The past two school years I have been on a personalized learning kick. I want you to understand though that it did not start in a classroom. This madness in my head started with my own personalized learning. I started looking into how I could personalize MY professional development so that it benefits me and my school directly. Then I started thinking about how I could spread this to my colleagues and teachers. I am still working on that by the way. But, it made me think back to how it could work with kids too.
If you have not read the previous post on personalized learning, click HERE, this may make more sense.
Rewind back to my elementary principal days when I recognized that there was a possibility that my high school students could not read. Yes, you read that correctly...I recognized as an elementary principal that my high school students may not have been able to read. That is not to put the blame on any prior teachers but realize that our viewpoint in middle and high is getting them through the content, making sure we cover ALL of the standards and preparing them for the end of the year assessment (that we never get back on time to help make decisions...).
So, since that time I started tinkering with ideas of what in elementary schools would be beneficial in secondary schools. I realized really quick that there is a BIG difference in preparation. My educational preparation focused a great deal on content...yes, we did focus on presenting content (Thanks, Dr. A. TTU). But, I realized that elementary folks spent a good deal of time on pedagogy. It became apparent that maybe, just maybe the secondary folks needed some additional exposure to pedagogy. The problem is, how do we help encourage educators to gain that knowledge (see below, it might help).
Now I understand that there is a difference in how age groups learn. I can tell you that because I have worked with ALL ages (see Not so scary world of technology to see how high I went...). However, I see the benefit in sharing strategies no matter the age of the learner. Now a disclaimer...I am not a fan of grouping, never have been, never will. BUT, I do believe it can happen within a classroom. It is possible to create "classrooms" within classrooms. I have seen it done AND I have seen it done in secondary classrooms. So it is doable.
Disclaimer number two...I do not have any specific answers on what it looks yet and it may not look like "classrooms within classrooms," but I do have some strategies on how YOU can get started. I think specific topics on what it looks like will be in part 3 or part 4...stay tuned. If you have any great ideas feel free to EMAIL ME or send me a TWEET.
In the meantime, check this out...
My strategies on what to do NOW.
1. Build your Professional Learning Network (PLN) starting now. There are many, many ways to accomplish that. I choose Twitter but that is not the only way. You can create email groups. You can use Facebook, Voxer, Google Plus, follow blogs or even just meet up with teachers at a local restaurant, coffee shop, or donut place (right Julie Davis??). My friends from Chattanooga have a monthly meeting they call #CoffeeEdu where they meet, talk and strategize. I challenge you to do that where you live. When you build this PLN, ask questions. Talk about what works, what does not work and steal as many ideas as you can. Remember, we are all in this together and we are all seeking ways to improve constantly. Your PLN is your go-to group and in many cases, keep you from totally losing your mind.
2. Observe teachers outside of your grade-level, outside of your school...even outside of your district. If you have not done this I highly recommend it. Start small, within your school and pick someone outside of your grade-level or subject level. As you get more comfortable and depending on how much your admin supports leaving school, then you can expand to other schools and other districts...VERY VALUABLE! At my school, I had two teachers start a Pineapple Chart...you can go to the link and see for yourself. It can be a really valuable tool and I highly recommend doing something similar.
3. Pick one idea and hone it and own it. Repeat after me...I do not have to try EVERYTHING new and innovative! Don't worry, I am guilty too. I am bad about seeing "shiny" things and wanting to learn as much as I can about it...until I see another "shiny" thing. There is a reason I have a squirrel staring down on me from my desk as a reminder of my ADD tendencies...Look a squirrel! (Thanks Cindy!). Find something cool that you think might work and then try it. Spend some time tweaking it to fit YOUR space and if it does not work...tweak again or find another strategy. There is no harm in punting.
4. Do not be afraid of it not working. This goes along with the above statement. Not everything is going to work for you. If it does not work, that is OK...try again or find something else you are excited about. Do not take it personal and do not give up on being innovative. It took Edison 1000 attempts to get the light bulb right. I am glad he did not give up.
5. Re-evaluate ,when you get better, add another tool to your toolbox. Always re-evaluate what you are using. Do not teach the same material or use the same techniques for your entire career. I am sure those strategies are still effective, but man it probably gets boring for YOU after awhile. If you find a new tool or strategy that is working, keep getting better at it. When you feel comfortable enough, find something new to get better at. The biggest mistake people make is trying to do TOO many things.
6. Repeat steps 1 -5. Probably the most important...repeat as necessary.
That is it, should be simple enough right??
Try it out, let me know and ENJOY!
Tune in next for My Thoughts on Personalized Learning...the Admins' Role.