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Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, you will learn the essential elements of personalized learning including the 5 essential elements, why personalization matters and how it differs from differentiation.

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Let's examine the concept of personalized learning. First, we'll define "personalized learning" and identify its key components. Next, we'll examine some of the benefits of personalization. And finally, we'll compare personalized learning and differentiated learning. Let's get started.

"Personalized learning" is defined by the US Department of Education as "instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners." Furthermore, "in an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary." There are several key components to personalized learning.

First, personalized learning is flexible. It's not limited to the physical classroom or the class period as it appears in the school schedule. A teacher implementing personalization is no longer the only one in the classroom making decisions about what content will be covered, the pace at which it will be covered, and how students will demonstrate mastery.

Personalization allows for authentic learning that is project-based. Students work along their own unique learning paths that are driven by their interests. And progression along these unique learning paths is competency-based, that is, a student must demonstrate mastery of the current skill before moving on to the next skill on the learning path.

What are some of the benefits of personalized learning that might prompt a teacher, a school, or an entire district to embrace the concept? First, personalization increases student engagement. Personalization allows for authentic learning in real-world problem-solving opportunities. Students in a personalized learning environment are empowered to take ownership of their progress along their own unique learning paths.

Furthermore, the autonomy that students are allowed in a personalized environment allows them to choose to stop and to delve more deeply into content that interests them. The technology skills implemented in a personalized classroom allow learning to truly become ubiquitous. And these 21st century skills will serve students long into their futures.

In some ways, personalization and differentiation seem very similar. After all, both concepts aim to help all students reach their highest potential. Let's look at some of the differences between personalization and differentiation.

First, in personalized learning, each student is working towards his or her own unique goals and objectives. In contrast, in a differentiated classroom environment, a teacher is employing differentiated strategies to help all students reach the same goals and objectives, regardless of their initial skill level or their unique needs. In a personalized environment, student interests are key in helping select the content that will be covered and the learning activities and assessments that will be used as students practice their skills and demonstrate mastery. In a differentiated environment, the teacher selects instructional strategies based solely on student needs and learning preferences, not on their interests outside of the classroom.

In this tutorial, we defined personalized learning and identified its key components, including flexible authentic learning that occurs along student-driven learning paths and is competency-based. We examined some of the benefits of personalization, including increased student engagement and a focus on 21st century skills that allow learning to transcend beyond the classroom walls. Finally, we discussed the differences between personalized learning and differentiated learning.

To dive a little deeper and to learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Personalized Learning"

(00:00 – 00:19)   Introduction


(00:20 – 00:41)   Definition of Personalized Learning


(00:42 – 01:33)   Components of Personalized Learning


(01:34 – 02:24)   Benefits of Personalized Learning


(02:25 – 03:27)   Personalized Learning vs Differentiated Learning


(03:28 – 03:57)   Recap


(03:58-04:14)   Reflection

Additional Resources

National Education Technology Plan

This report provides a comprehensive overview of personalized learning in a technology rich environment. You can download the technology plan for a comprehensive look at the goals of providing students with connectivity. Scroll down to the Table of Contents to read the section called "Learning: Engage and Empower." This section provides a clear path to student-centered learning with technology.

Personalized Learning in Progress

This report includes case studies of four districts that engaged in a personalized learning initiative with their Race to the Top Funding. The case studies provide insights in how you might incorporate some of these strategies to personalize your learning environment.

A Guide to Personalized Learning

Although this report targets districts who are interested in funding personalized learning through the use of their Race to the Top Funds, the suggestions offered provide starting points and considerations for any district interested in personalizing their learning environment. Within the document, you will find a clear explanation of using different types of blended learning structures to personalize your organization.