Education Opinion

Personalized Learning in K-12 Schools: How Do We Make It Happen?

By Matthew Lynch — December 04, 2014 4 min read
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The idea that no two students learn in exactly the same way is nothing new. Even back in the 1800s, Helen Parkhurst was advocating for an educational system that took the personalized needs of the student into account when developing curriculum and helped children learn independence, both academically and in life. Her “Dalton Plan” was formulated with the thought that all students learn at a different pace and should be allowed to take the time they need to work through their studies and explore the areas that interest them the most.

Before the rapid advancements in technology of the past two decades, Parkhurst’s ideals were just that: lofty and unrealistic in a typical K-12 classroom. With teacher accountability rising, and test scores being high-stakes, the idea of taking the one-on-one time to accommodate the needs of each student has often been viewed as far-fetched. Where can educators find the time?

Enter technology from companies like Epiphany Learning™ which offers a personalized learning app. The very tools and technology that allow us to pay a bill from our phones, or track our entire schedule through a tablet, also make personalized learning more of a possibility in K-12 classrooms. Personalized learning is no longer an obscure theory that applies to a small group of students who can afford to attend the schools that offer it; technology makes it a mainstream possibility and one that has the ability to positively impact all types of learners in this generation of K-12 students.

Technology is making personalized learning easier. Educators now have more resources available than ever before when it comes to accommodating students on their own academic paths and making sure they are successful. In just a fraction of the time, teachers can accommodate many different learning styles with the same materials, and ensure that each style is being addressed.

Students are embracing this push toward greater empowerment in their own learning journeys, too. When students understand why they learn a particular way, and what learning style will benefit them the most, they can seek out their own ways to develop those strengths. Giving students a voice, and a choice, when it comes to how they learn is the first step toward empowering them in their own learning and career paths.

Learner Profile™

The first part of personalized learning implementation is to find out exactly how each student learns. Epiphany Learning™ considers the auditory, kinesthetic and visual strengths of each student and then uses that information to identify personal, student-directed learning styles, highlight strengths and struggles, and link hobbies and interests.

The proprietary system of Epiphany Learning™ allows educators to find out the exact Learner Profile™ of a student to create a personalized plan for learning. This step eliminates any guesswork associated with creating personalized plans by guiding the educator through the process. It can also be eye-opening when it comes to the way a particular students learns and can inform an educator’s future lesson and in-class activity plans.

Learning Paths™

This is where the profile of the learner and technology really come together to provide a customized academic path for students. Instead of teachers spending an excess amount of time brainstorming the different ways to teach the same material in several different ways, learning paths like those suggested by Epiphany Learning™ can outline it and point teachers in the right direction for personalized learning success. The Epiphany Learning™ system also involves students, empowering them to suggest assignments and provide feedback on their own academic journey.

These learning paths also provide a clear connection between parents, students, teachers and administrators on progress of students, allowing modifications based on what seems to be working and what may not be fitting the learning needs of a particular learner.

Skills Paths™

The next step in the personalized ideology of Epiphany Learning is to help students develop beyond academics alone. This includes learning important life skills like self-discipline and behavior, and developing healthy learning habits and attitudes towards academics. Students who have a positive approach to their academics, the “career” of their childhoods, are more likely to succeed in the workplace. In other words, impactful learning cannot exist in a vacuum. It must be supported by habits that foster a lifelong pursuit of learning and productivity.

Making Personalized Learning a Reality

With the right resources and data, teachers can make any classroom a place of true customized learning. Technology makes it possible for students to truly approach academics from a place of strength and to never feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable because of the style of teaching, or face the fear of falling behind. As personalized learning options like those developed by Epiphany Learning™ are integrated into classroom models, students will benefit - and so will their teachers.

What is an important personalized learning software feature that would benefit your classroom?

If you would like to invite Dr. Lynch to speak or serve as a panelist at an upcoming event, please email him at lynch39083@aol.com.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.