We are often contacted by educators who have heard about personalized learning and the potential it holds to transform learning. They want to know if they might be ready to begin this work. Obviously, there are many factors that might be considered in answering the question, but over the past five years we have found that educators ready to take on the challenge typically share several readiness indicators. If most or all of these indicators describe you, you probably are ready.
- You know today’s learners must master more than content accumulation. The traditional system was designed to impart information and develop content knowledge, but you understand the world increasingly requires complex skills and the ability to learn. The strength of the current system lies in supporting students to learn and retain information. This fact is not surprising since when our school system was designed, information was scarce and not easily accessed. Today, society moves at a much quicker pace and our economy increasingly requires high levels of skill, flexibility, creativity and ongoing learning.
- You know that learners must have authentic voice and choice. You believe that learning is an autonomous, self-constructed process. Unless learners play an active, intentional role in their learning, it typically does not occur. You realize learners are the most valuable, but often underutilized, learning resource in most classrooms and addressing the challenges facing education will require the participation, commitment and effort of students, not just adults.
- You know learners must see purpose in their learning. You have concluded that unless learners see purpose and value in their learning, they will not try harder or persist longer. Like other humans, students are more likely to invest their energy and appreciate the results of their work if they see value in learning for themselves and understand the purpose learning can serve to make their lives better and more satisfying. Our current education system relies heavily on the behavioral compliance of learners and provides few incentives for learners to become deeply engaged in and passionately committed to their learning. You know that if we are to change the outcomes of the education system, we must find better ways for learners to engage in and find meaning in their learning.
- You know that just working harder is not enough. You understand that generally teachers are doing their best to reach learners now and that asking educators to work harder will not be enough to assure the success of all or virtually all learners. Despite assumptions shared by many politicians, policy makers and the media, there is little reason to believe that the problems facing education can or will be solved by simply pushing harder and holding people more accountable. The problem is not lack of effort or commitment. Rather, it is that the system of educating youth was designed for another era when complex skills and the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn were not expected of most young people when they concluded their formal education.
- You know that you have the power to make changes in your classroom today. While some things are beyond your ability to control, you believe there are changes you can make in your classroom right away to make the learning more personalized for each learner and you are committed to trying them. Things like using learner profiles to better understand each learner, including the learner in the goal setting and conferencing process and finding ways to give learners more voice and choice in how, when and what they learn.
If this description sounds like you, you can be assured that you are ready. It is time to convert your readiness into action. Focus on those changes to learning and teaching that are in your control, including the learner in as many aspects of their education as possible. Just try it!
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