I don’t ever want to go back…

Will Richardson calls it traditional learning. I call it a nightmare.

We have been on our journey of personalizing student learning for a little over a month now. My goal was to blog throughout this process about the learning that was taking place, both teacher and student. It doesn’t take long to realize that I have failed at my attempt to keep everyone updated (still don’t know how certain people just pump out post after post – it’s a talent I don’t have). I’m happy to share that what hasn’t failed is how we have personalized learning for our students!

It is amazing to think how far we have come as a team in just a month. Not only thinking in regards to the tweaks we’ve made, but how we actually think. We all entered this journey with a collective above average innovative mindset. In just a short month, it has propelled us to think about all things we do for kids in a completely different way. We started with Math, and then quickly realized that we were shortchanging our students in other areas. We’ve taken the same approach and have applied it to our most current PBL. We have quickly realized that because they have taken ownership over their own learning, more learning is taking place.

I keep reading that last sentence over and over. It seems like such a simple sentence to type, and some may even pass over it while reading…but look at how powerful those words are! Why would any teacher not want to give more ownership to their students if it will help them be more successful as a learner?

I am so proud of my team and all that we have done this past month. It has been easy in regards to the realization that this is what kids need. It hasn’t been easy in regards to the amount of work. We’ve had to front-load a lot and prepare in advance for anything we think a student might need to be successful. We have had countless texting conversations that go into the wee hours of the night (and thanks to Bitmoji, they’ve taken on a whole new level of conversation). All of this isn’t to say look at us. I’m saying this to let others know that it’s worth it! Seeing the success our students are having makes every minute spent on this completely worth it.

Would I ever go back to a more traditional learning environment? I’ll answer that with a different question. How much learning was really taking place?


Wait…I’m Not Personalizing?

A little less than a month ago, I sat in a PD session with my teammates and Jamie (@mrsackart), our Innovation & Learning Coach. The screen said “Personalized Learning.” I immediately thought about all of the things I was already doing in my class to personalize learning for my students. Jamie clicked to the next slide and I stared at the following chart by Barbara Bray (@bbray27) and Kathleen McClaskey (@khmmc) – for more information, visit www.personalizelearning.com.


Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization (v3) from Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey


I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I realized I didn’t personalize anything for my students. I created an environment where I individualized everything, then turned around and said that I personalized learning for my students. My team and I looked at each other at the same time, and we shared a look that signaled the beginning of a journey that led us to where we are today. I did what every educator does when they need direction…I sent George Couros (@gcouros) a tweet! Within minutes I had a notification feed full of contacts and educators willing to help.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.17.22 AM

From that tweet, I came into contact with Travis Lape (@travislape). He was willing to take time out of his day to do a GHO with us and fill us in on what he and his district in South Dakota are doing to personalize learning for their students. It was after this conversation that our team said this is exactly what our students need…and we were officially in! We’ve been developing our plan to personalize math for the rest of the year ever since. Today was the day we presented everything to our students. Angela (@benner4) created a great slideshow explaining what PL is and what it is going to look like in 5th grade at Lewis & Clark Elementary. We are excited to get the ball rolling. Even more than that, our kids are excited to be able to take ownership over their learning. It is their learning after all. They realize that. What took us so long?

Later this afternoon we will begin day 1 of our students taking more ownership of their learning. Many outsiders think that means the job is easier for the teachers now. Ha! No, our job is not easier; our job is different.


I’ve held off blogging for many years, just like I held off joining Twitter when it first came out. That was a mistake, and I think I finally realized that this was a mistake too. I’m excited to share my thoughts and document our journey. It would be an honor if you joined in with us!