Today’s Contributor: Alex Hassett
I am a fourth grade math and science teacher at Baranoff Elementary, as well as the Campus Innovation Coach. When I am not teaching or learning about new blended learning strategies through the Leadership Pathways Transformative Technology cohort, I enjoy running, playing golf, cooking and reading thriller novels.
Personalized learning is a term that seems to be everywhere lately. The pedagogical approach stems from the idea that if we have strong relationships with our students and understand their learning needs, teachers will be able to construct learning opportunities that reflect the various learners in their classroom and allow for student self-differentiation. At our campus, more and more teachers are giving personalized learning a try and it’s amazing to see the different variations that this approach takes from classroom to classroom.
First grade has been using SeeSaw to create playlists that provide students the opportunity to practice concepts that were taught earlier in the week and use the video function to reflect on their learning each Friday. This not only gives the first grade team a quick formative assessment, but also empowers students to take ownership by reflecting on their learning and setting goals for the coming weeks.
Our third grade teachers have also been diving into this approach, but in two very different manners. One teacher decided to go completely low tech and have students put their choices in a mini-learner profile on the board using color coding, while another has created various learning opportunities based on the learning modalities of students in a choice board format. One is housed in BLEND, while the other lives on the whiteboard. Regardless of the approach, students are provided choice in how they obtain information (hands on, videos, skill practice, etc.), as well as highlight their constructed understanding (video reflections, creating structures, reflecting on sheet).
The fourth grade team decided to use personalized learning via playlists to revamp their approach to science fair this year. Instead of doing a whole class experiment or research project, students were able to research independently, with a partner or in groups about the dynamic earth unit. Students made sketches of soil samples in small groups, created plays and songs about weathering, erosion and deposition, as well as videos to explain the various properties of soil that impact the ability for plants to grow. Instead of having one group write up what they learned for the board, the fourth grade team had students create QR codes so everyone had the opportunity to showcase the products they created to highlight their understanding.
Altogether I’ve observed that regardless of the personalized learning approach, students are empowered in their learning as they are able to exercise voice and choice and navigate learning at their own pace. With personalized learning, teachers are able to cater to the needs of their class and provide students with agency over their learning, all while creating a unique learning experience from classroom to classroom.