George Lucas Educational Foundation

Personalized Learning- Introduce Yourself!

Personalized Learning- Introduce Yourself!

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Welcome to our new group on Personalized Learning on Edutopia! Jenifer Fox and I will be moderating this group, and I look forward to discussing your challenges and successes with personalizing learning in the classroom. I'll let Jenifer introduce herself, but Jenifer has been both a teacher and school principal. She is the author of Your Child's Strengths, and we're currently working on a book for Jossey-Bass on differentiating instruction in the classroom that will be published next summer. A little bit about me- I'm the mom of two boys with learning disabilities, and they have attended both private and public schools. I've become well versed in the art of the IEP and 504 plan, and how difficult accommodations for kids with special needs can be, let alone trying to accommodate the needs of every child in the classroom. I started the LD Podcast, a podcast about learning and learning disabilities, featuring interviews with experts in education and learning from across the country over 5 years ago, as a way to help parents, teachers, and educators learn more about how children learn, and how all of us can play on the same team- trying to do what's best for kids in the classroom. Through podcasting, I met and began to work with Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, and currently serve as Director of Operations for the Podcamp Foundation. The Podcamp Foundation helps run community-based digital media "unconferences" both in the US and abroad, which focus on helping people learn about everything from blogging to podcasting, using social media tools, search engine optimization and more. I have tutored children at our middle school, teach podcasting to middle schoolers as part of an after-school program, and regularly teach classes to adult learners on digital media and digital media strategy for business. It turns out that the same attention-getting mechanisms I use to make sure my adult students learn and retain information work equally well with students at many levels. This experience using digital and social media tools has led me to also serve on the Technology Committee for our local school district, as one of the parent/community members. Along with teachers, administrators, the instructional technology coordinator, and IT department folks, the Tech Committee is charged with helping the District make decisions about what new technology they should implement or invest in, with a focus on making sure it meets instructional needs first and foremost. I know this is going to be a great group, where we can share both the challenges and successes of personalized learning and differentiating instruction in the classroom. Please introduce yourself, and feel free to start threads and become involved!

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Robin Nehila's picture
Robin Nehila
5th and 6th grade math teacher

Hello! I am Robin, a first year middle school math teacher. I joined this group because one of things that bothers me is the trouble I have figuring out how am I going to differentiate for advanced and strategic students which is a requirement on my lesson plans!!!! Writing "give harder problems, and circulate the classroom to assist students who require it" is getting old fast!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Robin!

I always found how "hard" a problem is is a fairly subjective thing anyway- sure, there are problems that require bringing more skills to the table rather than just one, but often the "hardness" can be the more challenging and fun problems to conquer. Have you considered giving kids more contextual-based problems? Problems they can figure out using their home and school environment to help make the math come alive for them? More than word problems, sometimes "doing something" with the math they learn can help kids make connections and help even instruct others in the class about why the math they are learning is important and relevant.

What grade/subject are you currently teaching in math? My 7th grader tried out algebra for the first marking period, but has recently dropped down to "normal" seventh grade math because he was having problems keeping up with the pace as well as the more formulaic book-keeping required in algebra. He's one of those kids who needs more challenge, but also needs to be kept an eye on to make sure he's getting his brain beyond second gear and not "phoning it in", so your comment has personal relevance to me as well.

Middle school is a really challenging time- kids go through a big developmental change in that 12-13 range, when they just start to get those frontal lobes and begin to be able to think more abstractly- but not all kids reach that point at the same time, and kids with ADHD sometimes are as much as 20-30% behind their peers (according to Dr. Russell Barkley)- they'll get the maturity they need eventually, but not all are ready for it straight out of the box. before this year, I never thought maturity had much to do with math curriculum, but I learned otherwise for sure.

Let's start a new thread for this one, and find some additional resources to help you meet some of the challenges you face in the classroom!

Jenifer Fox's picture
Jenifer Fox
Strengths Consultant, Author, School Leader

Hi Robin,

Might I suggest you look into some online math programs. Heterogeneous, technology-rich, classrooms can support advanced learners. Students can do a few things: They can work independently online with Khan Academy learning more advanced problems, or perhaps search out a Math webquest. Technology is a largely untapped resource for reforming and restructuring activities within the math class. Do a Google search for "Math projects for advanced learners". There are lots of good programs online and projects that kids can work on that will differentiate for you.

Robin Nehila's picture
Robin Nehila
5th and 6th grade math teacher

Thank you both so much! Whitney you are 100% right about the range of developement for kids these age!
I am going to check out some of those online resources for sure!

Ambar K. Mitra's picture
Ambar K. Mitra
President, Actus Potentia, Inc.

I want to develop personalized learning tools for k-12 Math. I plan to make these tools freely available on the web for download.
I plan to begin with arithmatic. The topics will comply with the core-curriculum for Mathematics.
In this regard, I am seeking collaborators who would play the role of advisors and evaluators. Any interest from the participants in this group?

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Hi! I'm a Special Education teacher for grades 6th-8th at an inner-city school. And I've been the Mentally Gifted teacher. Talk about two ends of the spectrum! Personalized learning is my middle name - although accomplishing that can be very challenging! I know what I want to do in my mind and often see how it can be done. Of course, getting it done is another thing!

For one, we are now an inclusion school where I co-teach with classroom teachers. Getting to the most productive "co-teaching" classroom has been a struggle for the past 3 years. I'm not utilized as much as I wish I would or that I think would best help the students - both with and WITHOUT IEPs. It's a process but it does make it very frustrating for me.

Kids don't want to be pulled out at this age - who can blame them with the comments that come from others. Also, I don't want to always pull them out - they miss such rich content in the classroom. I wish we could find a way for us all to embrace co-teaching and see it as the "blessing" it really could be.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to discussions here on how we can best reach ALL learners.

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