Personalized learning asks teachers to get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses. The teacher’s role is to guide the students towards challenge or support, depending on what is needed.
This can be done without any technology at all. For example, an English teacher might recognize that a student needs more support with writing an introduction and that another student needs to be reading a more challenging book. When the teacher acts on these observations, they are personalizing the experience for these two students.Blended learning combines face-to-face teaching with technology-rich activities, such as online content videos and interactive activities. The “flipped lesson” is an approach being used in more and more schools. This approach has the students watch a video of the lesson the night before for homework and then complete problems or work deeper with this content while in class. Most often, the students are all watching the same video lesson on the same day and then completing the same activities when in class. This is an excellent example of blended learning, but it is not personalizing the students’ experience.
The senior mathematics classes that I am developing at Greenwood College School combine the two approaches of blended learning and personalized learning. Blended learning resources are used as the tools to personalize how students move through the course material. All of the lessons are videos accessed online. Class time is spent working on problems and activities. The difference between this and the usual “flipped classroom” is that the students are all working at their own pace. This allows them to work through the material in a personalized manner. Some students will work ahead and complete two courses in one year (Greenwood College School is non-semestered, so until now, students were only able to complete one course in a year). Other students will spend more time on certain topics, using their class time to get reinforcement from a peer or from their teacher.
Because technology is such an excellent education tool, more and more teachers are creating blended learning courses and courses that use the “flipped lesson” approach. Personalization is a way to meet the needs of and to motivate individual students. In the senior mathematics classes at Greenwood College School we are using both of these techniques simultaneously. We have seen that while blended learning and personalized learning are not synonymous, using them in conjunction gives the teacher time to work one-on-one with students and guide them in a direction that meets their individual needs.