Last month, Distinctive Schools attended EdSurge Fusion 2017. EdSurge Fusion included unique tracks centered on Vision, Research, Implementation, and Evidence. The tracks included presentations by education thought leaders, policy makers, and entrepreneurs, as well as leaders from schools and districts across the nation. Some notable speakers included Jim Shelton, President, Chan Zuckerberg Education; Tom Vander Ark, CEO, Getting Smart; and Betsy Corcoran, CEO and Cofounder, EdSurge.
During the conference, speakers addressed the path ahead. For instance, today’s kindergarteners will be entering the workforce in 2035 and, according to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children entering elementary school today will end up working in new jobs that don’t yet exist. As a result, today’s kindergartners will need to be prepared for future career requirements - Which addressed the big question, are our current classrooms preparing our kids for this reality?
Here are three key takeaways from Edsurge Fusion 2017
that helped address this important question:
1. Teachers must be agents of change, not objects of change.
Leonid Rabinovich from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, presented Voices From the Field, along with Heath Morrison from Mcgraw-Hill Education and Jason T. Green from Learning Innovation Catalyst (LYNC).
During this session, Mr. Ravinovich stated to the audience that we are asking teachers to implement something they don’t know (personalized learning), because most of today’s teachers grew up in traditional classrooms. Therefore, we have to support teachers through professional development (PD), and provide technology that will reinforce training. Likewise it is essential that we recognize teachers are at different levels of personalized learning with different levels of adoption, and provide personalized PD for teachers where they are at.
By empowering teachers to be agents of change, and provide teachers with personalized PD,, they will feel part of the process.. As a result, this developmental role will evident in the classroom and help students become self-learners as well, which is critical as students one day enter the workforce and understand jobs that do not exist yet.
2. Meeting the needs of each and every student is going to look different.
Today’s schools and districts must ensure all students receive the tools and resources they need to be successful in school, as well as in career and life. However, each student is unique and learning differs between student to student. Personalized learning is designed to improve educational outcomes through each student, but it also raises concerns about equity. The educational experiences between each student may vary, and sometimes the biggest barrier to equity isn’t always within the schools but outside. Such as when a student gets home, do they have access to devices, the internet, or space to continue learning?
With competency education in personalized learning, we are able to focus on our students each day and provide them the personalized supports so they stay on pace, gain the high-quality education they deserve, and gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in college, the workforce, and in life.
3. Technology should empower learning, not replace instruction.
Personalized learning tailors instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences. Likewise it blends instruction by combining face-to-face learning with student collaboration, and technology resources. Technology resources include 1:1 devices for students and applications on devices that helps personalize instruction for each student.
Technology is a powerful tool for learning that can be used to help students develop skills and succeed in school. However, when schools and district design personalized learning models, they should think more broadly than only technology and include creating an environment where students are nurtured to develop a growth mindset. For example, Distinctive Schools (DS) Personalized Learning Model has successfully shifted from one of a traditional focus on teaching to one with a focus on deep learning.
Using a strengths-based approach, coupled with real-time feedback generated from short-cycle assessment data, DS educators coach our students in their development of strong and positive student identity and agency. In turn, our students become confident, well-rounded, resilient members of our learning community and are well-positioned for success in college, career, and life.
As a result, technology at Distinctive Schools supports student targets and goals, serves as a catalyst for student-centered learning, and one of the multiple opportunities students have to show mastery of skills. At EdSurge Fusion 2017, Sarah O’Connell, School Director at Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Bucktown, managed by Distinctive Schools, co-presented the Evidence Workshop, What We’re Learning: Personalized Learning Models, Tools and Outcomes, and shared with the audience how collaborating with LEAP innovations, and using platforms like Lexia Learning, has supported the school’s personalized learning journey. For instance, CICS Bucktown uses blended learning approach, combining the most recent technology and tools with exemplary teaching to provide a highly personalized learning path for each student.
These are only three takeaways that can be used to prepare our students for the future. As educators we want to prepare our students to lead productive and successful lives, and personalized learning encourages students to supports this process. To find out more about Distinctive Schools’ personalized learning journey, take a look at this recent article The path to personalized learning is not straight. The article provides insight into CICS West Belden's path to implement personalized learning campus-wide.