Sunday, October 29, 2023

Unlocking Personalized Learning with Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In today's fast-paced world, traditional one-size-fits-all educational approaches need to be updated. Students have diverse needs, preferences, and learning paces, making it crucial for schools to adapt to this variability. Enter artificial intelligence (AI), a powerful tool that has the potential to revolutionize education by personalizing learning experiences for every student. Here is how AI can be harnessed to tailor education, ultimately fostering better engagement and knowledge retention learning to ownership.

Adaptive Learning Paths

Learning paths are paramount for students as they provide a structured and personalized roadmap for their educational journey. These paths guide students through their learning activities, ensuring that they receive content and challenges that match their competency levels. By tailoring the learning experience, students are more likely to remain engaged and motivated, which leads to better knowledge retention and a deeper understanding of the concepts. AI's ability to analyze student data, such as their learning history and performance, allows for creating adaptive learning paths. These paths can be fine-tuned based on each student's strengths and weaknesses, ensuring they receive content that challenges them just enough to stimulate learning without causing frustration.

Customized Content

Customizing content in the classroom is essential because it acknowledges the diversity among students and recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is no longer practical. When we personalize content to align with students' interests, backgrounds, and learning preferences, we create a more engaging and relevant learning experience. Customization fosters more profound connections between the subject matter and students' real-life experiences, making it more relatable and meaningful. It also enhances student motivation and enthusiasm for learning, which, in turn, leads to better comprehension and retention. One of the significant advantages of AI in education is its capacity to curate and deliver content that caters to individual preferences. With AI, teachers can select or create materials that align with students' interests, making the learning experience more engaging and relevant.

Real-time Feedback

Real-time feedback is critical to students as it offers immediate insights into their performance and understanding of the subject matter. Unlike traditional delayed feedback, which can lead to confusion and frustration, real-time feedback allows students to correct mistakes, clarify doubts, and adjust their approach instantly. This timely information helps students stay on track, maintain their motivation, and build a deeper understanding of the material as they progress. It also promotes a growth mindset by encouraging students to view mistakes as opportunities for improvement rather than failures. AI can provide students with instant feedback on their assignments and tests. This feature not only reduces the wait time for feedback but also offers personalized suggestions for improvement, helping students understand and rectify their mistakes effectively.

Learning Preference Adaptation

Student learning preferences matter significantly because they recognize the individuality and uniqueness of each student. People have different cognitive styles, strengths, and ways of processing information. By acknowledging and accommodating these preferences, educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment. When students are taught in ways that resonate with their learning preferences, they are more likely to be motivated, retain knowledge more effectively, and develop a deeper interest in the subject matter. AI systems can identify a student's preferred preference, whether it's visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. This knowledge enables the system to deliver content in a format that best suits the individual, optimizing their learning experience.

Time Management Assistance

Time management is a crucial competency for students. It equips them for life in ways that extend far beyond the classroom. Learning to manage time effectively helps students meet deadlines, self-regulate, balance their academic and personal lives, and reduce stress. It fosters discipline, responsibility, and a sense of control over their educational journey. AI-powered tools can help learners manage their time efficiently by providing schedules and reminders tailored to their coursework, helping them stay on top of their assignments, homework, and study goals.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics holds immense importance in improving student learning as it harnesses the power of data to foresee potential challenges and opportunities for each student. By analyzing historical performance, behavior, and engagement data, educators and institutions can identify students who may be at risk of falling behind or those who may excel with additional challenges. AI can predict a student's future performance based on their past achievements and behaviors. This information can be used to offer early intervention for students at risk of falling behind, ensuring that they receive the necessary support to succeed.

Artificial intelligence holds the key to revolutionizing education by personalizing learning experiences. With adaptive learning paths, customized content, real-time feedback, learning preference adaptation, time management assistance, and predictive analytics, AI empowers educators to cater to the unique needs and preferences of each student. As AI technology continues to evolve, it promises a future where education is not just about transferring knowledge but also about fostering individual growth and success. By embracing AI in education, we can build a more inclusive and effective learning environment for all students, unlocking their full potential.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Using Feedback to Drive Professional Learning

During this school year, I have been working with Stryker Local Schools in Ohio. Like all my implementations where the work is job-embedded and ongoing, learning walks are a core component. In September, the leaders and I conducted walks in every classroom over two days. As a result, I provided them with close to 5000 words of feedback. With the suggestions in hand, the leaders were empowered to review what we had seen and my recommendations to determine the focus for an upcoming professional development day I would be facilitating. I was excited for the opportunity to provide feedback to staff through a pedagogical design process. The three-hour sessions were tailored by grade level and developed based on suggestions for growth based on the learning walks that were conducted. 

Feedback is a critical catalyst for professional learning and growth. It serves as a valuable tool for educators, schools, and districts to refine their skills and improve teaching, learning, and leadership. Whether it comes from administrators, peers, consultants, or self-assessment, feedback offers insights that help educators identify areas for improvement and build upon their strengths. In schools, feedback should not be merely a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that fosters continuous learning and development. I have found this to be a critical success indicator in all the projects I am involved with, both past and present.  

One key aspect of utilizing feedback for professional learning is creating a culture that encourages open and honest communication. When individuals feel safe and supported in sharing their observations and receiving feedback, the environment becomes conducive to growth. In the sessions I facilitated with Stryker educators, there were activities every ten minutes at five to twenty-minute intervals focused on specific areas of potential growth. This psychological safety fosters a culture of mutual respect and trust, allowing professionals to focus on their own development rather than worrying about judgment or criticism.

Moreover, feedback provides specific and actionable information for educators to set goals and make targeted improvements. Vague or generalized praise or criticism can be less effective, as it needs more specificity for meaningful change. Constructive feedback should be specific, identifying what went well or wrong and how it can be improved. This level of detail allows individuals to take concrete steps toward enhancing their practice.

Self-assessment is another valuable tool for professional learning, as it encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own development. Hence, I provided numerous opportunities to reflect before and after giving specific suggestions. By self-reflecting, educators can gain a more well-rounded understanding of their strengths and opportunities for growth. Self-assessment helps individuals identify areas where they need improvement and enables them to set personal goals for growth. It is a proactive approach to learning that empowers them to control their development.

The feedback loop is not limited to just the individual; schools and districts also benefit from using feedback to drive professional learning. When organizations gather and analyze feedback curated during learning walks, they can make informed decisions about training, development programs, and process improvements. This data-driven approach ensures that professional learning initiatives align with the needs and aspirations of their workforce, promoting a culture of continuous learning and growth. Currently and over the years, I have been blessed to partner with district and school administrators committed to this process.

Feedback is a powerful tool for driving professional learning. It promotes a culture of openness and trust, provides specific and actionable insights, encourages self-assessment, and empowers both individuals and organizations to enhance their performance. By recognizing feedback as an ongoing process and a means to facilitate growth, educators can harness its potential to improve and evolve in their craft continuously. 

Reach out if you want to learn more about what this process could look like for your school or district through Aspire Change EDU's comprehensive suite of services. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Anywhere Learning

Education has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, and one of the most significant developments is the concept of "anywhere learning." This innovative approach to personalized education leverages technology to give students the flexibility and freedom to learn at their own pace, in their own space. Anywhere learning is proving to be a game-changer, benefiting students in a multitude of ways, primarily because it is entirely learner-centric.

First and foremost, the ability to learn anytime, anywhere, and with anyone benefits students by offering unparalleled flexibility. Traditional classroom-based education often constrains students with fixed schedules and locations. However, with anywhere learning, students have the freedom to choose when and where they engage with their coursework. This flexibility allows them to adapt their learning to their individual needs and lifestyles. Whether a student is a night owl, a morning person, or needs to accommodate a part-time job, anywhere learning enables them to create a personalized learning schedule.

Moreover, it is particularly beneficial for students with diverse learning preferences. Not all students thrive in a traditional classroom setting. Some may require more time to process information, while others may excel in self-directed learning. Anywhere learning provides a wide range of resources and materials, including videos, interactive simulations, and written content, enabling students to choose the format that best suits their learning style. This personalized approach fosters a deeper understanding of the concepts and promotes critical thinking. I shared the following quote in Disruptive Thinking:

Personalized learning represents an array of strategies that ensure all learners get what they need when and where they need it to succeed. 

Additionally, learning anytime and anywhere develops self-discipline and time management competencies, which are crucial for students' future success. Learning in a flexible environment requires students to take ownership of their education and manage their time effectively. They must set goals, prioritize tasks, and establish routines to succeed. These competencies serve them well in their academic pursuits and prepare them for the demands of the modern workforce, where time management is a valuable asset. With a personalized focus, educators can create lessons, tasks, or even courses that empower students to make the most of where and when they learn.

Another significant advantage of anywhere learning is its accessibility. It breaks down geographical barriers and provides education to students who may need access to quality schools or universities. This democratization of education is a powerful force in promoting inclusivity and equal opportunity. Whether a student lives in a remote area, has physical disabilities, or wants to explore a curriculum not offered locally, personalization opens the doors to a world of knowledge and virtual experiences.

Furthermore, anywhere learning fosters a global perspective. Students can engage with peers and educators from diverse backgrounds, enriching their understanding of different cultures and viewpoints. Online discussion forums and collaborative projects facilitate interactions that transcend geographical boundaries. This exposure to diverse perspectives is an invaluable aspect of a well-rounded education, preparing students for a globalized world.

Another critical aspect is the facilitation of continuous learning. In the digital age, knowledge is constantly evolving, and traditional education models may need help to keep pace with these changes. Anywhere learning allows students to access up-to-date information, courses, and resources at their fingertips. This adaptability to the evolving needs of the job market ensures that students remain competitive and adaptable in their careers.

Effective implementation requires careful planning, the right tools, and a supportive environment. Here are some suggestions on integrating anywhere learning options as a pathway to personalization:

  1. Ensure Clarity: Establish clear learning targets by unpacking the standards that will be addressed. What are the learning goals you want to achieve? A well-defined purpose will guide your implementation strategy and help ensure students stay on task.
  2. Select Appropriate Technology: Choose the right technology tools and platforms that align with your educational goals. Ensure they are user-friendly, secure, and offer the features needed for various learning activities, such as video conferencing, discussion boards, and content delivery.
  3. Curriculum Development: Adapt and create educational content suitable for online, hybrid, or remote learning. This might involve reformatting existing materials or creating new resources that engage students in an online environment. Work to maintain quality standards for content and teaching methods. Regularly review and update course materials to keep them relevant and effective.
  4. Assessment Strategies: Design effective assessment methods that work in an online context. Assessments should align with learning objectives and be easily administered and graded through digital means.
  5. Access to Devices and Internet: Verify that students have access to the necessary devices (computers, tablets, etc.) and a reliable internet connection. Consider providing assistance or resources for students who lack access to these essentials. Ensure that student data is protected and that the online environment is secure. Implement robust data privacy and security measures to comply with regulations and safeguard sensitive information.
  6. Interactive Learning Opportunities: Create opportunities for interaction, collaboration, and discussion. Engage students through asynchronous videos, discussion boards, group projects, and other interactive methods to encourage active learning and peer-to-peer interaction.
  7. Feedback Mechanisms: Set up mechanisms for collecting feedback from students and educators. Regular surveys and feedback sessions can help identify issues and areas for improvement.
  8. Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuously monitor for effectiveness. Analyze data on student performance and engagement to make informed adjustments and improvements.
  9. Communication: Establish clear communication channels to keep students, parents, and educators informed about changes, updates, and essential information related to this means of personalization. Communicate with parents and caregivers to involve them in the learning process, especially for younger students. Provide them with information on supporting their children in an online learning environment.
  10. Flexibility and Adaptability: Be ready to adapt and evolve this pedagogical strategy as technology advances and educational needs change. Embrace innovation and explore new opportunities as they arise.

As with any personalized pathway, anywhere learning is a transformative approach to education that benefits students in numerous ways. Its flexibility, adaptability to diverse learning styles, promotion of self-discipline and time management, accessibility, global perspective, and emphasis on continuous learning make it an ideal choice for modern students. Anywhere learning empowers students to take control of their education, enabling them to thrive in a dynamic and interconnected world. As technology advances, the potential for personalization to positively impact the educational landscape and students' lives is boundless.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Inclusion and Co-Teaching in the Personalized Classroom

Inclusion is essential for special education (SPED) because it promotes the social and academic development of students with disabilities, fosters a sense of belonging, and prepares them for life outside of school. It aligns with legal and ethical imperatives, is often cost-effective, and encourages teacher development. Inclusive education also positively impacts school culture, reduces stigma, and advocates for equity and civil rights, ensuring all students have equal opportunities and contribute to a more inclusive society.

Effective inclusion in a special education classroom involves creating a supportive environment where students with disabilities are fully integrated into the general education setting. It entails individualized education plans (IEPs), differentiated instruction, and universal design for learning (UDL) to meet diverse needs. Collaboration among educators, positive behavior support, and peer interactions are crucial. Accessible facilities, ongoing professional development, and family involvement are vital components. Regular assessment, flexibility, and a culture of respect for diversity contribute to successful inclusion, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to thrive.

One of the hallmark accommodations of inclusive classrooms is more adults, whether a certified special education teacher, a teaching assistant (TA), or both. Having more people in the room can be instrumental to student growth when effective co-teaching and personalized practices are in place, especially modified rotational models. The key considerations are for the adults to use available data and evidence to meet the needs of all learners, with a particular focus on those who are classified. 

During a recent coaching visit as part of ongoing work with Quest Academy Junior High School, I witnessed a co-taught experience that was implemented exceptionally well. The 6th-grade math teacher was seen at a large table, where she used adaptive tool data to pull a group of learners for targeted instruction. While she actively taught, the rest of the class was seen working at their own pace, either independently or in small groups. Students were not just completing low-level tasks as part of busy work. They were actively engaged in an adaptive learning program where they followed their own path based on ability. It was awesome to watch them access short instructional videos as needed, solve problems on dry-erase desks, and collaborate with each other when needed. 

While this was impressive in itself, I was intrigued by the actions of the TA. She was seen accessing evidence on her iPad for individual learners based on their IEP. As she reviewed submitted work, students were identified that were either stuck or needed targeted support. Had it not been for principal Nicki Slaugh informing me that she was the TA, I would have just assumed she was a special education teacher. It was refreshing to see how Nicki had reinforced aspects from a presentation I did last year on effective co-teaching and inclusion that resulted in changes to practice. Change typically only occurs with effective leadership.

The marriage of co-teaching and personalization benefits learners who need the most support from the adults in the classroom while allowing those who are already at standard to move ahead at their own pace. Learning needs can be met more effectively when aligned with Response to Intervention (RTI) and modified rotational models

Regardless of the grade level, it is crucial to understand what constitutes real inclusion through pedagogically sound co-teaching models. Please check out the image below and this website for more information.  

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Tips for Creating Must-Do/May-Do Tasks

As readers of my blog know, I am incredibly passionate about pedagogically-sound personalized learning. Who wouldn’t be excited about implementing strategies that support ALL learners getting what they need when and where they need it to succeed? What is even more intriguing is that there is no one best way to personalize, something I wrote extensively about in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms and this recent blog post. While technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged, it is not a prerequisite. Don’t get sucked into the narrative that students have to be on a device for it to be personalized.

As a presenter and coach, I show the value of various strategies educators can implement. I always point out that what might work for one person or classroom might not necessarily be the best fit for others. The key is to know your students in terms of interests, strengths, and areas for growth. Once a solid foundation has been established through sound Tier 1 instruction, the next course of action is to determine what high-agency practice will be employed. Choice is often one of the most preferred means to personalize. Don’t think you need to create an elaborate board.  A must-do/may-do menu is a great option that I see used more and more during my job-embedded coaching cycle.

Before implementing this personalized strategy, determine how the tasks will align with the standard(s) that are the focal point of the mini-lesson it will follow. Always remember the inherent value of tried-and-true instructional strategies where personalization can be integrated through student voice. The next step is to develop substantive tasks that all students must complete and choices they may engage in afterward.

Below are some general tips for creating a pedagogically sound list of activities that students must complete and then options to choose from, as well as effective implementation ideas.

  • Develop a template and embed it in your learning management system (LMS) for easy access if digital tools are incorporated.
  • Ensure alignment to the mini-lesson (content and concept specific) or areas of need (intervention).
  • Shy away from all tech options.
  • Include a challenging and relevant task(s).
  • Try to avoid overloading with too many activities.
  • Integrate an adaptive tool if available.
  • Display a timer to aid in self-regulation and pacing.
  • If possible, differentiate by having at least two variations.
  • Use data to pull individuals for 1:1 support (Tier 3) when the entire class is working.
  • Make time to monitor in between 1:1 support.
  • End the lesson with a scaffolded closure task (i.e., exit ticket) for learner accountability and teacher feedback.

In the real world, individuals often have choices in how they approach tasks and projects. Must-do/may-do activities mirror this reality and prepare students for decision-making and time-management skills they will need later in life. Their value extends even further. In a diverse classroom, students have different strengths and weaknesses. Must-do/may-do activities provide flexibility for students to choose tasks that align with their abilities. This flexibility can reduce frustration for struggling students and prevent boredom for advanced ones.

As an option to personalize, must-do/may-do tasks are essential in the classroom because they create a more inclusive, engaging, and personalized learning environment. They support students at various competency levels, encourage autonomy, and prepare students for the complexities of the real world, all of which contribute to a more effective and enriching educational experience. Most of all, they can free up teacher time to support those learners who need it the most.