Personal Learning - Steve Barkley

Personal Learning

Will Richardson in a recent blog, Personalizing Flipped Engagement, has us consider the terms personalized, flipped, and engagement individually and then combined.

First Richardson explores the difference between personalized and personal:

[“Personalized” learning is something that we do to kids; “personal” learning is something they do for themselves.]

In a world where technology provides abundance, a wealth of information available from millions of teachers, Richardson is concerned that in too many cases personalization means getting better at getting everyone ready for the same test at the same time.

[Personalization comes at the expense of denying students opportunities to learn personally, forming the habits of mind and “network literacies” that will serve them much more effectively than most of the content knowledge that, as we know from experience, never gets applied in real life.]

Richardson raises a similar issue as he examines technology and engagement. Are we using technology to get more student focus on “required curriculum” reading in an ibook rather than a text book?

[You want to really engage kids? Give them opportunities to learn personally, to create their own texts and courses of study, and to pursue that learning with others in and out of the classroom who share a passion.]

This matches with Phil Schlechty’s differentiation between engagement and strategic engagement.

Engagement: The student is attentive and focuses on the task with commitment and persistence and finds value and meaning in the task. This learner volunteers personal resources of time, effort and attention.

Strategic Engagement: The student is willing to do the work as long as extrinsic rewards are present. Remove the reward (often grades) and the student withdraws effort. This learner invests as much as is needed to gain the reward.

Marc Prensky describes  how technology often gets engagement outside of school:

“All the students we teach have something in their lives that’s really engaging—something that they do and that they are good at, something that has an engaging, creative component to it. Some may download songs; some may rap, lip sync, or sing karaoke; some may play video games; some may mix songs; some may make movies; and some may do the extreme sports that are possible with twenty-first-century equipment and materials. But they all do something engaging. “

Richardson also points out that in many ways teachers who are “flipping” are only changing how the required curriculum is delivered…..still driven by the teacher.

[By assigning the lecture at home, we’re still in charge of delivering the curriculum, just at a different time. From what I’ve seen, flipping doesn’t do much for helping kids become better learners in the sense of being able to drive their own education.]

In conclusion Richardson uses the word empower to provide a focus for us.

[The best thing we can do for kids is empower them to make regular, important, thoughtful decisions about their own learning, what they learn and how they learn it.]

As administrators and coaches help teachers examine how to empower students through personal learning opportunities, they will have to discover how to create similar learning for teachers to be empowered.

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