My Prep Notes for Connected Educators Month “Personalized Learning Panel”

Panelists included Will Richardson, Kathy Cassidy, Darren Cambridge, Jessie Woolley-Wilson & David Warlick. Other kickoff panels include: 21st Century Classroom Management, Making It Count-Integrating Formal and Informal PD, From Connection to Collaboration & Connected Leadership.

I had the honor of being part of one of Connected Educators Month‘s kickoff panels last week, one called “Personalized Learning Kickoff.”  I strike through the ized part of the title, because parts of our conversation suggested a difference between personal learning and personalized learn.  I went into a deeper discussion of this distinction in “Individualized Instruction Vs. Personal Learning”.

The panel, which was hosted by Darren Cambridge and led by Will Richardson  was one of the kickoff events for Connected Educators Month.  You can find archives of all of these panels here.

I don’t particularly look forward to these things because my hearing is so poor.  It takes me a majority of brain’s computing cycles to translate the mess that I hear and the tiny facial and body cues from Collaborate’s video screen into a semblance of what the speaker actually said.  

Because this leaves me less than confident, I try to have lots of notes that I can readily call on without too much difficulty. ..and since I put so much time and thought into notes, I thought I’d post it all here.  

Potential questions are bold and my ideas are red.

What is the difference between personal and personalized learning?

  • The problem with professional idioms is that the phrase becomes an entity until itself.
    • People can hang on them what ever notions they have of its meaning.
    • They can say “personalized learning” and “personal learning,” and 
      • ? think they’re talking about the same thing, 
      • ? because the phrase has come to mean more than the words that make it.
  • My opinion: A distinction needs to be made between ? learning that happens because of what’s done to the learner (personalized/individualized), and ? learning that happens because of what the learner deliberately and resourcefully does (personal)
  • “Personalized” describes to me something that is done to, designed or produced for, or imposed on the student.
  • Reference Blog Posts: ? Individualized Instruction Vs. Personalized Learning ? Are They Students or Learners


Individualized instruction?  Differentiated Instruction?  Passion-based?

  • Individualized and differentiated instruction are a personalization of instruction by the teacher.
    • It’s top-down
    • Its targets are external standards that often mean little to learners.
    • Not to say that instruction doesn’t not have its place. A good lecture, educational game or even drill and practice activity are wonderful things, when appropriate – when needed!
  • Personal, passion-based learning starts with the learner, not a set of external standards.
    • It comes from the learner’s frame of reference, personal goals and passions; and it is future-oriented. Too many “standards” are past-oriented.
    • However, we, educators, need to learn to inspire learner passions that are relevant to-, or create a healthy context for- our children’s culture, environment and their time.


How can we create the conditions for personal learning to flourish in classrooms and schools?

  • It’s something that has to start small because it’s about generating school & classroom culture
    • It’s mostly a shift in the prevailing conversation from teaching & instruction to curiosity & learning.
      • I learned this yesterday!
      • How did you learn that?
      • This is how I learn something new every day!
    • Turn the workload over to the learner. Learning becomes more active and teaching more passive
    • Stop asking for the right answer, and instead, ask for an answer that works – and then ask the learner, “Why does that work?”
    • Invite the use of
      • Google
      • Wikipedia
      • Blogs & Twitter
      • As long as the learner can defend his answers
  • Chris Lehmann talks about a powerful question we educators don’t ask enough:
    • “So, what do you think?


What roles do networks play in personal learning?

  • Personal learning is not new. It comes from observing, thinking and playing – with intent.
  • Networks have expanded what we can observe, changed our point of view, and created an astoundingly more interactive board on which to play.
  • Growing up, I had…
    • Some books, Life magazine and Boys Life magazine.
    • A set of Compton’s encyclopedias (black & white) (1961)
    • A small public library.
    • Limited TV & Radio programming.
  • Today I have
    • Wikipedia
    • The World Wide Web
    • Youtube
    • Netflix
    • My aggregators
    • ..and it’s in my pocket!
    • It’s a time of no unanswered questions…
    • The work is finding the answers that work!
  • My context has exploded
  • Because of networks
    • How I learn has changed, and
    • Why I learn has changed (bigger context)


How can we help teachers and students move from just being connected to experiencing meaningful and productive connections? 

  • We make them responsible (not for the learning so much as what they can do with their learning)
    • We cut-off the paper and ask teachers to produce more and more of their own digital teaching materials, and we facilitate sharing.
    • We provide real audiences for our children’s learning.
      • We ask children and even their teachers to publish and demo
      • We use our school and classroom websites to invite the community into our classrooms, to see
        • What and
        • How their children are learning and
        • What they are learning to do with they’re learning.
    • We give them permission to “Get it wrong” by asking them “Why they think that’s right?”
      • By asking them to defend their learning
    • We ask children (and teachers) to surprise us, to show us something we’ve never seen before.


What are appropriate roles for social media?

  • We start off by saying that there should not be a list of appropriate uses for social media.
  • It depends entirely on
    • what’s being learned,
    • how it’s being learned,
    • who’s learning it and
    • Why
    • and who’s facilitating it.
  • Social media’s like any other kind of media. It has to be
    • Resourcefully identified,
    • Judged, and ? Utilized,
    • answer a question, solve a problem or accomplish a goal.  If it leads to success, then it’s appropriate.
  • The Question should be,
    • “Is the answer appropriate to the question?”
    • “Is the solution appropriate to the problem?”
    • Not, “Is that the appropriate source?”


How do you encourage students to invest in their own “personal learning?”

  • You help them to understand that learning is empowering.
  • This is partly a result of passion-building.
  • But more, it’s about helping them to own their learning
    • To write and publish a book that gets placed in the school & local public library
    • To produce a video essay that’s posted on the school web site, uploaded to YouTube, and picked up by the local Cable TV Channel
    • To interview the children of recent history (The Great Depression, WWII, the race to the moon, a world without Nintendo) and teach (enlighten) the rest of the class.
    • To create playlists of students compositions, slideshows of their art work, and ask them to talk about the science, mathematics, social studies and healthful living involved in them.
  • You dare them to surprise us.


How important is it to have educators and leaders modeling personal learning?

  • It’s not a learning culture, unless everyone’s learning.
  • Students should know us by “What we’re learning!”


We speak of education in the language of individual learning and personal growth, but schooling as it is largely practiced is about conformity and external assessment.  Are there larger pedagogical shifts that ultimately will need to precede true personalized learning?

  • End this obsession with measuring learning and comparing schools.  It will lead to the death of public education.
  • Embrace the fact that today 
    • It isn’t what we know that’s the same as everyone else that brings value to the endeavor. 
    • Innovative accomplishment comes from what we know and can do that’s different.

Closing thoughts

  • We, as educators, need to think about the learning that we do and have done since we stopped being students.
    • What have we learned?
    • How have we learned it?
    • and Why?
    • and invent ways to make classroom learning mirror real-world learning.  It takes skills that all our children will need.
  • In a time of rapid change, being a learner has become more important than being leaned!
  • In a school that practices learning culture
    • Teachers model learning,
    • Students learn to teach themselves, and
    • The School educates the community


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