Trends towards scalable personalized learning with technology

Just when you thought you knew what the latest thing was in personalized learning, it changed.

personalized-learningFor the past few years, the innovation was around school models, with ideas ranging from classroom rotation to flex, with schools experimenting with different configurations around time, place and people (see Christensen Institute for more details).

This year we are seeing a dramatic shift from school models to district designs. District designs are different than individual school approaches and have the potential to scale. This also makes them more complicated, because within each district, each school may have different strengths and needs, and move at a different pace.

In order for a district design to work, it is important to focus first on equity for students, teachers, and schools. In our experience, there are three main components of a successful district strategy:

  • Districts recognize the uniqueness of their schools. It’s not about one school model, but instead about having multiple classroom models which provide options to different teachers and classroom needs;
  • The district deployment strategy is clearly articulated so that there is equity across the district schools;
  • Internal capacity is built around the implementation of technology to support personalized learning. Technology does not replacing teaching, and helping teachers integrate technology with instruction is a key component to success.

(Next page: How technology can make it more sustainable for teachers and students)

Personalized Learning Graphic
Personalized Learning Graphic

With more than 500 digital content and ed-tech products, district leaders have questions about the changes in model and culture, as well as the technologies and tools. Leaders often ask us what the best product is, hoping for a single solution answer. Our response to this is nearly always the same: It depends.

It depends where your students are; what you want to achieve with the product–whether it is part of the daily curriculum or mostly for practice–and how much teacher engagement in the product is expected. We need to move away from this notion that one vendor is going to be able to provide digital content for all grade levels, all types of learning strategies, and across all subjects. We find the best approaches in a classroom utilizing multiple products for each subject to engage students and leverage each products core competency. We are proving this with districts we work with and the incredible results they are getting.

As we think about district deployments it is essential to consider how technology can make it less complicated and more sustainable for teachers and students. With hundreds of new products coming out year after year in this ed-tech gold rush–accessing, using, implementing and switching between products needs to be much easier. Without the right technologies, tools and platforms we can eat into precious instructional time to deal with technical and user experience issues.

There is so much data available for teachers and administrators today. Creating more data isn’t the answer right now. We need to figure out how to consume this data more quickly to make more frequent data-enriched decisions. Platforms need to surface the information teachers need so that data drives instruction.

Anthony Kim is CEO and founder of Education Elements. Education Elements is a nationally recognized solutions company that helps districts develop and implement personalized learning strategies. We are working with several RTT-D and Next Generation Learning Challenge winners to implement their vision. With our Personalized Learning Platform, we work with teachers and administrators to ensure that they are all prepared to personalize learning for every student.

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