Showing posts with label Customization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Customization. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 March 2017

It's a Classroom! It's a Kitchen! It's... Both!

Cooking days enable students to put their new knowledge into practice. Here, students
 are investigating the Maillard reaction and molecular gastronomy.

Greenwood’s Food and Culture course combines academic content with hands-on cooking experience - and needs a space that supports both. Our versatile rooftop classroom supports everything from classwork to culinary creations.

From Monday-Thursday, students spend their classes delving into a food-related issue; they investigate kitchen science, learn more about nutrition and study the relationship between food and the environment. At the end of the week, it’s time to put everything they’ve learned to the test.

On Fridays, this rooftop space transforms from a classroom into a working kitchen. A portable convection oven and two convection burners enable students to whip up a wide variety of dishes. So far, the class has prepared pancakes, sushi, hummus, ice cream, Vietnamese spring rolls and more - each with a specific connection to the curriculum.

“The cooking days enable students to put their new knowledge into practice,” says teacher Michelle Douglas. “For example, the nutrition unit investigates new research in gut health, and we’re making our own kombucha (a fermented tea drink) as an illustration of those concepts.” As they’re preparing food, students also sharpen their knife skills, refine basic cooking skills and learn valuable food safety and etiquette tips. The great nutrition and food preparation knowledge they learn here will serve them well when they leave home.

Chef Sang Kim not only taught our students how to make sushi, but imparted valuable
information about the history of this Japanese dish and on food insecurity in Toronto.

Cooking days also provide another opportunity for Michelle to customize learning for students. “Each dish comes with many different tasks that can be assigned to students based on their readiness,” Michelle says.

Even hands-on kitchen days incorporate some history and theory. Chef Sang Kim recently visited Greenwood to give a class on sushi-making - but in doing so, he also imparted valuable information about the history of this Japanese dish and on food insecurity in Toronto. “It’s an academic course, and the content is challenging,” Michelle says. “We have high expectations for students.”

The location of the classroom is also conducive to the well-being aspect of the course. Large windows and glass walls bring in plenty of natural light; in the spring, the class can open a sliding door to the terrace and enjoy the fruits of their Friday labours outside.

Here’s what one Grade 11 student has to say about the course:

“Greenwood’s Food & Culture course really prepares students for the future. Throughout the week, our learning is focused on the techniques needed to prepare a certain dish. We learn about the origins of ingredients, their cultural significance, nutrition, and the science behind the method. Each Friday, we have the opportunity to practise these newly acquired skills through cooking and baking. The combination of theory and practical learning fully engages the class."

Thursday, 20 October 2016

More Choice, Less Noise

Modelled on facilities found on university campuses, the Learning Commons offers a variety
of work areas including collaborative study rooms, independent work areas and soft seating.

When you walk into Greenwood’s Learning Commons, the first thing that strikes you is how purposefully students are working. Whether they’re coming in early, on a spare or on their lunch break, students have been making wonderful use of the Commons as a quiet work and study space.

Modelled on facilities found on university campuses, the Learning Commons offers a variety of work areas including collaborative study rooms, independent work areas and soft seating. Whiteboards and projection screens located in these breakout rooms are frequently filled with idea-building and test preparation.

Whiteboards and projection screens facilitate
collaborative idea-building and test preparation.

What do students think?

Here’s what a few Grade 12 students have to say about this new workspace:

“In the old building, it was hard to find a spot where it was guaranteed to be quiet. There’s a mutual understanding that everyone here wants to keep the noise down, too.”

“I’m more motivated to work when others around me are working.”

“The breakout rooms are great for having quiet conversations and doing group work without disturbing other people.”

“A lot of people from our grade are using this space, so you can always find someone else who is working on the subject you’re studying.”

Friday, 14 October 2016

Adding Flexibility to Advanced Functions

Math teachers Megan Clark and Kelly Smolinski used the flexible features of one of
our Learning Communities to allow greater customization in Advanced Functions.

A key piece of Greenwood’s customized approach to learning is giving students the power to choose how they learn. Some students prefer a teacher-directed lesson; for others, an online video lesson, which allows them to self-pace, is most effective. This knowledge inspired the design of Greenwood’s new Learning Communities - flexible rooms that easily reconfigure to support many different types of instruction.

Choice in Grade 12 Advanced Functions

Math teachers Megan Clark and Kelly Smolinski recently made excellent use of one of our Learning Communities to support their Grade 12 Advanced Functions class. After a “warm up” activity, students had a choice: they could continue with a teacher-directed lesson from Megan, or do a self-paced lesson through an online video. Based on their choice, students dispersed to three different locations in the room:

  • Those listening to Megan’s lesson remained at the front of the room.
  • Students who wanted to complete the video lesson in a small group chose one of the breakout rooms, where the sound wouldn’t interrupt the teacher-led lesson.
  • Students who wanted to complete the video lesson individually headed to a small nook by the window, where they used earphones.

The Benefits of a Bigger Space

Both teachers allowed these options in previous years, but co-teaching in a larger space with flexible furnishings offers Megan and Kelly even more opportunities to customize lessons.

“While Megan taught, I frequently checked in with students who chose the self-paced option, answering their questions and clarifying concepts,” Kelly says. “This resolved the issues that may have come up in the past, when it was more difficult for a teacher to answer questions from self-pacing students because they were also teaching a lesson.”

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Careers is Personalized to Prepare Students for Their Futures

Career Studies is a compulsory half credit taken in Grade 10. The value that students place on this course has increased significantly through the fact that much of the content is now personalized.

I send a consistent message to my students in this class that everything produced or learned in this course can be useful to them and their futures. Students have the opportunity to research postsecondary programs of interest to them. As well, they get support through the course selection process with postsecondary programs in mind.

Students find and prepare for jobs for which they think they will apply, and produce résumés that they actually use. They also prepare a profile that is used in postsecondary applications, research experiential or enrichment opportunities and practice job interview skills.

Students in Grade 12 often comment that they wish they had taken more advantage of these fantastic learning opportunities when they were in Grade 10.

This course has the potential to prepare students, as individuals, for their futures.

Student Feedback

Read about what some Grade 10 students have to say about the course this year:

"Careers is one of the best classes to help teach you about your future. Solely from what I have learned in Careers, I received one job offer on site and three based off of the reputation I have established from the interview in the small town of Baysville, ON. I learned how to be very professional and how to make interviewers interested in me. 

"One thing that set me apart from others was my understanding of the importance of job safety. When asked about the three most important things I should do if working in a business I said with the professionalism learned through Careers, “Without a doubt the most important concern is customers' satisfaction. The staff and I need to comply with every request made by the customers with utmost respect. Another necessity is food safety. We are working with raw meat that may contain salmonella or other diseases, ice cream that may have freezer burn, and so many other potentially hazardous materials. The business is liable for anything that may go wrong in its inventory. The third most important is employee relations. You need to treat each employee fairly and equally. Be kind to all and learn from them.” I happened to have everything on her list. She admired the charisma I exuded, which I had solely because of the confidence of my success from the information learned from Careers. 

"Without a doubt, all students should listen to every word Ms. Branscombe or any other Careers teacher says, because in the long run it all pans out."

"Careers class is personalized towards our interests in areas like potential jobs and postsecondary programs. This means the assignments and tasks we are doing now prepare us for our own individual goals and needs, which will be useful for our future."

"Careers has been a very helpful course this year. It's helpful because I am able to specialize the assignments to make them more helpful to me. For example, when we were looking at postsecondary options I was able to look at programs that interested me, instead of looking at general programs to fulfill the requirements of the assignment. This helped me with course selection as well."

Elizabeth Branscombe
Guidance & Careers Subject Team Leader

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Teaching and Learning in Greenwood's LearnLab Space

Room 207 is a flexible space where students and teachers learn in tandem with one another. A flexible space demands a flexible approach. This post focuses on the value of having a flexible physical space in terms of the diversity it creates for instruction.

In Grade 9 English we have found a good balance between consistent classroom routines to start and end the class, and a variety of cooperative learning strategies throughout the lesson. The large room provides opportunities to co-teach and the teachers act as facilitators of learning, moving smoothly throughout the space

In the classroom, abstract learning goals become concrete physical arrangements. In advance of the class, we determine groupings and seating arrangements so that students may choose, or be placed, in a grouping based on their strengths, their interests, or the level of support they need to learn and interact with the material for the day. We also have the benefit of being able to easily rearrange students as the lesson progresses. When students work ahead, or need to meet with a teacher one-on-one, their needs can be met right away. The teacher-student conferences have been especially supportive and informative. We are able to meet with students one-on-one for anything from conversation assessments of learning, to relaxed check-ins. Getting to know the students in this way informs us about how to make our groupings and how to adapt our teaching to meet the needs of each student.

This space allows the more abstract elements of differentiated instruction to be made tangible. Students make choices and have to partner their choices with a physical action. Something as simple as moving to the corner of the room that reflects their favourite style of instruction, their need for support in the moment, or their choice of text to read, allows students to become partners in designing their course. While reading Into the Wild in our survival unit, students were able to choose to actively read the book alone in one corner of the room, read the book with a partner in another corner, read the book in a 'popcorn' style in a larger group, or have the book read to them by one of us teachers aloud. Even as the activity was taking place, students were able to move to the corner that they realized suited them best for the day. The fact that Grade 9 students are aware of their learning style to this degree is excellent. Similar activities have been done with instruction and support. It has been interesting to observe their level of engagement and self-awareness as the year has progressed.

In our current unit about family and friends, students will be in literature circle groups based on one of four novels that they chose based on interest and stretch. We're looking forward to applying what we have learned about the space and the students to these discussions.

Catherine Menard
Teacher, English

Caley Blyth
Subject Team Leader, English

Thursday, 4 December 2014

How We Show Our Learning: Personalizing Learning through Assessment

There are many approaches our teachers use to personalize the learning experience for students. One way is by giving students different ways to demonstrate their learning. Edwin Bryson, Greenwood's Vice-Principal of Teacher and Staff Development, shares an example from his Grade 10 Introduction to Business class, in which differentiated assessments were used to personalize for student readiness, interest and learning profile.

Step 1: Identify what students should know, understand and be able to do (skills)

I began by identifying what each student should know, understand and be able to do as a result of a particular chunk of learning. In this case, students needed to "demonstrate financial planning skills and produce a...personal financial plan (e.g. monthly plan, budget)."

Step 2: Identify one or more formats for the product

Next, I brainstormed all of the types of evidence that a student could use to show they have met these learning outcomes. For example, they could
  • Complete a monthly budget worksheet for themselves
  • Analyze a case study that requires a monthly plan
  • Complete a quiz on key terms and processes
  • Role-play between a financial planner and client
  • Create a board game that illustrates income, expenses and savings, etc.
The goal is to determine financial planning skills, but the teacher has the flexibility to create more than one type of assessment for this skill.

Step 3: Determine expectations for quality

The third step was to clearly describe the success criteria; it should be general enough that a student can achieve the top band of achievement, regardless of their choice of activity. I did this in the form of a rubric, using the following criteria to evaluate each assessment:
  • The student understands the relationship between types of income, fixed and flexible expenses.
  • The student demonstrates the use of planning skills (gathering information, organizing a budget/project).
  • The student uses critical/creative thinking processes (evaluation of spending and saving goals, actual versus planned budgeting).
  • The student makes connections between the financial planning process and future career and life goals.

Step 4: Decide on scaffolding needed

The fourth step was to select a few assessments that would meet the different levels of student readiness, interests and learning profile.

Complete a monthly budget using a template: This option would suit students who are still gaining confidence with financial planning, liked working individually and benefited from concrete and sequential tasks rather than abstract and non-sequential tasks.

Work in pairs and create a board game: The game should demonstrate the key concepts of income, personal income tax, expenses, savings and investment. This option would suit students who had attained a conceptual understanding of financial planning, liked working collaboratively and enjoyed abstract and non-sequential thinking.

Create a role-playing game: This option was created by a few students who wanted to modify the board game assessment to create a role-playing game. Since the rubric focused on learning outcomes, rather product specifications, it was very easy to accommodate this request.

Below is a summary of the differentiation found in each assessment.

Assessment  Readiness  Interests  Learning Profile 
Create a monthly budget using a template Basic understanding of terms and concepts  Wants concrete application of learning of this topic  Works best with clear instructions, small steps and linear approach. Prefers working on own assignment 
Create a board game  Strong conceptual understanding  Wants to expand and extend their learning of this topic  Is stimulated by creative challenges and conceptual thinking. Prefers working with peers. 
Create a role-playing game  Strong conceptual understanding  Wants to expand and extend their learning of this topic Is stimulated by open-ended challenges and enjoys abstract thinking. Prefers working with peers. 

Regardless of which assignment was chosen, students were engaged in an authentic learning experience and making meaning by linking the concepts to their own lives. Each assignment allowed students to reach the top level of achievement and provided different approaches to suit their learning styles. The end result was increased engagement and more accurate evaluation of each student's progress toward meeting the course's learning goals.

Note: Many of the concepts discussed here are borrowed from one of the foremost authors on the subject, Carol Ann Tomlinson, in her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms (2nd Edition).

Monday, 5 May 2014

Personalizing for Interest: Elements of Fitness and Training Principles in Exercise Science

Students often ask, "When will I use this information in real life?" Carla DiFilippo, Health and Physical Education Instructional Leader and Director of Athletics, demonstrates how powerful it can be when students can draw clear links between what they're learning and their own experiences.

In Grade 12 Exercise Science, students work through an activity unit titled Human Performance and Skill Development.
To prepare for this activity, students first learned about the different elements of fitness and how to effectively train for each element, while keeping in mind the three metabolic energy systems and nutrition. The goal of the activity was for students to apply what they learned in the unit to their own experiences in sport. This activity was personalized for each student’s needs, and is outlined below:
  • Students reflected on a sport that they played in the past. 
  • As part of the reflection, students analyzed what they felt were the most important fitness attributes to compete in that sport at the highest level (cardiovascular endurance, muscular power, flexibility, etc.). 
  • After some discussion (and friendly debate), students reflected on their personal fitness attributes and identified two perceived fitness-related weaknesses for their identified sport. For example, a volleyball player could have selected muscular power to increase their vertical jump, whereas a soccer player could have selected cardiovascular endurance. 
Once each student identified their two weaknesses, they used their knowledge of training principles to create a fitness program specifically designed for those weaknesses.

Students created an assignment that was specific to their interests. They used information learned in class and applied it directly to their own experiences. There was a great deal of self-assessment used in the preparatory phases of the assignment; as a result, students not only gained information about fitness and training, but were also able to reflect on their own needs as an athlete.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Personalized Independence

This week, English teacher Jennifer Walcott explains how she encourages students to customize the what and where of our Grade 12 Writer's Craft course to suit their needs and interests.

The Grade 12 Writer’s Craft course is an English elective, usually chosen by students who enjoy creative writing. As the course is process driven rather than content driven, students have many opportunities to make choices based on their interests and to develop a work plan that suits their schedules.

The recent non-fiction unit allowed students the option of what forms of writing they wished to learn, but also gave them the option of where they would complete their assignments.

All of the course steps and requirements were outlined to students in class on the first day of the four-week unit. The readings, quizzes, tasks, and rubrics were all presented with a weekly due date for each of the four tasks for the unit. Students then had several options they could follow. They had to select two forms of non-fiction writing from a menu that included: travel, interviews, opinion, feature, sports, reviews, and obituaries.

As is the norm in this course, students:
  1. Read expert guidelines for success criteria and complete two reading quizzes.
  2. Find six real-world samples of the forms of writing. I offered several suggestions of sources plus samples of magazines for these, but students had to secure their own.
  3. Write an analysis of how one of the samples met the criteria they had identified.
  4. Write two original pieces of their own and annotate them to show where they were meeting the criteria. Students were encouraged to create one of their pieces for the school newspaper.
Students were also provided a package of exercises to improve their diction, syntax, and punctuation. These were warm up activities that they could do on their own. Two peer editing sessions were built into the schedule as students have repeatedly said they prefer face-to-face peer editing rather than online editing.

Each student was invited to a conference with me and with a weekly due date for tasks, I was able to see how students were progressing through the tasks and to call in any student who needed additional support for another conference. Students were also able to request a conference during class time if they wished. I was always available during class time, and several students chose to work in the room where it was quieter and they could be more focussed. However, some students preferred to work on Writer’s Craft tasks late at night and used our class time to complete work for other classes as needed.

Writing is a fairly solitary task. Once you know what you are trying to do, it’s a matter of drafting and revising. This personalized and blended approach allowed students to work at their own pace - a few students completed tasks ahead of time - and when and where they found most conducive to the tasks. The challenge was time management. Those who planned were successful, those who did not, were less so as they lost revision time. However, with weekly due dates, I was able to contact those who needed help in managing time and the frequent check ins meant no one fell behind in submitting work.

At the start of the unit, students were offered a challenge to work as a group to create a magazine or newspaper and build their writing around a specific target audience. Three groups selected this option, but only one actually completed it. The others found the challenge of working together too much and gradually opted to work alone.  Interestingly, the group that stayed together to produce a magazine of their articles was made up of the students with the most mature time management and organizational skills. My challenge for the future is how to teach those skills beforehand so more students can have this real world experience.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Meeting All Students’ Needs in Grade 8 Science

When students come into the classroom with varying levels of prior knowledge, it can be tough to keep everyone engaged. Science teacher Vanessa Floras explains how she customizes her Grade 8 science class to ensure that all students are invested in their learning.

The Grade 8 science curriculum includes a number of broad topics. As a result, students have varying levels of prior knowledge when it comes time to approach new concepts.

During our 'Cells' unit, we focus on the concepts of osmosis and diffusion. After some short introductory direct instruction, students work through the rest of the lesson at their own pace. Students select the degree of difficulty appropriate to their level of understanding and complete the problems based on their ability at the time. Students end with an exit card that allows them to synthesize the core concepts from the lesson and demonstrate their learning.

In the second class, students are put into groups based on their understanding from the previous lesson, in combination with the results from their exit card. In these groups, they develop a lab procedure that investigates the concept of diffusion. Students select from a list of options, or can submit a proposal for a concept of their own design.

Over the course of two classes, students design, execute and write their labs. This offers them ownership over their learning while performing an experiment that will solidify their understanding of core concepts.

Students have responded well to this flexible style of learning. Many have expressed that they were more invested in the results of their lab, gaining a deeper understanding of the theory as a result.

Monday, 15 April 2013

U.S. Department of Education Focuses on Personalized Learning

It was interesting to read that the U.S. Dept. of Education selected personalized learning as the focus of this year’s Race to the Top grants. The department is giving the district winners $400 million in federal grants to help spur the redesign of the classroom experience for students. As Michele McNeil notes in Education Week (March 27, 2013), “many of these districts are embracing the philosophy that learning isn’t defined by time spent in the classroom, but by mastery of a particular subject or lesson.”

Districts applying for the grants had to define how they would use the funds to create a more personalized learning environment using “21st-century learning tools to customize instruction to the needs of individual students.” According to Michael Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, the Race to the Top grants will “elevate student-centric learning onto the radar.”

Several of the approved projects are similar to things being done here at Greenwood. $20 million was awarded to a New York State district to support the transition to blended learning. The development of e-portfolios and programs to track personalized learning appeared in several of the selected projects, as did the use of individualized goal setting and digital learning platforms and dashboards, tools which are currently being deployed in our redesigned student adviser program. 

Several of the district coordinators who were interviewed note that the ultimate goal of these personalized learning initiatives is to have students truly own and be responsible for their own learning and to have teachers rethink the way instruction happens within the classroom.

Allan Hardy

Thursday, 21 March 2013

2.0 Schools: Learning in the 21st Century

One of Canada’s most influential voices on the future of digital technology is Don Tapscott. The author of numerous books and articles on this topic, Tapscott has long been an admirer of Greenwood’s use of learning technology. In Growing Up Digital (2009), he referred to Greenwood as an excellent example of a “2.0 school.” Tapscott defines a 2.0 school as one which prioritizes learning over teaching, customization over a one-size fits all approach, and interactive learning over the broadcasting of information.

More recently, Tapscott was featured in a Globe and Mail interview in which he reiterated the need for schools and universities to work harder to transform themselves into 2.0 schools. According to Tapscott, “we have the best model of learning that 17th-century technology can provide.” For education to equip students to participate fully in the 21st century, Tapscott argues that schools must “use technology to free up instructors from transmitting information to curating customized learning experiences,” and have “learning occur through software programs, small group discussion and projects.”

One of the oft-expressed concerns about moving schools in this direction is that it will minimize the importance of the teacher or professor. However, Tapscott disputes this assumption. Instead, instructors will have greater opportunities to “listen and converse with students” and accordingly, will be better able to “tailor the education to their students’ individual learning styles.” This goal can be accomplished, according to Tapscott, by allowing computers “to provide instruction for anything that requires a right or wrong answer.”

Much of what he outlines in the article resonates with Greenwood’s current approach to personalized learning. Our blended learning approach allows students to use online resources to direct their learning and collaborate in both face-to-face and virtual media. Our use of Hapara in our student adviser program provides advisers with genuine opportunities to customize classroom programming for individual students. I am sure that if Don Tapscott were to revisit Greenwood, he would be impressed by how far we have come with digital learning since his earlier visit to our school seven years ago.

Our use of Hapara in our student adviser program provides advisers with genuine opportunities to customize classroom programming for individual students.

On a closing note, a recent editorial in The New York Times endorsed the use of blended or hybrid learning. Columbia University’s Community College Research Center released a study which tracked the results of 7 million students enrolled in online courses and concluded that students in these courses were more “likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes.” However, the Centre also found that students “in classes that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component performed as well academically as those in traditional classes.” This result was attributed to students’ need for engagement with their teachers.

Allan Hardy

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Personalizing Deepens Any Learning Experience

This winter, my four-year-old son has participated in two identical learn-to-skate programs offered by the city. Despite having excellent instructors both times, his progress during the two programs has differed significantly.

When my son started the first session in October, he could only walk on the ice as if his skates were a pair of boots. However, by the time the course completed in December, he was gliding and could skate faster than he could run. After such a successful first session I was excited to see the results of the second program that began in January.

Interestingly, his progress to this point has been much slower. It could be that my son has simply reached a point where the skills needed to advance to the next level necessitate considerable practice, but it seems to me that there is another issue.

In the first session, almost all the participants in my son’s group were skating at the same level. As the program progressed, some students developed their skills more quickly than others, but even at the end of the course, the difference in skill between the students was still small. The uniformity of skill made the teacher’s lesson perfectly suited for all children. As a result, every child benefited from the drills provided by the instructor.

In the second session, the format of the program and the drills are very similar to the previous session. However, the participants in the second session have a much broader range of skating ability. Some students are still walking on their skates, while others are learning to stop and to turn using cross-overs. The one-size-fits-all approach has not been nearly as effective with this group of skaters, and the amount of time students spend waiting for the instructor or for other participants has increased significantly. As the amount of waiting increases, the amount of skating - and learning - decreases.

A big part of personalizing your classroom is awareness. It generally does not require much time to create a more personalized experience for your students, but it is essential for the teacher to notice when a student’s needs are not being met. Additionally, the teacher must be willing to alter their program in order to accommodate a variety of needs and not be intimidated by students completing different tasks simultaneously.

Consider my son’s skating class as an example. His class consists of 14 students of roughly three different ability groups. By simply dividing the group into three smaller groups, the needs of all students could be better met. The strongest group needs to skate longer distances and practice more complicated skills. It would be easy to arrange a course around the perimeter of the teaching area for these students. Because these students have mastered many basic skills, they can be given more independence and an opportunity to complete more difficult challenges compatible with their skill level.

The second group of students needs to work on their turning and could be asked to wind their way through a series of pylons. The last group was having issues with balance, and they simply need practice skating in a straight line, falling and getting back up. A simple modification like this engages more students and improves learning.

Despite having students doing several different things simultaneously, the class also becomes easier to manage as all students are engaged and active. With the one-size-fits-all approach some students end up spending a lot of time waiting. This quickly leads to boredom which - at least for my son - does not lead to the best behaviour.

Kyle Acres
Learning Technology Adviser

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Putting Imagination Back Into Education

Earlier this year, I read that Coca-Cola has launched “Freestyle” vending machines throughout the GTA. Unlike a typical vending drink machine which dispenses a particular brand in a can or bottle, this new machine offers more than 100 Coke-owned soft drinks and allows users to mix a variety of flavours. According to Shane Grant, a vice president at Coca-Cola, these machines are “the new normal for consumers” and a response to the belief that “everything is becoming more personalized.” The move towards customization is “the next big thing” in marketing, notes Frank Piller, a professor at MIT’s Technology Design Lab.

As Susan Krashinksy of The Globe and Mail indicates in her column “Adhocracy,” the expectation of a personalized experience is a logical progression for young consumers raised on Facebook and iTunes. Want a unique-looking sports shoe? Log on to NikeID and you can create one. Ditto if you would like to design your own trench coat: Burberry can help you with that.

At this point, I imagine readers are asking what marketing has to do with education. Our students are capable of exerting their influence in both the real and digital worlds. Increasingly, they expect the same of their educational experiences. There is no doubt that the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning in high school is one of the reasons why a high proportion of students fail to engage fully with the process or disengage entirely, as too often their individual learning needs are ignored or optimized.

Fortunately, the timely intersection of new technologies, research on how we learn, and teacher development offers the hope of personalizing the educational experience. As Christensen, Johnson and Horn explain in their groundbreaking work Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, personalized learning, an approach that truly meets the needs of individual learners, is what will drive the reformation of education in the 21st century.

Coin-operated vending machines were first used in the 19th century. Since then they have become increasingly sophisticated, as evidenced by Coca-Cola’s “Freestyle” machine. Regrettably, the same arc of innovation is not true of education. Personalized education, which offers students vital input to how they learn, offers the hope of addressing this lack of imagination.

Allan Hardy