Friday, January 22, 2016

Personalized Learning

In class this past week we have been discussing personalized learning, how it all works, the pros, and the cons. From what I’ve gathered, it seems like a heck of a lot of work. We got to hear from a teacher in South Dakota, Joshua Schmidt, about how he figured the whole personalized learning system out and what he does with it in his classroom. From “menus” with multiple learning options for the students to pick from, to projects and other assessments, he had to do a whole lot of time consuming work to get his class to where it is today. I’m not so sure that many teachers would be able to pull it off or have the desire to put in that extra time.

All of that may seem negative, but it is simply reality. The reality is that all the hard work and effort a teacher puts into a child's education counts. One important phrase that I love is that nothing good comes easy. I think that although personalized learning can be a mountainous task, it may be the best way to teach students and their different learning abilities and styles. What Joshua did is amazing and shows how dedicated he is to his students and his profession. It's something I wish I could say about all teachers.

We know that students all learn differently, some kinesthetic, some visual, and some straight from textbook problems and lectures. This makes it challenging to reach all students with one type of instruction. Here’s where personalized learning comes in. By using this, teachers are able to reach many if not all types of learners because students get to move at their own pace and oftentimes choose how they want to learn the material. Because of this, I believe that all teachers should include at least a small element of personalized learning in their classrooms. That could include doing awesome interactive activities using Minecraft, or having a few sections that have menus of choices for students to pick how they learn the content. Either way, students will appreciate your effort to put hard work and time into their education. 

Students also appreciate being a part of the decision making process for their own education. That is why I really like the “menu” concept that Mr. Schmidt uses. It gives students multiple options that all teach them the information, but in ways that they might learn best! It’s the best of both worlds. Another idea I gleaned from his presentation was the use of Minecraft in his class. I don't know if you have noticed or not, but spending time at the Boys & Girls Club has shown me how addicted middle and high school aged kids are to that game. What better way to teach scale, volume, and other topics involving modeling than to use a game that uses little blocks to build shapes?! Not only do kids love it, but it can be really cool what they can do and how they can step up in a project such as that.

Overall, I think personalized learning is a great teaching method. It allows students to be involved in their own learning and gives them an opportunity to truly enjoy what they are doing. The task may be tough, but I think it is worth it to keep taking steps towards a more personalized education.