Pathways to Personalized Learning

Free Online Event: Pathways to Personalized Learning

Education Week offers you a big-picture look at how states, districts, schools, and education companies can better serve students through personalized learning.

In this virtual event, Education Week journalists and guests will staff online "discussion" rooms on a host of topics, including the research arguments against personalized learning, how self-paced learning can go awry, low-tech personalized learning strategies, principals’ views on personalized learning, how to train teachers for a radical change, and 5 big mistakes education companies are making in trying to serve schools’ personalized learning needs. Join them on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET for a deep dive into PL education in your schools. This Online Summit provides you with a unique opportunity to interact directly with reporters and PL practitioners and experts and to watch a livestreamed series of interviews with the reporters after they’ve “broken it down” for you.

Thank you to those who joined us for this event, which took place on Dec. 6, 2018. Below, you can watch the reporter wrap-up we streamed at the end of the event.


Dec. 6, 2018
1-3 p.m. ET*

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Event Video

Personalized Learning: In Conversation With Education Week

Download a PDF of the key takeaways

  • 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET | #PersonalizedLearningSummit Discussions Open

    Education Week journalists and guests provide practical takeaways on personalized learning.

    Room 1: The Research Arguments for (and Against) Personalized Learning
    Moderator: Benjamin Herold, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guests: Elizabeth D. Steiner, Associate Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation; John F. Pane, Senior Scientist, RAND Corporation; Laura Hamilton, Senior Behavioral Scientist and Distinguished Chair in Learning and Assessment, RAND Education
    ‣ Join Education Week’s educational technology reporter Benjamin Herold for a hard look at 6 key research insights about the benefits and drawbacks of personalized learning. Benjamin will examine how the research behind this approach to learning is very weak, why people are still confused about what exactly personalized learning is, what practical constraints educators face in making this work, why there are reasons to be encouraged about the movement, how the worst fears about this approach are not frequently realized, and why teachers need to play a major role in any personalized learning initiative.

    Room 2: How Self-Paced Learning Can Go Awry and What to Do About It
    Moderator: Michelle R. Davis, Senior Contributing Writer, Education Week
    Guest: Michele Eaton, Director of Virtual and Blended Learning, Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, Ind.
    ‣ Join Education Week Contributing Writer Michelle R. Davis and Michele Eaton, the director of virtual and blended learning for Indiana’s MSD of Wayne Township, to learn more about the implementation of online and blended-learning programs to foster a successful personalized educational environment for students. Find out how to execute such an initiative without expensive software and digital tools, and craft a winning professional development program for teachers taking on blended-learning instruction. Avoid problems before they arise, including a lack of follow-through by students in self-paced or competency-based versions of such programs. Eaton and Davis will share important lessons to allow ed-tech leaders to sidestep problems as they implement blended-learning initiatives.

    Room 3: It's Not All About Technology!
    Moderator: Sarah D. Sparks, Assistant Editor, Education Week
    Guests: Mary Carol Stanley, Principal, Luella Middle School, Locust Grove, Henry County Schools, Ga.; Anthony Townsend, Principal, Locust Grove High School, Henry County Schools, Locust Grove, Ga.
    ‣ For many school districts, personalized learning is a strategy rooted in technology. But the Henry County, Ga., school system is taking a different approach. The 42,000-student district instead gives students customized support in academic areas where they struggle, and carves out time each week for them to explore their passions through structured projects. The personalized strategies vary, school by school, and technology is only one piece of those efforts—not the center of them. Join Education Week Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks and a pair of principals from Henry County as they talk about the district’s approach, and what other K-12 systems around the country can learn from it.

    Room 4: What Do Principals Believe? Exclusive Survey Offers Answers
    Moderator: Kevin Bushweller, Assistant Managing Editor, Education Week
    Guest: Arzinia Gill, Principal, DelSesto Middle School, Providence, R.I., School District
    ‣ Join Education Week Assistant Managing Editor Kevin Bushweller to talk about the newspaper’s exclusive, nationally representative survey of principals’ views on personalized learning. Principals across the country are embracing the idea of personalized learning, but not always putting it front and center in their schools. They think the idea—and the technology that supports it—holds promise for engaging students and allowing teachers to focus on what’s important. But they remain concerned about the negative impact that ed tech, in the guise of personalized learning, can have on students’ ability to think deeply and connect with peers. What do you think?

    Room 5: Training Teachers for a Radical Change
    Moderator: Sarah Schwartz, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guest: Stacy Stewart, Principal, Belmont-Cragin Elementary School, Chicago, Ill.
    ‣ Join Education Week Staff Writer Sarah Schwartz to discuss what it takes to re-train teachers to work in personalized learning environments. To close big achievement gaps between its students, one elementary school in Chicago decided to boost its personalized learning practices. It put in place a 6-month professional development regimen to prepare teachers to make it work. But even with such a prolonged, intensive, and intentional agenda, the school found that training teachers to put in place personalized-learning models remained a big challenge. Hear about what the school learned and the adjustments it made.

    Room 6: 5 Big Mistakes Education Companies Are Making
    Moderator: Sean Cavanagh, Senior Editor, EdWeek Market Brief
    Guest: Chris Liang-Vergara, Chief of Learning Innovation, LEAP Innovations
    ‣ Join EdWeek Market Brief Senior Editor Sean Cavanagh for a discussion of how scores of education companies are pinning their hopes on schools buying their personalized learning products and services. But all too often, companies are making rookie mistakes in not assessing the market properly, failing to understand that the definition of personalized learning ranges widely from one school to another, and promising more than they can deliver. Learn how to avoid those mistakes and better serve the needs of schools.

    Room 7: Microsoft Education: Unlock Limitless Learning
    Guests: Representatives from Microsoft Education will include: Jami Bezy, Ben Dylla, Michelle Peterson, and Kathy Ross
    ‣ Every student is unique and deserves an education that unlocks their limitless potential. Empowering educational practice to achieve this goal means providing students tools that personalize learning and give curious minds the independence they need to learn the way they want—the way that best suits their needs, abilities, and unique potential. It also means not only preparing students for the real world, but also equipping them for the future. In this discussion room, find out how your schools can give students the kind of tools and immersive experiences that truly spark creativity and offer students the opportunity to see that there is nothing standing between who they are and who they can be.

    Room 8: Texthelp: Enabling Students to Personalize Their Own Learning
    Moderator: Kathleen Colburn, Product Manager, Texthelp
    Guest: Vicki Davis, Author, Cool Cat Teacher Blog @coolcatteacher
    ‣ There is a major shift happening in education today—one that is geared towards personalizing the learning experience for each and every student. Davis, a full-time teacher and EdTech influencer, joins Colburn to discuss the current trends and best practices for implementing personalized learning. They’ll also be discussing how differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) fit into the personalized learning framework, as well as how ed tech can provide students with choice and voice in their learning. To wrap up the discussion, Davis will share some of her favorite ed-tech tools during a “super share.” We want to hear your favorites as well!

    Room 9: Education Elements: Strategies for a Personalized Approach to Professional Development
    Moderators: Jill Thompson and Kelly Freiheit, Associate Partners, Education Elements
    Guests: Keith Koehne, Executive Director, Curriculum & Instruction, Lakota Local School District, Liberty Township, Ohio; Heidi Zollman, Curriculum Administrator, Rochester Public Schools, Rochester, N.H.
    ‣ Join Education Elements’ guests Keith Koehne and Heidi Zollman to hear why Lakota Local School District and Rochester Public Schools feel passionately about personalized professional development, what obstacles they’ve encountered, and what lessons they’ve learned along the way. Education Elements believes that teachers across the country are evolving their teaching and learning, increasingly shifting towards a more student-centered, personalized approach. In turn, school districts are reflecting on their own approach to professional learning. They feel that educators—like students—need personalized professional learning. Education Elements is partnering with several districts to support their efforts to shift both classroom instruction and professional development.

  • 2:30–3:00 p.m. ET | Final Reporter Wrap-up
    Personalized Learning: In Conversation With Education Week
    Led by the reporters, the Education Week newsroom will close out the day with insights from the discussions they’ve had with you, the readers.

Guests, Speakers, and Moderators

Kevin Bushweller
Assistant Managing Editor
Education Week

Bushweller is an assistant managing editor for Education Week who oversees coverage of educational technology and the K-12 marketplace. He also manages the Digital Directions and EdWeek Market Brief online channels and serves as project editor of Technology Counts, Education Week's annual report about the state of ed tech. Bushweller began working at Education Week in 2000, and has been covering education for newspapers and magazines for more than 25 years. Earlier in his career, he was a senior editor for American School Board Journal and Electronic School magazines.

Sean Cavanagh
Senior Editor
EdWeek Market Brief

Cavanagh is a reporter and editor for Education Week, where he has covered a variety of beats since 2002. His primary focus is on business and technology issues in K-12 education. Previously he covered math and science education, charter schools and school choice, and federal policy. Before joining Education Week, he was a reporter for daily newspapers in Tennessee and Florida.

Michelle R. Davis
Senior Contributing Writer
Education Week

Davis is a senior contributing writer for Education Week who covers educational technology, including trends around digital education. Davis began working at Education Week in 2002 as a federal education reporter after covering Congress and the federal government in Knight Ridder's Washington bureau. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and gets to observe education from a personal perspective as she watches her two children progress through public school.

Michele Eaton
Director of Virtual and Blended Learning
Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, Ind.
2018 Leader To Learn From

Eaton focuses on staff and course development for Achieve Virtual Education Academy and provides leadership for the district's blended initiatives. She is a Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Certified Education Technology Leader; a CoSN 2016 Next Generation Leader; a member of the class of 2018 Education Week Leaders to Learn From; president-elect of the ISTE Online Learning Network; conference chair for the Indiana Connected Educators organization; and moderator for #INeLearn chat.

Arzinia Gill
DelSesto Middle School
Providence, R.I., School District

After serving many years as an ELA teacher in schools throughout Rhode Island, Gill became the principal of Governor Christopher DelSesto middle school in June 2014. Before that time she served in Providence Public Schools as an ELA specialist responsible for the coordination of all aspects of instructional and/or educational reform in the area of English/Language Arts in Middle and High schools. She participated in the development, implementation, and monitoring of schools' improvement plans, corrective action, or restructuring plans. She monitored the implementation of all programs related to the district curriculum and ensured alignment of teaching and learning and school wide restructuring efforts.

Her work adopting a personalized learning model for three different Providence Public School academies, is examined in the recent Education Week article, “Case Study: Giving Students More Personalized Choices Takes 'Great Teaching.'

Laura Hamilton
Senior Behavioral Scientist and Distinguished Chair in Learning and Assessment
RAND Education

Hamilton is a senior behavioral scientist and distinguished chair in learning and assessment of RAND Education, a faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and an adjunct faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Sciences and Policy program. Her research addresses topics related to educational assessment, accountability, the implementation of curriculum and instructional reforms, education technology, and students’ social and emotional learning.

Her current projects examine new high schools that emphasize youth development and personalized learning, a social and emotional learning intervention for elementary school students, performance-based educator evaluation, and the measurement of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies. She served as a member of the committee that revised the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and is currently a member of the steering committee for the Center for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s Assessment Work Group.

Benjamin Herold
Staff Writer
Education Week

Herold is a reporter covering educational technology for Education Week. He joined Education Week in 2013. Previously, Herold covered the Philadelphia school district for WHYY public radio station and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. He has won awards as the nation's top education beat reporter and for his feature reporting on the city's mass school closings. He has previously worked as a policy researcher, an independent documentary filmmaker, and a training specialist for rape-crisis and domestic-violence-prevention organizations.

Chris Liang-Vergara
Chief of Learning Innovation
LEAP Innovations

Liang-Vergara is the chief of learning innovation at LEAP Innovations, a Chicago nonprofit that works with educators and schools in Chicago to pilot personalized learning strategies and design new school environments. LEAP invites ed-tech companies to pilot products in a network of its schools. Products have to go through a selection process by a review panel that includes learning scientists, before those tools are allowed in the organization’s schools. At LEAP, Liang-Vergara co-develops evidence-based guidelines for designing personalized learning through the LEAP Learning Framework and supports school teams in the design and implementation of locally crafted models throughout the city of Chicago. He’s worked as a K-12 teacher in a number of countries, and he has advised the U.S. Department of Education.

John F. Pane
Senior Scientist
RAND Corporation

Pane is a senior scientist who researches the implementation and effectiveness of innovations in education, with a focus on personalized/competency-based learning, education technology, math, and science. His expertise includes the application of experimental and rigorous quasi-experimental methods.

He led the first large-scale evaluation of schoolwide personalized learning and has led or co-led numerous experiments that randomized individuals or schools. This has included a large-scale effectiveness trial of mathematics tutoring software in 147 schools in 51 school districts in seven states. Several of his efficacy experiments also examined the effects of education technologies on student outcomes. He recently held RAND’s Distinguished Chair in Education Innovation, a three-year position.

Sarah Schwartz
Staff Writer
Education Week

Schwartz is a reporter for Education Week who covers the teaching profession and classroom practice. Before joining the staff, she was an Education Week intern, covering education technology. She has also worked at a middle school in East Harlem, New York. Schwartz holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University.

Sarah D. Sparks
Assistant Editor
Education Week

Sparks is a reporter for Education Week who has covered education research and the science of learning for more than a decade. Sarah joined Education Week in 2010, and has published on education and other issues in Education Daily, the Republican-American, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, and others.

Mary Carol Stanley
Luella Middle School, Locust Grove, Henry County Schools, Ga.

Stanley has been in education 28 years. She worked for eight years in pre-school and kindergarten and 20 years in middle grades. She’s been an administrator for 10 years. She’s been involved in our district’s work with personalized learning since 2014.

Elizabeth D. Steiner
Associate Policy Researcher
RAND Corporation

Steiner is an associate policy researcher with expertise in education policy, policy analysis, program evaluation, and qualitative methods and analysis. Steiner’s research is focused on ways to improve public education in the U.S., reduce racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, and improve equity of educational and life outcomes.

Her work also addresses implementation of public policy—how systems of rules and incentives intended to encourage behavior toward a desired outcome function in practice, and how policies could be improved to promote desired outcomes.

Stacy Stewart
Belmont-Cragin Elementary School, Chicago, Ill.

Stewart uses an approach that combines personalized learning with dual-language education and social and emotional learning at Belmont-Cragin, a school community of 575 students in Pre-K through 8th grade, including more than 90 percent who qualify for the free and reduced meal program and 68 percent English-language learners.

Stewart, who has led Belmont-Cragin for eight years and has been a CPS employee for 25 years, has persevered and excelled in the current semi-permanent school facility. She has secured grants, partnerships and volunteers to provide resources to students and teachers. To close the student achievement gap, she worked with nonprofit LEAP Innovations last year to increase personalized learning practices, with a focus on professional development to prepare teachers for the new instructional approach. The school has improved their designation from a Level 3 rating in 2010 to a Level 1+ in 2017. Belmont-Cragin currently is recognized nationally as an “Ashoka Change Maker” school with a Gold Circle NAEYC Accredited Early Childhood Center. In 2016, the school also earned the “Exemplary Award” for social and emotional learning from CPS.

Anthony Townsend
Locust Grove High School, Henry County Schools, Locust Grove, Ga.

Townsend is currently working in his sixteenth year in K-12 education. Within the last ten years, he has worked to redesign traditional school environments to establish a more personalized approach to education as a middle school and high school principal. Townsend currently serves as the principal and lead learner at Locust Grove High School where he is working to establish an advisory program designed to capture the passion of the students and connect it back to individual content.