Posts Tagged community

Community for Personalized Learning

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This post is part of a series about the Building Blocks for Personalized Learning. It is necessary for teachers to nurture the development of a Community within their classrooms in order to facilitate personalized learning. Each student needs to feel empowered within the learning environment to explore individual interests and passions. Consider the type of community in which you would thrive. How would you describe that environment? Generally, people describe an effective neighborhood community as friendly, supportive, secure, vibrant, participatory, and innovative. Designing this type of learning environment within each classroom is equally important. Students need to experience similar qualities in their classroom communities in order to achieve personal academic success.

Qualities of Community

Trust – I have previously blogged about the quality of trust (Learning to TRUST with Responsible Use) as my school district made the shift from an Acceptable Use Policy to Responsible Use Guidelines. When students are using technology tools and digital resources to engage in personalized learning activities, teachers have to be able to trust that students will be responsible. TRUST.pngThis TRUST poster provides five positive “I will…” statements to support the responsible use of technology tools and digital resources. As teachers begin a new school year, they should discuss each of these statements with their students and what they look like in practice. Trust involves developing an open, supportive, and vigorous classroom culture, so these items need to be reviewed regularly with the students.This includes ensuring safety and respect so that students feel comfortable enough to participate fully in personalized learning.

Inclusive – A classroom community is constructed of diverse individuals, but they can come together in the personalized learning environment and support each other with common goals.  Each student should be encouraged to share their unique qualities and differences, as they pursue their own interests and individual learning paths. To develop a more inclusive learning environment, teachers can include various perspectives on topics. This approach provides students with an opportunity to see examples from many viewpoints. Diversity should be purposefully incorporated throughout the curriculum by using multiple examples, relevant content, and meaningful illustrations that are free of stereotypes. In this way, everyone is welcome within the classroom to contribute their personal strengths and abilities to benefit the whole community.

Responsive – When teachers possess a good understanding of their students, they should know when students might have personal challenges or difficulties that keep them from performing to their maximum potential. Knowing what makes each student tick helps a teacher become more responsive to their needs and personal differences. One way to develop this understanding is to conference with students regularly (ideally weekly) to set goals, design personalized learning paths, determine progress, and celebrate success. The feedback that teachers provide during these conferences should not only be for instruction, it should encompass the needs of the whole child. Likewise, when difficulties do arise, the teacher should have access to other resources within the school community to assist them in meeting each child’s individual learning needs.

Empowering – By empowering students to make relevant choices about the direction of their learning, teachers can help students become more involved within the classroom community. Encouraging students to believe that they have control over their success is an indicator of a growth mindset and could be one of the most important qualities a student can develop. Growth mindset is the concept that through dedication and hard work you can achieve anything.  Carol Dweck wrote about the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset in her book, Mindset: A New Psychology of Success. Essentially, one difference is that a student with a fixed mindset may quickly give up working on a challenging problem after a few minutes, but a student with a growth mindset will persist and view the problem as an exciting challenge!  Students with a growth mindset will also learn to see themselves as the architects of their own success. Developing this understanding within students arises in part from ownership of the learning experience.

Joyful – The personalized learning environment is joyful as teachers and students share in the learning process. Even when situations become challenging, there is pleasure in discovering new solutions to problems and collaborating with others in the classroom community. Not only do students feel more connected to their teacher and each other, but they begin to feel more connected to the content they are exploring along their unique learning paths. It is essential to have opportunities to celebrate this joy of learning and each student’s personal successes and achievements. Hosting visitors to the classroom so that students can share what they have learned with others is a good strategy for showcasing success. Also, identifying ways that students can contribute what they have learned to benefit their school, neighboring community, or the world provides a more authentic learning experience and produces a sense of satisfaction and purpose.

 

 

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Building Blocks for Personalized Learning

Building Blocks of PL

Almost two years ago, I wrote an article for eSchool News entitled, “The Advantages of the BYOT Classroom.” At the time, I was the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, and the advantages that I listed were the qualities that I had observed in classrooms that effectively utilized Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to transform teaching and learning opportunities with students’ personal technology tools.

Now, I’m collaborating with several schools and districts around the country that are beginning to implement Personalized Learning to better connect students with engaging academic content; to facilitate the development of digital age skills; and to utilize technology to provide access to anytime, anywhere learning. These benefits occur as districts, schools, and teachers recognize that students have unique strengths, needs, and interests that must be considered within the design of instruction. The methods for addressing student individuality may differ, but they include the same hallmarks of the BYOT classroom. In the illustration above, I refer to these as building blocks, as they collectively construct a firm foundation for personalized learning.

Within each of the blog posts linked below, I focused on the concepts included within the illustration of the building blocks to highlight why they are essential, foundational components for personalizing learning. I also included strategies or described necessary qualities for encouraging the development of each building block within your own personalized learning implementation plan.

Building Blocks for Personalized Learning Blog Posts

 

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Sustainable Practices for Digital Age Learning

sustainability

Sustainability is defined as the “capacity to endure” (“Sustainability,” 2013).  Most people agree that the natural environment has to be sustained so that we can long-lasting and renewable benefits from its resources.  Similarly, we must develop sustainable practices that continue to support digital age learning within the learning environments of today’s schools.  When the initial enthusiasm for shiny new technology devices begins to pale, what will help to keep the spark alive?

Digital Age Learning describes the shift from traditional teacher-directed instruction to student-centered learning with the use of technology tools.  Those resources may be provided by the school or through a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative.  I have observed the transformation of many typical classrooms in my district through the implementation of BYOT supplemented by the school’s technology devices and infrastructure.   However, that transformation has to be sustained so that teachers and students don’t revert into the old habits of standardized, rote instruction – mainly characterized by the activities of lecturing, memorizing, and recalling information.

Based on my collaboration with teachers and students throughout my district, here are some practices for sustaining digital age learning.

Build the Learning Community

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I’ve written before about the importance of developing learning communities in schools and classrooms, and one hallmark of an effective community is trust. When students and teachers are working with technology devices and applications, there is always the possibility that someone could make a mistake or a poor choice.  Yet, I’ve seen classrooms with clear, consistent expectations and an atmosphere of safety and respect that rarely experience issues related to the inappropriate use of technology.  When teachers expect the responsible use of technology, they convey that they believe in each student’s ability to accomplish great things.

Utilize Student Expertise

Because students are accustomed to using their own technology tools for consuming content and communicating with their friends, they have already learned how to troubleshoot many technology issues.  Of course, not every student has the same level of interest, ability, or expertise with technology, but they can learn to rely on each other for support.  The teacher can also begin to depend on the students for technology assistance. This strategy builds empowers students to discover new skills for life-long learning.

Focus on Digital Age Skills

Teachers often become frustrated when they focus their instruction on a particular application or device. In fact, as we implemented BYOT, we quickly realized that we needed to talk more about digital age skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), rather than on technology.  As teachers begin to incorporate those skills into their content standards, technology becomes purposeful, meaningful, and relevant.

Encourage the Regular Use of Technology

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Having special technology times or days means that technology use occurs outside of the norms of learning.  However, when it becomes a normal part of teaching and learning, teachers and students are able to discover new uses for the available technology tools.  Then technology serves a legitimate function in the process of learning, and its use becomes an enjoyable, necessary process, rather than a big production or event.

Provide Continuous Professional Learning

Teachers and students need time to “play” with the technology tools, but the real paradigm shift for many teachers is learning how to share control and direction of the learning with the students. It is also helpful if teachers can see digital age learning in action by observing each other trying new strategies, using technology, and facilitating learning experiences for students. This support should be on-going and include opportunities for feedback and reflection.

In addition to the above strategies, the buy in and support of the parents and other stakeholders also ensure the sustainability of digital age learning.  Technology hardware, applications, and processes will continue to change over time, whether students are using school-owned or student-owned devices, but the supportive practices that truly leverage change are everlasting.

Resource

Sustainability. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability

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Day 1 of BYOT

This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.  In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:

  • The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
  • Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
  • The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.

Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school.  They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.”  Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.

Activity – Build a Community

In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together.  Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation.  Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them.  This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.

  • Discuss Responsible Use.  Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly.   I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting.  Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
  • Facilitate the Discussion.  Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches.  As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion.  There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
  • Share Out about Devices.  Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology.  There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
    • It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
    • Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
    • It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
    • It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
    • It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
    • It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
  • Begin a Wiki.  Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class.  I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses.  It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki.  If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition.  Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:

1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school.  They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.

2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.

These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed.  Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.

Homework

  1. Have students share the wiki with their parents.  It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
  2. Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones).  Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents.  For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices.  If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.

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