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The Minnesota Tundra can’t freeze personalized literacy

Lakeville Area Public Schools will strategically continue to build the context, pathways and tools for world-class, personalized learning


The Lakeville Area Public Schools’ (LAPS) vision of world-class, personalized learning has driven and accelerated our work in digital learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

Personalized learning has the promise of providing anytime-learning, anywhere-learning, at-your-level-learning, and learning aligned to students’ interests. For LAPS, “world-class” means preparing students for the world they will encounter when they leave our high schools for college and/or for the work force and providing model 21st century learning environments that others want to emulate.

To meet this future, LAPS needed to create learning opportunities and choices that meet our students’ academic needs and focus on their strengths, goals, and passions. Over the past two years, we have implemented myriad digital tools and resources that have better prepared our students and brought us closer to achieving our vision.

LAPS began a full implementation of Google Apps for Education during the 2013-2014 school year – giving students and staff access to 21st century communication, collaboration and creation tools. In the fall of 2014, the district implemented Schoology, a learning management system where our students can create, manage and share academic content. The platform has allowed learning to extend beyond the school day and beyond the school walls.

Students can access classroom content and progress at their own pace using digital content created by staff. Also this past fall, the eight elementary schools began using myON Reader, a digital library accessible on the web anytime that provides students with a virtual library of over 7,000 books at their fingertips.

(Next page: Embracing a culture of innovation)

Students have the ability to monitor their own progress, select books in a preferred genre, and read at their own ability level. Teachers can create book sets to support the curriculum; over 70 percent of the books are nonfiction and support our core instruction. In addition, teachers can monitor numbers of books read, time spent reading, and see the results of comprehension assessments.

In addition to digital tools and resources, the district has embraced a culture of innovation where staff and students alike are encouraged to take risks and pilot new approaches. Staff and students embracing these projects are expected to collect data on the results and share new, best practices with their peers.

Ideas generated and experimented with include an exciting new elementary choice school where personalized learning happens through multi-age learning communities where they leverage digital tools and resources to help meet students where they are at in their learning. At the high school level, academies are emerging in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as in other content areas, all including detailed approaches to personalizing the learning for their students.

The excitement and professional development around web-based tools and new learning environments has resulted in approaches that capitalize on student choice and personalization of learning. Across the district, there are bring your own device pilots emerging as well as one to one iPad and Google Chromebook classrooms being sponsored by grants or Parent Teacher Organizations. Ultimately, district officials attribute these changes to purposefully creating the conditions for change to occur.

Now as district officials face another summer, old concerns about the “summer slide in learning” are less of a concern. Staff members will be utilizing Schoology to post summer homework including summer readings, assignments and links to dynamic and engaging content.

Elementary media specialists are working with students this spring to identify books at students’ Lexile levels, in students’ preferred genres and having students add these books to a personal reading list in myON. Students will now go home for the summer with a personalized list of books and a reading goal.

“I am thrilled to be an educational leader at a time when learning can happen year-round and is much more relevant to each individual student and to his or her future,” Dr. Snyder recently shared at a parent forum.

She also sees a future where, even in Minnesota, snow days become irrelevant due to digital and personalized learning which will allow learning to continue even when students cannot get to school. This is already happening when students are ill or traveling with their family. We have numerous examples of how the students didn’t miss a beat progressing in their learning.

Lakeville Area Public Schools board and administration collectively believe that providing a world-class education is only achievable when we empower our students with powerful tools and 21st century learning opportunities. To this end, we will strategically continue to build the context, pathways and tools for world-class, personalized learning.

Lisa Snyder, PhD, is Superintendent of Schools for Lakeville Area Public Schools (ISD 194). Trish Harvey, PhD, is District Digital Learning Coordinator for Lakeville Area Public Schools (ISD 194).

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