Panel examines ed tech, personalized learning

Beyond that, another vital component is “frequent and valid assessments, so that the teacher can understand what the student is mastering, what the student isn’t mastering, and in the latter case, deliver targeted interventions.”

Those interventions can be anything from one-on-one to small-group instruction.

One dilemma educators often face is that of student skill level and assessments–students in the seventh grade will be tested on seventh grade material at the end of the year, but some students might be operating at a third grade level in some areas, such as reading or math. Does it make sense to have a seventh grade student, who works at a third grade level in math, only work on third grade math skills until he or she moves up a level? Or does it make sense to have the student work on seventh grade math that, although the student is missing the foundation to learn those skills, will be present on an end-of-year test?

Hughes said K12 operates a math intervention program to help students develop crucial math skills they might be missing.

“In math, we run into cases where students are multiple years behind. They seem to be struggling in Algebra I, but the real problem is that they didn’t master fractions in elementary school,” he said.

In addition to that student’s regular math course, that student will receive targeted group math instruction for an hour a day at the student’s ability level.

Because instruction is virtual, an older student isn’t embarrassed if he or she is working with much younger students, and young students aren’t intimidated by older students.

“Students who have fallen behind have done so for a number of reasons–family, personal,” Hughes said. “We aren’t only thinking about the academic piece of it, but the non-academic barriers that might be in their way.”

Two key elements in fostering personalized learning are critical thinking and communication skills, said Nina Zolt, CEO and co-founder of ePals.

Laura Ascione

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