Engaging students and personalizing instruction with technology requires IT and instructional experts to work effectively, together, outside of their traditional silos.
If you’re reading this magazine, that’s probably something you’re well aware of. The tricky part is how to actually go about doing those things, and convincing everyone around you that they should be striving for that approach as well. How do you get that done?
Let’s start with what personalized learning is — or should be — and go from there. A 2017 Medium post from the Office of Educational Technology laments the lack of clarity about the term “personalized learning”: “The lack of a consistent definition and language for a relatively complex idea has hampered both understanding and effective implementation,” the article states.
Indeed, the concept has been conflated with other educational and instructional approaches that integrate technology: adaptive learning, blended learning, competency-based learning and differentiated learning, to name just a few.
The post points out, rightly, that it’s “important to recognize that personalized learning entails more than a definition: school culture, pedagogy, curricular choices and available resources all influence the shape personalized learning takes in any given learning environment.” Enter the silos.
When we can agree on the mission or goals of a personalized learning initiative, it becomes easier to break down the barriers and engage the various teams so we can start to agree on the technology tools and support that will meet those goals.
MORE FROM EDTECH: See where K–12 schools can turn to for personalized learning resources.
K–12 Departments Must Find Common Ground
So, how can teams get to the point where everyone is on board with the personalized learning program and goals?
One place to start is with ourselves, and improving our leadership skills so that we can more skillfully guide the kinds of discussions that need to take place before landing on a common vision.
Engaging other teams and educational communities requires a safe space where everyone feels they can talk openly and honestly about what will work, given the specific students, resources and support available in a school or district. Identifying and understanding weaknesses becomes even more critical when teams look to scale out programs beyond a few innovative classrooms to an entire school or district.
It also takes solid leadership skills to bring new ideas to the table. That happens when teams seize opportunities to attend conferences, such as CoSN, to hear lessons learned by their peers in other districts.
But even when a conference is off the table, there’s much to be learned through online personal learning networks, through channels such as Twitter or other sites where like-minded professionals come together to move the needle on often new or emerging use cases.
MORE FROM EDTECH: A new innovation series from CoSN helps K–12 leaders navigate digital transformation in their schools.
Reach Out to Other K–12 Schools for Sound Advice
Gaining perspectives from afar, and from other teams within your school or district, also helps to ensure the most fitting technology for the job will be deployed, which is important when the conversation comes back around to scaling.
The ability to scale personalized learning initiatives or programs to ever-broader groups of students also helps schools and districts improve the returns realized on every educational technology dollar spent.
Faced with declining budgets and support, IT leaders, technologists and educators have precious few choices outside of getting their heads together to solve these important challenges. Without that collaboration, the efficacy and longevity of any technology-backed educational goal will always be in jeopardy.