Category Archives: Personalized Learning

Thomas Jefferson High School Implements Personal Learning Time

This article first appeared on TribLive, by Trib Total Media | Written by Stephanie Hacke | September 26, 2019

personal learning time
Image credit: Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Tranquil music echoes through the main hallway of Thomas Jefferson High School’s athletic wing during the middle of the school day.

Roughly 20 students lay on the turf floor, bending and stretching in meditative yoga poses.

In the gymnasium next door, it’s much louder, as students compete in a competitive game of bat ball.

While all of this occurs, a line of students step up inside the adjacent auxiliary gym and fire their bows in a new archery group forming at the school.

Continue reading “Thomas Jefferson High School Implements Personal Learning Time”

AR VR Education

The Likely Role of AR & VR in Modern Education

AR and VR in modern education
Image credit: Roundup Reads
Guest post by Patrick Foster of Ecommerce Tips

How Will AR & VR Technologies Fit Into Education?

The education system has always needed to have its finger on the pulse of the technology industry, because while the principles of pedagogy haven’t changed enormously over the years, the methods certainly have. And with today’s students facing a future that will be massively dominated by the digital world (and likelier than ever before to build careers in tech-related fields), it’s incredibly important that we prepare them using all available tools.
When it comes to AR & VR technologies, however, it isn’t always obvious how they can — or should — be used for educational purposes. They’re expensive, after all, and still far from achieving the kind of mainstream appeal that would clearly merit such expense.
Regardless of the extent to which they are useful now, however, there’s use in considering how they’re likely to be folded into educational practices sooner or later. Let’s take a look at how educators are (probably) going to be using AR & VR tech.

Allowing personalized learning experiences

In schools that have large class sizes, it can be challenging to give each student the kind of education that takes into account their personal abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Course materials are expensive and often cumbersome, and teachers simply don’t have the time to spend with students one-on-one.
What AR & VR tools easily allow is extensive personalization, and it isn’t limited by hardware. A classroom could have just one VR headset, for instance, but a separate account for each student, creating an entirely different learning environment catered to the student using it.
Throughout the entire duration of their time in schooling, their VR account could continue to develop in line with their choices and performances. Teachers could easily monitor their activity from elsewhere — imagine a class of students using distinct VR headsets with the teacher overseeing everything from a single monitor. It’s entirely possible, and (I’d say) quite likely.

Supporting advanced work and assessments

Finding unique ways to challenge students can be an issue for schools with limited ability to arrange field trips or personal tuition, and the many problems with conventional testing systems are well-established. Backed by intuitive development tools for teachers, AR & VR tech could greatly expand the range of options for both educational exercises and formal assessments.
Think about the difference between following a standard set of puzzles in a book and engaging with an AR-enhanced puzzle through a basic smartphone. The latter is not only going to be more interesting — it’s also going to be more complex. The more factors you add into the equation, the greater the challenge becomes, and you can take the puzzle in whatever direction you like.
You could even configure a work assignment to scale in difficulty and scope to respond to the student’s ability. If they start struggling, the software can step in, giving them some guidance and pointing them in the right direction. If they breeze through everything, the software can ramp up the difficulty. And when the teacher looks at the results afterwards, they can get a comprehensive breakdown of how everything went.

Providing new opportunities for students with disabilities

Bolstering accessibility is one of the greatest accomplishments of the technological revolution, and VR tech has the power to provide remarkable options for students who are simply incapable of having certain experiences. The internet provides so much for those with ambition but limited means, and someone unable to physically get out into the world can still thrive.
Just imagine what someone wheelchair-bound could do from the classroom. They could visit the seven wonders of the world in VR. They could forge entrepreneurial careers (the ecommerce world has a selection of industry-specific businesses for sale that can be run from anywhere — no store needed). They could build their own virtual world and invite others to join them.
And on the topic of shared experiences, think about how students could express themselves creatively. We all learn differently, and students who struggle to express themselves vocally (for instance) might flourish when given the chance to communicate through manipulating virtual environments. The possibilities are remarkable. It’s understandable for some to fear that the human element of education has been lost, but in this way, technology can actually play a part in bringing it back.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert for Ecommerce Tips. He’s been meaning to get an HTC Vive for some time, but keeps putting it off. Check out the blog, and follow along on Twitter @myecommercetips.

Curriculum Design Personalized Learning

Is A Standard Curriculum Necessary?

The argument for less standardization and broader curricula in schools is not an unfamiliar one. Standardized state curriculum, standardized testing, and Common Core state standards are, with good intentions, designed to provide students with the knowledge necessary to be academically successful and to equip/adequately prepare them for a fruitful collegiate career and post-grad life. Ideally.
But these standards, the “necessary knowledge and skills,” and the concept of what it means to be successful are one-sided. Are all students really supposed to be “on the same page?” Kevin Currie-Knight, college professor and former K-12 teacher, used to be on board with the lists of standard information and “one-size-fits-all” curricula — that is, until he realized that not only is forced learning unnecessary, but unproductive.

Why Shouldn’t Individual Schools Design Their Own Curriculum?

In his article on (Foundation for Economic Education) titled “Let’s Ditch One-Size-Fits-All Schooling,” Currie-Knight raises an interesting point that just as culture and society are diverse, so should be learning. Many of the things that students as part of a collective society “need to know” are so ingrained in our culture that they would have to actively try not to learn them. The author is not arguing for schools to stop teaching essential skills such as linguistics, communication, and computers, but rather to be given the authority to decide what and how to teach within these subjects.
On the flip side of this point is the fact that much of the standardized curricula taught in schools contains information and skills that students either will not retain or need later in life. I can personally attest to having lamented this very issue while in high school myself, during a math class in which I was struggling to grasp advanced computations and formulas. The teacher, when addressing the widespread complaints about the difficulty of the material, assured us of the likelihood that we would encounter a real-life scenario when this exact knowledge would serve us well. The example she used? Standing in a grocery store aisle, comparing prices of different paper towel brands, and calculating the cost per sheet to determine whether the price per roll was appropriate. I would like to assure her today, if I could, that I have never done this, nor do I remember how to.

Curriculum Diversity for a More Well-Rounded Society

I got good grades. I tested well. I was accepted to the school of my choice, where I made Dean’s List most semesters. My field of study had nothing to do with mathematics and, in fact, I was only required to pass basic math when I got to college. I remember wishing I’d been taught other things in high school, though — actual life skills like balancing a checkbook and paying bills. I wish I’d been counseled more about the financial implications of paying for college. It would have been great to have gotten job interview and resume coaching. These are all skills I learned on my own later in life because they were necessary, not because I was forced to learn them in school (but I would’ve seen value in them if they had been).
Currie-Knight envisions a world where schools can individually design their own curricula, choose from a number of pre-determined options, or opt to forego curriculum altogether. State-mandated decisions about who should learn what, when, and why are myopic at best and are merely guesses as to what will matter or be needed in each student’s life ten years from now.
The world changes rapidly, and each student in every pocket of culture across the country is going to want and need to learn vastly different things in order to best shape their futures. Wouldn’t society as a whole benefit from a more diversely educated young workforce than one in which every individual possesses the same knowledge and has followed the same educational path?
Join the conversation! Do you think personalized learning should start from the top down, with a more open approach to school curriculum? Comment below or tag us on social media to share your opinion.

Future of EdTech

Undoubtedly one of the slower industries to adopt and widely use technology to reshape itself, education is finally coming around. Gradually, schools across the country are starting to allocate budgets toward digital initiatives and tech tools aimed at improving the learning experience and streamlining processes.
One example of a tech tool that has not yet been widely adopted in the education realm is the API (Application Programming Interface — or “under-the-hood” technical architecture that allow different systems to “talk to each other” and exchange data). Whether or not we’re aware, most of us enjoy the benefits of APIs every day through our use of mobile apps like Facebook, Uber, and countless others. Aside from the most well-known tech giants, companies in the finance, communications, and travel industries have caught on to the massive potential enabled by APIs — potential for growth and versatility.
We can’t help but to be excited by the EdTech Digest article titled “The Aspirational Thinking of the API Economy” by Micheal Heffernan for reinforcing the notion that the rise of APIs in the edtech space is going to create opportunities for automation and collaboration that, before now, have not been possible.
While the education industry has lagged behind other sectors in adoption, we are starting to see a new wave that will bring these advances to schools, teachers, admins, and students. Heffernan writes:

“By bringing systems together, APIs give users a sense of effortless mobility. Their simplicity makes all kinds of services instantly accessible. Customers gain massive benefits from speedier development cycles since the applications they use are constantly evolving behind the scenes, thereby offering a tangible sense of moving with change rather than resisting it.”

Imagine the possibilities when administrative functions, scheduling, attendance, learning management systems, and other edtech tools can all easily exchange data. The impact to personalized learning, to assessment, to mastery, and to actionable data would be magnificent.
Software companies and developers aren’t strangers to the education space — in fact, EdTech Digest (the source of the cited article) has an annual contest in which hundreds of software companies compete for title of the coolest school tool or trend setter in various categories — but most have yet to scratch the surface of the influence that APIs could have on education as a whole, not just as an industry.
Our company, Eduspire Solutions,  has been developing applications that streamline and digitize administrative solutions within the context of education, primarily as standalone systems, but we are now moving in the direction of even more integration with data available from other school systems to improve functionality and user experiences.
Eduspire Solutions also supports developments of common standards around different data types to further facilitate this type of information exchange without the need for custom programming for each system’s API. Applications like our e-hallpass and FlexTime Manager seamlessly interact with system data from hundreds of schools across the country, creating a user experience that is truly integrated.
But this article on the API economy isn’t the first time we’ve felt a spark ignite our imagination about the future of edtech. Our guest post for GoGuardian, titled “Are Analog Processes in Schools Meant to Stay That Way?“, conceptualizes (and brings to life) real opportunities for modernization in the slow-to-adopt education space. Change is happening, and we’re excited for the future of edtech once APIs become a larger part of that change.

personalized learning edtech

Personalized Learning is a Big Picture Concept

As we discussed in another of our blog posts called Defining Personalized Learning,”  there are many components and approaches to this very broad term. It’s not one-size-fits-all; there is no “personalized learning” policy manual that says a school or a teacher should perform in any specific way to ensure the delivery of a “personalized learning experience” to its students.

See What Education Experts Say About the Role of Tech in Personalized Learning 

In this EdSurge article titled Does Tech Support Personalized Learning — or Distract Us From What’s Really Important?” three experts in the field of education research participated in an EdSurge panel to answer this provocative question. Quotes from the panel discussion are contained in the article and there’s also a link to a an audio podcast version.

The main takeaways are as follows:

1. Personalized Learning is a broad “umbrella term” that the education community has given up trying to define. It includes various phases and approaches to differentiation and student voice and choice, many times with a technological component. However, the use of technology is not essential to the concept of personalized learning.
2. Personalized learning isn’t so much about the technology that is available, but rather the ideas that should be built around it — the who, what, when, where, and why. Without purpose, without knowing what a school or district hopes to measure and how it wants its students to feel about their learning experience — then the tech becomes an accessory that can quickly muddle an entire personalized learning initiative.
3. On the other hand, if the appropriate tool is found, it can be powerful. Much success has been had when schools districts lean on one or two core pieces of technology as opposed to bringing in every flashy edtech tool on the market. The greatest edtech triumphs occur when the consumer has a clear picture of what success looks like within the context of the target initiative, and then is able to use the data gleaned from the tool to close learning gaps in a more efficient, targeted, and personal way than before the initiative began.
4. Edtech tools are ubiquitous, some are over-promising, and there are just too many choices to really know what will work. The tool-finding becomes easier when a district assembles a core team in the early stages of their personalized learning plan, so that these core members can collaboratively rapid-test various solutions and weigh in on the impact and the pros and cons of each tool. Having just one eager and enthusiastic teacher whose mission it is to champion school edtech initiatives will likely lead to short-sighted decision making that doesn’t serve the whole population, and a crash-and-burn effect where the personalized learning initiative becomes a supernova of distraction that simply crumbles and isn’t brought back again. Personalized learning and edtech are still territories that many teachers approach with trepidation, so, for maximum buy-in and success, these plans must be designed to scale.
In short, personalized learning, to be done right, takes thoughtful planning from the earliest stages. Only once goals, a mission, and a picture of success are defined, can a cohesive team begin to evaluate tech tools to support the mission of creating a student-centered learning experience that builds bridges where bridges were needed.

Defining Personalized Learning

What is Personalized Learning?

More than just an ed-tech buzzword, “personalized learning” refers to a set of methodologies and approaches to learning in which instruction is not one-size-fits-all, but is adapted specifically to the needs, abilities, and interests of individual learners.
Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, helps us compare working definitions of personalized learning from multiple sources, provides an overview of the five key components involved in the personalized learning process, and discusses the benefits of personalized learning in her article for Medium titled, Personalizing the Learning Experience: Insights from Future Ready Schools.”
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Teachers EdTech Lists New Year

10 Great EdTech Lists to Ring in the New Year

Many classrooms are full of activity in the busy weeks leading up to the holidays. There might be tests, projects, celebrations, and concerts while teachers have grades to submit and clean-up to tackle. It’s not unusual for some of the initiatives that had teachers inspired in the beginning of the school year to have lost some steam or even fallen off the to-do list — it’s just such a busy time of year and the days fly by!

EdTech Lists for 2017

But the promise of 2017 being right around the corner brings plenty to be excited for, so don’t give up on those ed-tech wish lists just yet, teachers! Check out this list of, well, lists we compiled from around the web to help you decide which classroom initiatives will be among your priorities for 2017.
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personalized learning

One District’s Experience with Personalized Learning at Both Ends of the Tech Spectrum

Anyone who follows the world of education knows that “Personalized Learning” is said to be the way of the future. Personalized Learning, however, is more than just an education buzzword — it’s a multi-faceted endeavor with many benefits, beneficiaries, challenges, and rewards.
Continue reading “One District’s Experience with Personalized Learning at Both Ends of the Tech Spectrum”

From Around the Web: Exploring Technology’s Impact on Personalized Learning

In this EdTech Digest guest column post, titled Getting Personal,” by Jason Wright, the evolution of personalized learning in education is explored, as well as the vital role technology plays in creating a student-centered learning environment.

What Exactly Is Personalized Learning?

Wright defines personalized learning as “a variety of learning experiences that are tailored to the distinct learning needs of individual students,” and explains that educators who practice this student-centered approach are more likely to enable students to reach their full potential thanks to increased engagement and greater retention of material.

How Does Personalized Learning Improve the Student-Teacher Experience?

Instead of focusing entirely on the technology tools available to educators who wish to exercise personalized learning techniques, Wright describes the ways in which such resources aid in student assessment metrics such as repetition and long-term memory, learning styles, on-demand learning, individual tracking, and students taking an active role in their education.
Providing links to external resources which further support his points on assessing individual student progress and students’ motivation to learn, Wright concludes his piece with a strong statement:

Personalized education results in better retention, higher performance, and improved engagement. Teachers should now look to technology to help them provide individualized learning to their students.

Want to read the full article? Click here.

Looking for Tech Tools to Support Your Personalized Learning Initiatives?

For examples of innovative technology tools that drive personalized learning, check out Eduspire’s guest post (on the Whooo’s Reading blog),  titled 10 Personalized Learning Apps,” or take a look at our tools, FlexTime Manager and VoiceChoicer, unique software products which facilitate flexible scheduling and student activity voting and management.