Friday, 24 February 2012

Reflecting on the Direction of Personalized Learning

In previous blog posts, I have described how the blended mathematics classes at Greenwood College School operate. We are using blended learning as a tool to personalize the student experience by allowing them to work at their own pace through the material. These mathematics courses combine concept videos with inquiry-based activities, group work and problem sets. All material for a unit is available online for students at the beginning of a unit. Students can then work through the material at their own pace, spending more time if needed on some concepts or moving more quickly through other topics. The blended approach that we have adopted provides an in-depth online experience while maintaining the same amount of face-to-face time with the instructor.

I recently watched a video online called What’s Blended Learning? Ask Salman Khan. Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, an online resource predominantly for math and science courses. As I watched Khan share his ideas about blended learning, I began to reflect on how our blended mathematics courses fit into his model. Khan says that blended learning education should allow students to work at their own pace so that they can master concepts before moving on.

As we move forward with the blended learning project at Greenwood College School, we want to focus on this aspect of how to personalize the student experience - creating more teacher-guided individual experiences for students to engage in deeper thinking activities.

I was pleased when I watched this video to see that Khan’s opinion about where the blended learning approach should head in the future aligns with what we are doing in our mathematics classes at Greenwood College School. We are allowing students to work through material at their own pace. We are using constant formative assessment to gauge what students have learned and then we - as teachers - are striving to help students understand the basics before moving on to the next concept. By removing the need for all students to be working with the same concept at the same time, we are able to help students when and how they need it.

The end of Khan’s video has an excellent discussion on the breadth and depth of learning that can take place in a blended learning environment. He explains that the videos and technology can help take care of the concept development, but it is critical to have the human interaction with a teacher to push and guide students through solving more open-ended problems. Time for these rich teacher-student interactions is available when students are learning concepts through videos on their own.

As we move forward with the blended learning project at Greenwood College School, we want to focus on this aspect of how to personalize the student experience - creating more teacher-guided individual experiences for students to engage in deeper thinking activities.

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning

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