Beyond the Buzzword: Personalized Learning
In Parma, Idaho, we believe blended and individualized learning go hand-in-hand to provide students with a fulfilling educational experience that challenges them in the best possible ways. Technology allows our teachers to take a snapshot of students’ reading levels at any time and paint a clear picture of each student’s individual achievements.
Although our literacy scores have always been good, we recently identified that reading resources in our middle school were scarce. Harry Potter, the Divergent Series, and other popular fiction books enthrall students, but they often struggle to read nonfiction text.
We aimed to help students personalize their reading experience by providing a larger variety of nonfiction texts. In this way, students were able to learn about topics that interested them. Thanks to a grant, we were able to purchase myON in 2015. The new digital literacy environment offered on-demand access to more than 10,000 fiction and nonfiction books.
One challenge was that the rigor of Idaho Standards and Common Core State Standards didn’t leave much room for independent reading outside of required readings. Having a digital literacy environment motivates students to read what they enjoy – mobile, anywhere at any time.
Upon logging onto the platform, students are prompted to take a Lexile® test to measure their reading level. Next, they’re asked what topics they enjoy reading and learning about, from sports to dinosaurs to cars, and animals. The platform lets them generate a personalized library of books based on their reading level and interests, creating an environment where students are excited to read about topics they love.
Teachers use the digital environment to individualize the learning experience while classes are in the computer labs, and on student 1:1 devices. With frequent, in-platform Lexile assessments, educators stay in tune with their students’ reading accomplishments and are well aware of each student’s strengths. This data carries over into teachers’ traditional, whole class-lessons, where they can individualize assignments and readings for each student.
Individualized reading also allows gifted students to excel and improve their reading level. The tool also serves as intervention in assisting students who may struggle with reading.
To spread the love of reading, teachers have adopted what they call “myON Mondays,” where students spend class time reading content of their choice. Other educators assign science-based book reports and track independent reading time to ensure that each student is improving at a pace they’re comfortable with.
One exciting addition the District made to the program to motivate students to read independently, was a contest where the student who read the most pages would win a mountain bike. In three months, one student read more than 5,000 pages, which dramatically improved his reading level. We believe success stories like this would have never happened had we not adopted a digital literacy environment focused on personalized learning.
Our educators have embraced facilitating personalized learning. They work diligently to incorporate students’ interests into every lesson possible. Although some of our teachers were timid about combining personalized and blended learning, this combination has become part of their daily classroom routines. Individualized learning now comes as second nature and the benefits to our students are outstanding.
This article is excerpted from the Fall/Winter Special Report: Going Digital, Speeding Past Strategy, Turning into Tactics. This report is available for free download here.