5 ways to use makerspaces to support personalized learning

At this stage of the edtech revolution, most educators are focused on using tech to enhance lessons rather than on the tech itself. But many times, tech is only integrated at specific points in the classroom or with a specific tool as determined by the teacher. At St. Albans City School in Vermont, SETDA’s 2018 Student Voices Award Winner, educators encourage the students to find places in their everyday work to incorporate digital resources, especially from their makerspace. In the edWebinar “Students Leverage Technology Tools and Makerspaces to Personalize Learning,” Grace Borst, innovation specialist at St. Albans City School, and several of her students explained how they’re using technology for assessment, service work, and more.

St. Albans City School has a dedicated makerspace open to all students from preK-8. In addition to class assignments in the space, open lab time is also available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students use this time for school and personal projects where tech might not be required but could add value. Although they miss class for open lab, the teachers recognize the benefits of letting students explore technology to help them achieve their personal and educational goals.

Here are some examples the student presenters shared about how they’ve used technology at St. Albans.…Read More

5 edtech tools that take personalized learning to the next level

On day one of math class, about one-third of school students are ready to master grade-level standards while others aren’t yet able to complete basic skills. Indeed, it’s not uncommon that students’ abilities span not just one grade level, but several grade levels. And while whole-class instruction may meet the needs of some students, more often than not, it leaves out many more students than it helps. An effective way to tackle the challenge of teaching core academics to all students across ability levels is to implement a personalized approach supported by a variety of carefully chosen digital resources.

In the Putnam County (TN) School System— a rural school district with 23 schools spread across 400 miles—our personalized learning approach has allowed us to reshape education for students on a variety of fronts. In the past several years, we have implemented a number of district-wide initiatives to support personalization and differentiation for students including the launch of our Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning (VITAL) program in 2008. Highlights of VITAL include a virtual homeschool, blended and online learning across every one of our schools, course recovery to ensure students stay on track to graduate, and course acceleration—all with the goal of preparing students to be future ready.

Intentional design
Our transition to personalized learning has been an exhilarating journey that picked up even more momentum through our work with Education Elements beginning in the 2017-18 school year. First, we defined what personalized learning meant for Putnam County and then formed a district leadership team to develop supports that align to this vision. Using the organization’s personalized learning implementation framework, we diagnosed areas of need and focus while further workshops exposed our teams to design thinking and innovative approaches to personalized learning so that each school team could ultimately create its own instructional model. In our first year, we implemented personalized learning in our six middle schools. This school year, as we continue this work in our middle schools, our 11 elementary school have embarked on their first year of personalized learning, and in 2019-20, our district’s three high schools will follow suit.…Read More

5 questions teachers should ask before investing their time and money in edtech

As someone who has dedicated her career to making the world a better place through the education of our children, I was excited to learn that tablets and computers are nearly commonplace in elementary school classrooms across the nation. In fact, 88 percent of K-2nd-grade teachers use a tablet in the classroom and nearly 70 percent use educational apps and software, which means that our youngest students—who have never known a world without technology—can use the tablets they love for learning!

While it’s an exciting development for students, teachers are faced with a growing challenge—finding best-in-class content that supports learning and skills development and is also engaging. Throughout the school year, teachers spend hours upon hours searching the app stores for digital activities their students can use to master a math concept, advance a reading level, or reinforce a new science lesson. This is no small feat when you consider that there are thousands of apps to choose from and no set criteria defining the specific features of an educational app.

Teachers are largely left on their own to identify the content they need and then vet it with their internal IT person and school administrators. A recent study by Tyton Partners found that about 60 percent of teachers are responsible for making the digital purchasing decisions for their classroom and 27 percent purchase the content out of their own pockets. When you’re talking about a commitment of time and money, the stakes are high, so let’s take some of the guesswork out of the equation.…Read More