Neil Jarrett writes that personalising the learning of every student in the primary classroom is not easy. Until recently, he had frequently tried to juggle too many activities and rushed around attempting to support too many students. However, he has found a way forward.
“Personalised Learning is hard” – (Michael Feldstein, 2015)
Very recently, I read a blog post from Annie Murphy Paul (2016), a well-known consultant who often writes about education and learning. She argues against personalised learning, saying children should learn together and that they can’t teach themselves. However, she does not mention technology and the impact it can have on personalised learning.
A year ago, I would have agreed with her; that was before a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ scheme (every child expected to bring in their own tablet or laptop) was introduced to my school. Although, it is not always easy or even possible for every student, in every lesson, using iPads has proved to be a successful way of integrating personalised learning into my practice. It has allowed children to self-teach and the online learning has become very collaborative.
Here are some fantastic tech tools that can be used to take the strain out of personalised learning.
A great tech tool to start with is Socrative. You cannot personalise a pupil’s learning until you know exactly where they are in terms of progress and attainment. Socrative allows you to set a quiz/test and then easily send it to your students.
The results are very easy to interpret and this makes it effective in tailoring the next steps and allowing you to individualise tasks to meet different learners’ needs.
Google Classroom is an excellent class management tool. It is like Facebook, but your only ‘friends’ are your students and their only friends are their classmates and teacher. There is a stream, where teachers can post notices, assignments and comments, and students can comment and ask questions.
Personalisation of learning is particularly effective using Google Classroom when setting assignments. They are easy to establish and can be tailored to meet your children’s different needs. Press ‘send’ and the project or activity will be sent to them as a notification and also as an email. Monitoring development of study is excellent using Google Classroom too. If you set a deadline to ‘turn in’ the assignment, you can easily see who has and who hasn’t achieved the closing date.
Next, it’s time to assess the work and Google Classroom makes this easy. Go into the assignment page and you can allocate grades, points and compose comments about each piece.
I often use Google Classroom to set homework which usually comprises of some research, watching a video or carrying out a task at home. The students then return to the class with knowledge that can then be channelled into project-based work.
Directing your students’ learning can be very challenging when students are working on very different topics. Google Docs is key for supporting teachers with this. There are a number of different types of Google Docs:
- A word-processing program – confusingly also named Google Docs.
- A spreadsheet program – Google Sheets.
- A slide-show program – Google Slides.
All these websites/apps allow you to assess and then direct learning as you go. Whilst the students are working, the teacher can log into any of the projects and see what is being done. Comments or suggestions can be made or the teacher can make changes and corrections to work that has been completed. Pupils can work individually or collaboratively. A number of them can be authors of a document and type simultaneously. There is no need to worry if someone is discreetly ‘doing all the work’ as the teacher can track who is contributing.
TodaysMeet creates a ‘classroom chatroom’. Simply visit the website, create a room and then give all of your learners the name you have chosen for the room. They can then discuss problems they are having, support each other and share new ideas.
I often set up a room at the start of a project and encourage my students to keep in touch as a whole class through it.
When you have personalised learning, an end of unit test is almost impossible – unless you want to create 30 different ones! Typeform is an excellent website which helps you create questionnaires to gauge student achievement and evaluate where further scaffolding may be needed.
The program scores the questionnaires for you and collates the information in an effective way. The analysis is very visual and this makes it easy to see if your students have reached their goals.
The final step after an assessment is to allow students to reflect on their learning.
All of your students may have done different work and have achieved different outcomes. Why not ask them to share their ideas with the class? What better way to distribute the learning even further than video recording this?
Recently, I used Facebook Live to give my students an audience and also to share the learning we had undertaken with the world!
Another way to use video recording is to ask students to make a video reflection of their project. I usually give them some prompts to talk about:
- What worked well?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What were some obstacles to your learning?
- Did you need any more resources?
- What would improve your final outcome?
- Did you achieve your goals?
- What didn’t work so well?
In conclusion, although personalised learning can be difficult and problems DO arise, the way technology can assist and support teachers is invaluable. Technology can certainly takes the strain away.
About the author: Neil Jarrett
Neil is a Year 6 teacher and maths coordinator at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. He has a Masters Degree in education and is interested in teaching ideas and educational technology to support student learning. He tweets from @EdtechNeil and his blog is EdTech4Beginners.
This article was published by Consilium Education on International Teacher Magazine.