Home FlipTech Conferences Personalized Learning and Student Choice in the Classroom

Personalized Learning and Student Choice in the Classroom

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I geared this session toward all audiences: classroom teachers, building leaders, subject supervisors, or even those looking to build on their professional development opportunities. My goal was to discuss the implementation of learning menus as a strategy to increase choice and agency, to better integrate meaningful activities, and to require a greater depth of knowledge.

We got started with a Turn-And-Talk warmup about personalized learning, to get teachers talking about their experience and interest in this concept. Next, I shared the “What, Why and How” of my personalized learning journey during the 2017-2018 school year. Through this lens, we worked together to better understand what personalized learning is by defining the term, why I believed it would become a learning tool that empowered my students, and finally how my students used learning menus, hyperdocs, and other forms of technology to show off what they have learned throughout our journey through American History. To me, personalized learning occurs when learning is driven by our students’ interests; they are given choice regarding what, how, when and where their learning is taking place; and, most importantly, it is tailored specifically to each learner.

Much of the discussion in our FlipTech session centered on student use of technology that students used to make their learning come to life. I demonstrated how GSuite became a big part of this adventure. Students were using Google Classroom, Docs, Slides, Sites, Drawings, and Keep to help them as they learned and created content. Many FlipTech participants shared and were introduced to tech tools such as Padlet, Quizizz, EDpuzzle, Newsela, Adobe Spark, and Sporcle – all of which can help students with their work.

One of the most powerful conversations we had was about grading students’ work. This is always a tough thing to do because our students are working at different levels, based on what they are creating and how they are sharing it. We discussed what a rubric would look like. For my social studies class, I keep the rubric consistent so that students know the expectations for each activity that we are completing. While each of these components are undoubtedly important, they were each weighted differently: Historical Content, Accuracy of Information, Timeliness, Completion of the Work, Creativity, Requirements Met and Correct Grammar and Spelling.

Although we agreed that this process should be more about the learning and less about the grades that were received, it is also true that our students are programmed to gauge their success by a number. Personalizing the learning for our students enables us to put more emphasis on the topics that our students become passionate about, and not only on the grade they receive for a given project.

Flipped learning has been prevalent in my classroom, especially through the use of personalized learning. I have become a strong proponent of the “in-class flip.” With this idea, my students are able blend traditional classroom techniques with the use of technology to help class discussions, group work, and major projects.

While many people claim that flipping the classroom should be learning information at home and bringing it to the classroom, I feel that by using a mix of technology, content-related videos, articles, documents, and primary sources in the classroom and not at home, my students are able to work more closely with their classmates and their teacher to ask questions and gain clarification if they are lost.

By flipping the learning, integrating technology, getting students more involved in WHAT they want to learn and HOW they want to show their passions, our students can turn schools upside down. Students and their instructors must be able to embrace the change, take risks, and find experiences that will help them prepare for their future.

I would be happy to discuss my FIRST journey with personalized learning and my goals going forward with this experience in the upcoming school year.

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AJ Bianco
AJ Bianco is a 7/8th grade social studies teacher in Harrington Park, NJ. He is a graduate of SUNY Oneonta with a B.S. in Adolescent Education. He earned his M.A. in History from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Ramapo College in Rockland County, NY. AJ is an avid podcast listener and enthusiast, as well as a co-host of @PodcastPD. He is an organizer of #CoffeeEDU in Bergen County, NJ. and blogs about his education and his experiences at www.ajbianco.me. Follow @AJBianco on Twitter/Instagram.

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