lead to increased opportunities for our staff to pursue their individual and team goals on professional development days and to continue to provide structured opportunities for choice in the workshops they attend.
In 2016 we also sent a delegation to the Future Ready Schools summit in Newton, MA. We also joined the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech (MAPLE) and became a catalyst district. Under the guidance of these two groups we have been exploring the concept of personalized learning with several educators participating in learning tours of other Massachusetts schools and even hosting our own event this April.
As we expanded our 1:1 Chromebook initiative to the high school during the 2018-19 school year our educators participated in professional development activities in October that specifically addressed the concept of personalized learning and how this relates to other ideas and initiatives in the district. On March 1st several teachers offered workshop sessions sharing their best practices and engaging other educators in this ongoing conversation. Our MAPLE partners have also guided our leadership team through many of the challenges and introducing a new initiative and we have developed new strategies for communicating ideas, sharing data, and creating the conditions for teachers to explore strategies for personalized learning for their students.
On March 15th a team from North Reading Public Schools presented at the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MASSCUE) spring conference at the College of the Holy Cross. High School Principal Anthony Loprete, Director of Digital Learning Daniel Downs, 6-12 Foreign Language Curriculum Coordinator and Teacher, Amy St. Arnaud, and I shared our experiences with an audience of educators from across the Commonwealth.
Ms. St. Arnaud echoed something that we have been saying throughout this process, that technology is just a tool to achieve our personalized learning goals for our students. Keeping our focus and making progress towards those goals and exploring our own definition of personalized learning is the work that lies ahead for the North Reading Public Schools.