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Pine Valley superintendent discusses personalized learning

Editor’s note: The following article is by Pine Valley School Superintendent Scott Payne about some of the school projects underway.

The beginning of the second semester is quickly approaching, and we can’t help but look back and see how the efforts of so many people are coming together. Pine Valley is an exciting place to be a student. We are using technology differently than we have in the past, and our students are being exposed to innovative practices in learning together, too!

We know that teaching and learning simply has to evolve from the way that many of us were taught as children. The workplace our children will enter is going to be a vastly different experience in the future than we have prepared children for in the past. In fact, most of the jobs our children will hold have not even been invented yet. Employers are calling for workers who can problem solve and collaborate. The workplace is no longer centered around how much we have memorized, but how workers can take information and work together in teams to capitalize on that.

To that end, Pine Valley teachers have been working since the summer with teachers from two other districts and Erie 2 BOCES engaged in instructional strategies referred to as Personalized Learning. What is Personalized Learning? It is a way to make learning fit each individual student’s needs. This type of instruction varies from the traditional model. This means that teaching to a whole group of students with a lecture is becoming a thing of the past. Students are instead provided choice around a central learning objective.

In Personalized Learning, teachers help guide students to make choices within their learning that allows the opportunity to work independently, collaboratively or with direct teacher instruction. Students can watch a video on the topic. Or perhaps they are downloading and reading articles on the learning objective. Structured group or other independent activities may be designed to create more interactive engagement allowing for opportunities of direct instruction in a smaller group to take place. These choices can occur simultaneously in one class period…or be provided in various models across several class periods or a week.

Here’s an example: a third grade teacher is teaching her students how to multiply numbers. The objective is to learn how to multiply. Students can achieve this objective in a variety of ways: 1) working individually using an app on an iPad; 2) working in a small group playing a game; 3) working in a small group with direct instruction from the teacher. All three of these options can be occurring at the same time in the classroom! How is it determined which method to use for each student? Through assessment and the teacher’s knowledge of the student’s learning style.

What happens in Personalized Learning is a dynamic change for our teachers. They move from a traditional lecturer imparting knowledge that students are to memorize and regurgitate on a test down the road to a hands-on facilitator who engages students deeply in the learning. This allows them to check for understanding, monitor and adjust the experiences and provide rich feedback to the students. This allows students to practice the skills of thinking critically while working independently as well as collaboratively…exactly the skills employers tell us they want our next generation of workers to have.

Personalized Learning is exploding as a cutting-edge educational initiative across the nation. A group of Pine Valley teacher leaders attend regular training and is providing turnkey training to their colleagues. The effect is a faculty that is learning together to have a district-wide impact to prepare our students for the future!

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