A Learning Smorgasbord

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Mike Thomas has read lots of policy briefs on personalized learning. Recently, Mike was able to see personalized learning in person when he visited Lost Lake Elementary in Lake County, Florida (a public school) and saw their first-grace classroom which is built around personalized learning. In an article for Excellence In Education, he describes this experience:

“I am surrounded by kids. Some are hunched over work books, collaborating on solutions. Some are working solo. Some are on tablets. Some are with the teacher. While students sometimes seem to be going in different directions, they all have a clearly established and mutual goal, which is mastering the Florida Standards. The check list is the pathway. But they have more freedom in how to follow it, giving them a sense of empowerment and increasing motivation.”

Thomas shared some perspective from the first graders. Nadia said “we like this because you get to learn at your own pace.” Brandon, on the other hand, enjoys the sense of freedom: “We don’t have to ask the teacher. If something is on the check list, we don’t have to ask. We can just go do it.’’ Teachers, reported Mike Thomas, also appreciate the design of the program because it gives them room for creativity in their teaching.

Principal Susan Pegram says that parents often think personalized learning means their student will be placed in front of computer screen for all their learning. Pegram helps correct that misunderstanding by saying “yes, they do use computers and other digital devices. After all, learning how to navigate on a computer and find answers on your own is necessary in the world they will inherit. But there still is group instruction. There is small-group teaching. There are pencil and paper worksheets. Students help each other out. It is a smorgasbord of learning.”

Personalized learning allows students to move at their own pace, to spend time mastering the material they are studying, and to explore subject areas that interest them. Lost Lake Elementary is a public school but  schools of all kinds – public, private, charter, and homeschool – can benefit from implementing personalized learning. Policymakers should also work to ensure that schools have the freedom to implement these changes. To read more about the research behind personalized learning, click here.  To read more stories of personalized learning in action, click here to visit Excellence in Education’s blog.

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