It happens to all of us. Have you ever been considering something new and this little persistent voice in the back of your head seems to be questioning your every move? Unfortunately, one of the most dangerous voices is that which is so deceptively quiet you almost don’t notice.
I experienced this phenomenon over the past month as I have been wrestling with increasing personalized learning opportunities across several classrooms. For some reason I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was missing something important. Teachers were trying to identify if/when they were Individualizing, Differentiating, and Personalizing. We kept going back and forth about whether or not we were reaching complete personalization (as if there was a valid litmus test for the perfection of personalization). A fantastic conversation generator has been the Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Chart by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey.
Because social media makes reaching out easier, I connected and talked with Barbara Bray and quickly realized, I was being side-tracked by “school creep”. When you try to fit new models into traditional school settings it can be challenging, but it isn’t that we need to launch the perfect model, we just need to continuously move forward as we learn and stretch our educational boundaries.
Now I laugh as it dawns on me that I wasn’t approaching Personalization in a very personalized manner. I was trying to take the best of all of these schools who are personalizing and wrap it into one perfect package. Yes, that is a lot of “p’s” in one sentence and even more of a headache trying to piece it all together! Barbara reassured me that personalization looks different for each system, not that one system has it right and one has it wrong.
I believe in taking time to pause and ask critical questions about why we should move one direction or the other and being intentional about which tool(s) you might want to select for the task at hand. However, my point in this post is that we have to get past being paralyzed by our own thinking and get to the doing. Take time to read and think, but don’t forget one of the most powerful ways to push your thinking forward is often to talk with many different people and then to take a chance and try something new.
Right now I’m researching how to build Learner Agency at all levels as it is a critical component to personalization. All learners should have voice and choice in process and product while being given the chance to wrestle with messy real-world problems. I want this kind of education for my own kids. Our future depends on having people who can think deeply and take action and this will occur more naturally if our kids are given opportunities to learn in dynamic educational environments directly supported by peers, teachers, and experts.
I love the quote above by Henry Ford as it makes me realize how important it is to approach any new idea with the right mindset! Now that I have broken through my own sticky mindset, I’m energized to start again with a new lens that is more forgiving. One that will hopefully recognize when “School Creep” is rearing its ugly head and seek out those who will help me defeat the paralyzing thoughts and continue moving forward.
With this new mindset, I’m looking to connect with others who are personalizing. So am asking the question…
What have you read and/or seen that is changing your outlook on personalization in education?