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I have a friend. Our children go to school together, which is how
we met four years ago. Unlike many friendships, ours did not start
out with a gradual introduction, or even with a handshake and a
“nice to meet you.” Our friendship was cemented at the moment
we realized we were sending our firstborns off to school with
packs on their backs double their kindergarten size and terrified
looks on their faces that said what they could not make sense of
or form into words:
What is happening here and whatever it is, please,
please, please, do not make me do it.
We were strangers but for that uneasy, sideways glance when we
weren’t, when we acknowledged and assured one another,
“It will be okay, they will be okay,
we will all be okay.We will get
through it together.”
Thank goodness for shared experiences.
As it turns out, my friend also happens to
be a teacher—an exceptional one. She is
the teacher that parents request for their
children even though parents can’t
request teachers for their children where
we live. I guess moms, dads, and
grandparents figure it’s worth a shot.
Pretty Colors by Ava F. Mirabito
She, like many teachers, will know her students: what they love,
what they don’t, and how they make sense of everything in
between. She is a teacher who makes the call to share great
news; she will also have the tough conversations when learning
or behavior require some extra attention. In spite of what she is
able to build within her students, there is one conversation that
always comes up when we get together.That conversation is
about personalizing learning.
As smart, caring, and committed as my friend is to her students and her profession, she, like
other teachers, feels as though she can’t keep up, isn’t on the cutting edge. She feels like
what she has always known and done just isn’t quite enough now.
Here are some of the questions that come
up. See if they are familiar to you:
• How do I provide students with what they need—as a group and individually?
• How do I find the time to create opportunities for them to think about what they know,
discover and pursue what they want to know, and apply what they’ve learned,
especially when they all do it so differently in pacing and approach?
• How do I do all or any of that when there is just so much of everything to do in a day?
• How do I make the most of the time I have with my students?
• What am I supposed to do with all of this technology? Am I using it the best way I can?
Should I use it at all? How and where can I find the time and the training to use
technology well in teaching and learning?
We don’t necessarily refer to it as “personalized learning” in our
conversations, but that’s exactly what we are talking about.
I can see and hear the frustration of my friend—wanting to figure it out but
not knowing how—how to use instructional modes more effectively,
incorporate technology more strategically, organize learning into
pathways for each student rather than one pathway for all students.
This is still the same teacher that parents clamor for, the teacher who can
tell you nearly every interest and need each of her seven-year-old students
hold and have. If she doubts what she can offer to students, then surely
there are thousands standing in line with her.
She underestimates her
role and the ways she has
learning, the ways she has
laid the groundwork. She,
as the teacher, matters
most. While technology
can expand her influence, it
does not diminish it.
Anna L. Mirabito
Complete Reflection 1 or think about these questions:
What comes to mind when you think of personalized learning?
How would you describe it?
What are a few of the ways you already personalize learning for
What in personalized learning would you like to know more
In the Handbook on Personalized Learning for States, Districts, and Schools, Sam Redding
describes the importance of relationships, student engagement and development of
personal competencies, all of which require, at the center, a caring, engaged, and
Relationships.Teacher’s relationships with students and their families add onto the standard definition
of personalization two new elements. First, it introduces the teacher as a central figure, engaging the
learner in identifying what is to be learned and in the design of how it is to be learned, intentionally
building students’ personal competencies that propel learning, and forming relationships with students
and their families to better understand the student, the student’s needs, and the student’s aspirations. In
fact, the teacher uniquely possesses an asset for the student through “relational suasion,” as described by
The teacher possesses the power of relational suasion that technology cannot match.Through the teacher’s
Through the teacher’s example and her instruction, the student learns to value mastery, to raise expectations,
raise expectations, to manage learning, and to broaden interests.The teacher is singularly capable of teaching
capable of teaching social and emotional skills and engaging families in their children’s academic and
academic and personal development. (pp. 6–7)
Student Engagement. “Enlist[ing] the student in the creation of learning
pathways” honors the student’s interests and aspirations, encourages the
student’s sense of responsibility for learning, and exercises the student’s
ability to navigate the learning process.”
Personal Competencies. “Enhanc[ing] the student’s “personal
competencies” means intentionally building the student’s capacity to learn
by incorporating into instruction and teacher–student interactions the
content and activities that enhance the student’s cognitive, metacognitive,
motivational, and social-emotional competencies.These four personal
competencies are the propellants of learning and together form students’
Infographic of the
Download it here
Teachers strive to find more effective, more efficient ways to reach their students.They
might let their technological insecurities get the best of them sometimes, but relational
suasion, the intentional design of instruction, makes teachers unique and even more
Many teachers are reshaping what they've always done instructionally.They've figured out
how to spend time working with their students on really important things—like asking great
questions and solving big problems and providing one-on-one or small-group instruction
that builds learning connections as much as it strengthens human connections.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Ask questions. Commit to finding a better
way. Find like-minded travelers for the journey.
Thank goodness for shared experiences.
Your journey starts right here.
Complete Reflection 2 or think about these questions:
How have you experienced relation suasion with your
When you reviewed the Personal Competencies
Infographic, what questions or ideas did it raise?