Future Fluencies

The Beginner’s Guide to Exploring Personalized Learning

If you're exploring personalized learning for the first time, have no fear.

Why begin exploring personalized learning? Teachers across the nation agree that students need to be prepared and equipped for the future after graduating.

There has been much discussion on whether personalized learning is the approach to take to better prepare students to meet the demands of an increasingly technological world. Among this discussion, teachers often wonder what their role is in creating a personalized learning environment. After all, the thought of incorporating so much personal technology raises big concerns for both teachers and administrators.

Personalized learning demands a different learning design than what currently exists in most traditional classrooms. It also requires a shift in the teaching profession from a practice-based to a knowledge-based occupation. Fortunately, however, it enhances the role of the teacher in a unique way. While the work of teachers may look different when exploring personalized learning for the first time, it really is more important than ever.

A personalized learning approach must start with the end in mind.

That end is that students are prepared for both college and their careers, and that they are lifelong learners and successful adults. So before exploring personalized learning in the classroom, it is important that teachers understand how and why this approach is supposed to work in helping to reach that end.

Personalized learning is designed to teach each student in a personalized way.
The truth of the matter is that great classrooms and teachers do not guarantee that students won’t fall through the cracks, and unfortunately it happens all the time.

Matter of fact, even the kids who are receiving good grades are not getting lasting educational benefits many times. This is not the result of a failed education system, but because the world we live in demands a higher level and different set of skills than what traditional schools were intended to teach.

Personalized learning is designed to teach each student in a personalized way.

To a great extent, educators are already allowing and supporting students to choose how they learn in a traditional classroom. However, when exploring personalized learning it is essential that teachers have the support at the building and district levels to be successful.

Many districts, teachers, students, families, and communities are turning to personalized learning as a method to transform schools and to better meet the unique needs of each student to prepare them for a lifetime of success.

How to Get Started

One of the biggest benefits of personalized learning is it allows teachers to design and customize approaches to helping their students learn. This means teachers feel more valued and respected as they use their professional expertise, while supporting a learning environment centered on students’ strengths, goals, and interests.

A personalized learning environment is more likely to be successful when teachers devote time and effort to research and make use of available resources. This allows them to become effective facilitators of knowledge.

For educators who are interested in exploring personalized learning, the Internet has a generous amount of resources available to research and explore. Many of these are free and provide videos for educators to see in real time what a classroom might look like when taking a personalized learning approach.

Another option is to visit other classrooms to observe firsthand how other classrooms are implementing personalized learning. It is important to remember that no two classrooms will look the same. Personalized learning is about personalizing your classroom to accommodate your students’ learning styles and preferences.

Personalized learning allows teachers to design and customize approaches to helping their students learn.

Working with other teachers and learning from one another is another way to implement a personalized learning approach into your classroom. Participating in training workshops and sharing your ideas with others is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t. As you use a variety of methods to deliver various content, you will begin to see which ones bring the most success to your class.

As you connect, learn, and grow alongside your students your classroom will most likely transform right before your eyes.

One of the biggest challenges many teachers report is they simply do not know where to begin. As previously mentioned, many educators are allowing students to choose how they learn already, so most teachers are likely aware of their preferred methods of learning. While instruction geared towards students’ needs and challenges has always been ideal, technological advancements are allowing it to take place on a much higher level.

What Does Personalized Learning Look Like?

A traditional, large lecture class simply doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity for a teacher to connect with individual students or meet their specific needs. Even in a small classroom, students’ needs are often overlooked or go unobserved unless an individual connection is made.

By connecting with their students like never before, teachers are able to use technology and data to increase learning.

This also allows them to develop real relationships that encourage and empower their students to realize their potential in the classroom and in the future.

Once a teacher is able to really know and connect with students, they are then in a position to shape the right experience for them to learn.

Exploring personalized learning is not about using technology to teach. In a personalized learning classroom, teachers use various methods and strategies based on needs, interests, and preferences. However, if students are going to be prepared for the future, technology must be integrated to some degree into the academic curriculum.

Why Is a Personalized Learning Approach Important?

More than ever before, teachers are key to helping students reach their goals as they provide direction and assist students as they practice their cognitive and technological skills.

In a nutshell, students are going to have limitless technology and information available to them. Educators need to help them figure out ways to properly access the information efficiently and effectively. Additionally, students need to know how to evaluate both competently and critically.

In a personalized learning classroom, teachers should view their role as facilitators of learning. Yes, technology and software will be a big part of this approach as the software is used as an important delivery vehicle. That said, it also means teachers can handle larger classes while focusing on the specific learning needs of students.

Life is difficult, and it is critical that students are provided with relevant learning experiences so they can tackle the inevitable problems they will face on their path to college and career.