In Fulton County, teachers are personalizing learning to ensure that all students’ needs are met. This
can be a challenging task to take on by yourself. Luckily, in the day and age of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), we have opportunities to gather ideas from colleagues. PLCs are often used as a way for teachers to collaborate and create common lessons and meaningful activities. PLCs also help teachers stay on pace and ensure that effective teaching practices are being used. I was fortunate enough to observe Woodland Middle School’s 8th grade Math Team in this process . I will say that I was astounded by the work these educators are accomplishing.
From the moment I entered this 8th grade PLC, I could tell that the teachers valued ideas from their colleagues. First, the team reflected on the week and then proceeded to adjust the current lesson plans as they saw fit. This showed the teams effort to make sure every student was learning. An easy alternative would have been for them to stick to the original plan and simply plow through the material. Instead, they reflected midweek and then adjusted the game plan for lessons that needed revising. After their group reflection, the team focused on planning for the following week. To help with this procedure, they referred to the learning map they had created during preplanning. During this time, they were meticulous and focused on identifying skills and standards. This "standards first" approach is key to their success as educators. During this time, instructional ideas were shared. Ultimately, the teachers choose the activities based on what they felt their students needed.
After the PLC meeting, I was then able to see a few of these teachers in action. First, I observed Mrs. Roberts’ class. During this period, the classroom felt more like a coffee shop than a traditional classroom. Small groups of students were working collaboratively. Mrs. Roberts was at the front table working with a student individually. During this observation time, I spoke with one of the groups and asked them what they were working on. Hearing their responses let me know that Mrs. Roberts had considered a variety of personalized learning strategies when planning for her students. Each student was using the Class Notebook where three activities had been listed. Her class had choice and voice as to which assignment they wanted to work on. I then asked the students about Mrs. Robert’s station in the middle of the room. They told me that was where she was available if they were stumped and needed help. Without knowing the official term, the students were letting me know that Mrs. Roberts provided just-in-time direct instruction when they were struggling. As students needed, they could just walk up to the center table and sit with Mrs. Roberts for individualized instruction. I could tell a positive learning environment had been fostered for these 8th graders who felt confident enough to reach out and admit when they were confused.
I then visited with Ms. Marshall’s class. She had a set up similar to Mrs. Roberts' room. Students were working in groups while Ms. Marshall was working individually with a student. I noticed that every student was engaged with a Nearpod lesson. However, Ms. Marshall was not at the front of the class leading the lesson. This excited me because I knew this instruction was not teacher-directed but instead, self-paced. I asked one small group what they were working on. The students told me they were using Nearpod to practice using Quadratic Formulas and they were also using their AVID notes to review. They shared how they were allowed to move at their own pace. If they needed additional help, they were able to meet with Ms. Marshall. These students also had the option of collaborating with one another as they worked. During my observation, they were not only effectively experiencing Flexible Pacing but also Just-In-Time Direct Instruction. This group mindset of learning helps enforce that the teacher isn’t the “keeper of the knowledge” but empowers students to own the knowledge and help their peers.
In reading this, you may be thinking “this is every day as a teacher” which you would be correct.
But good instructional practice is not always recognized. The strategies implemented by the 8th grade math teachers were not flashy. They didn’t break out the big guns and wow the students with loads of technology. They used effective instructional best practices while integrating technology to compliment their goals and personalize their work.
This was an example of how teachers use the power of PLCs to gather and plan effective lessons together and then reflect and modify them so that their students can benefit and learn. Sometimes, we focus
on the technology and make that the center of a lesson. We forget to focus on the best practices of instruction. That was not the case during my observation at Woodland. I am still in awe
of these teachers. Not only are they doing their job, but they are meticulously deciding what is best for the students and their success. They understood that using tools like Class Notebook and Nearpod could help them personalize learning. They also understood that although technology is great, it isn’t the silver bullet.
KSU iTeach Coach
On Thursday, February 1st, students from Northview High School’s AP Spanish classes and 9th Honors English classes participated in World Read Aloud Day. Students came to the Media Center and recorded their readings. All of the read alouds were shared out with teachers in Fulton County and selected teachers in Canada, Central America, and Egypt.
How can reading children’s picture books possibly address high school standards? Well, simply reading grade school level texts does not meet the Georgia Standards of Excellence. However, when paired with technology and an international event, reading children’s picture books not only meets GSE, it also makes for a transformative student experience.
ELA standards require students to present information clearly and appropriately based on audience and purpose, make strategic use of digital media to enhance understanding and interest, and adapt speech to a variety of contexts. Additionally, international technology standards were addressed. This included using digital tools to connect with learners from other cultures in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning and by contributing to a project team by working effectively towards a goal (ISTE Student Standards).
Activities like World Read Aloud Day connect with Fulton County’s 7 Principals of Personalized Learning. The students who participated, were able to engage with students outside of the classroom to build or polish skills, they repeatedly read a text to improve fluency, and they worked on reading with prosody (using inflection and intonation). These varied strategies help support student learning in fun and engaging ways. Additional, students exercised their choice and voice; teachers allowed students to select the book they read and with whom they read. Many students read their books independently; however, students who preferred to work in groups chose books that accommodated multiple readers. Specifically for the AP Spanish students, they were able to have choice in demonstrating their learning and mastery of Spanish by selecting books with vocabulary they were confident in reading correctly.
Mrs. Rodriquez and Mrs. McBee, teachers from Northview High School, challenged their students with this project. By taking part in World Read Aloud Day, their students demonstrated proficiency in GSE standards and developed their digital citizenship identities while contributing to the learning of younger students by modeling the behaviors and the actions of engaged learners.
It can be a risk worth taking for teachers when they step out of their comfort zones and stepping up their teaching!
- Ana Hale
KSU iTeach Coach
A teacher’s job seems to be never ending, with multiple meetings to attend, lessons to teach, and new strategies to implement. It can be tough getting teachers on board with a new initiative or idea when they may feel it doesn’t fit into their classroom vision or they feel they don’t have the time to devote to learning a new skill or strategy. Personalized learning is an amazing method that can help students fall in love with learning and helps teachers find ways to reach all of their students on personalized and individual levels. Just like any other strategy, however, a teacher must totally buy in and feel that it is what is best for their classroom and students. Roswell North Elementary School is working hard at their implementations with personalized learning. With the help of Laura Wood and a team of amazing teachers across grade levels, Roswell North is seeking to enhance their use of personalized learning in their very own “Collaboratory.”
The media center specialist, Laura Wood, principal Maureen Lilly, and me, the KSU technology coach, have been working hard with a team of about twelve teachers to reinvent the library to become an extension of their classrooms and personalized learning. Rather than being a quiet area for kids to read and check out books, this team is seeking to make the library become a “Collaboratory” in which students come to collaborate and learn through personalized learning kits, a MakerSpace, and the use of technology tools available. Although this is a dream as of now, the team is working hard to make this a reality very soon.
The most important aspect of this team is the fact that it is a team of teachers who seek to use personalized learning in their classrooms daily. In our meetings, they come filled with ideas of what the library could be, making it an extension of their ideal room. We discuss, plan, and collaborate on different tools that would be needed to bring the space to life. Teachers are encouraged to share their ideas and their understanding of what personalized learning is to develop this library. With the help of teachers, Mrs. Wood, and I are able to create kits that are filled with individual activities for our students to complete that also tie into their current standards. Through collaboration with the teachers, each grade level has their own unique space and kit for each month, and students are given the tools and choices necessary to be independent while in the Collaboratory. Not only are the kits focused on state standards, but they also represent personalized learning through varied strategy where students are given various ways to receive information through digital media, videos, or books, choice and voice where students are expected to make choices on their learning and present work with personal reflection, and just in time direct instruction where teachers provide print materials or reminders to add to the kits. This Collaboratory team embodies personalized learning by providing teachers with their own voice and ideas of personalized learning to bring it to life for their kids.
All the teachers at Roswell North Elementary School are constantly in search of a new way to teach their students, hungry for more ideas on personalizing their classrooms! They want their students to feel excited while learning, while also providing meaningful and individualized experiences for their students. Through the use of Seesaw, Flipgrid, Plickers, Kahoot, Office 365, Chatterpix, Shadow Puppets, and more, teachers are constantly giving their students new ways to access materials and present their understanding. The Collaboratory would not be possible without the energy Roswell North teachers bring to their classrooms daily.
KSU iTeach Coach
As educators, we understand the benefits of the policies and initiatives we are asked to follow. We read of their successes and research-based strategies. Professional development sessions are built to support us with implementation throughout the year. However, there remains the question of how, why and when?
This is especially true when trying something new. Teachers don’t trust themselves to know how to troubleshoot if problems occur. They’re not sure if students will be responsible enough to handle it. However, students will most often have the technical skills to navigate through a new tool. Let your students take the lead. Make yourself the learner with them!
In my experience as a teacher and a technology coach, I have found that younger students respond well to this type of exploration. They are so excited and ready to learn. Their trusting attitudes show that they have faith in themselves and in you as the guiding teacher.
The teachers I support at Lake Windward Elementary School and High Point Elementary School are invested in exposing their young learners to a variety of teaching strategies and many choices for exploring content. Kindergarten teachers have engaged students in personalized learning by planning together as a team. Each grade level at both schools demonstrate strength in numbers. They plan rotations together and make goals for what they’d like to see their students improve in. The first grade teachers are working to increase their students’ independence and accountability. Students have been participating in project creation to show mastery of their learning as well as Seesaw post and activities.
How can you reach this level of teamwork with your team? What can you do to offer best pracices to your students? We all know personalized learning is an idealistic strategy for encouraging student-centered instruction. It is what we all want as educators; a way to make sure every child is getting what he or she needs. Implementation is not as easy as it sounds, but here are a few strategies that helped me with supporting others on their journey towards Personalized Learning.
Step 1: Take Risks
R – release your insecurities; have confidence in doing what’s best for students
I – invest in peer support; this isn’t a task to accomplish on your own
S – struggle through hardships; don’t get discouraged
K – know that the more you practice the better you’ll get
S – settling with the familiar isn’t an option; challenge yourself
Step 2: Set High Expectations
H – have faith in your abilities and knowledge as a teacher
O – own up to your work; give yourself credit
P – prepare and accomplish goals
E – expand your pedagogy; grow, change and learn
Step 3: Accept Failure
D – decipher your mistakes; understand and learn from what went wrong
E – embrace difficulty
F – fail forward; learn from the setbacks
E – emerge greater on the other side
A – adapt to problems that will occur
T – trust that your best is enough
KSU iTeach Coach
While teachers are adjusting their teaching to personalize learning for the students, they can learn from two incredible teachers at Conley Hills who are using UDL to meet their diverse learners’ needs. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offers tools to help students succeed. UDL is a research-based framework that uses cognitive neuroscience to help teachers adapt flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences. I was fortunate to be able to co-teach with two ESL teachers at Conley Hills Elementary School who used this framework in highly effective ways to meet their students’ needs.
UDL is based on three principles
• Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
• Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
• Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.
Both of the teachers that I worked with were very focused on meeting these principles and using technology to aid them. When introducing the concepts, the teachers both used technology to allow the English Language Learners (ELLs) to have multiple means of representation. Ms. Gibbs' 4th-grade class was assigned an opinion piece to write. She began the assignment by reading an article with her students. The students were able to use Google translate to translate a variety of words. Another technology that Fulton County provides is Snap & Read Universal that allows the students to level passages and also translate words, phrases, and sentences. The students were able to speak in their native language throughout the lesson to help each other comprehend the text and discuss their ideas. According to The IRIS Center research, “ELLs who are immersed in classrooms where only English is spoken may find the experience (and their learning) incomprehensible. By allowing students to use their native language in the classroom, teachers can also enhance their ability to learn English” (2011).
Mr. Ferguson used Project-Based Learning (PBL) standards with a lesson on Native Americans. This lesson incorporated writing, reading, and social studies and also used a Google Tour Builder and hyperlinked Google Slides to allow his students to conduct research. These tools along with integrated video, photos, and reading allowed the students to comprehend information in a variety of ways. The students were able to navigate through the research in flexible groups and discuss the information in English or their native language. The students also used Google translate and Google images to help with comprehension.
Both of the teachers gave the students choice to demonstrate their knowledge. The pace of the lessons was flexible. Some groups needed longer, and the teacher allowed for more time to complete the task while giving alternative assignments and enrichment to the groups that finished faster. The teachers also provided provide alternative modalities for expression. Ms. Gibbs used BrainPOP concept (semantic) maps, Storyboard That and Microsoft Word with the help of Immersive Reader to help the students with their writing skills. Mr. Ferguson had the students develop videos, hands-on projects, and Vokis to demonstrate their knowledge.
The teacher and students set goals for their end products. Mr. Ferguson let the students choose the product that they were going to share. The student shared their end product on a Padlet, and the students were able to view the products, comment and like them. Ms. Gibbs allowed the students to share their products and take home an end-product to share with their parents. Additionally, the students were able to choose the tools used for production and make decisions on color, design, and graphics. This created a sense of pride in their end results.
As I worked with these teachers, I was impressed by how well they knew their students. They provided support when needed, but also challenged the students to try new things and think creatively. They listened to the students’ ideas and suggestions and adjusted their teaching when needed. The students were so engaged in learning that they didn’t want to stop working. Overall, I saw engaged and motivated students, and it all started the way it should – with evidence-based lessons, proven techniques, personalized lessons, effective planning and most of all, great teaching by great teachers.
-Kristin Siembieda, KSU iTeach Coach
The principles of Personalized Learning and STEM education were showcased last week as Woodland Elementary’s Third Grade team culminated their integrated unit on European Exploration of North America with a Museum Walk. While targeting the Personalized Learning principles of just in time direct instruction, mastery-based assessments, and varied strategies as well as the Engineering Design Process, this team of teachers implemented an integrated unit that had students and teachers alike pumped for learning!
Classes studied the European Exploration of North America and learned about the different explorers, the obstacles they faced, and their accomplishments. Taught through a variety of methods including direct instruction, curated digital resources, and student-paced Nearpod lessons. After all of the content had been taught, each class was then responsible for becoming an "expert" on their chosen explorer. Students demonstrated mastery by creating an artifact of their choosing to be included in the classroom exhibit. Peers collaborated and created digital artifacts using Chatterpix, Sway, PowerPoint, and coding maps using Ozobots with 3D printed boats or thinglink-esque poster presentations to demonstrate their learning.
The willingness to allow students to make choices about their learning is empowering and can produce truly amazing results. The enthusiasm of these students was almost palpable as they perused each exhibit, taking it all in. Woodland’s third grade teachers worked together as a team and provided an #aWESome personalized learning experience for their students!
-Karleen Vaughn, KSU iTeach Coach
Approximately every 90 minutes, about 240 miles above the Earth, the International Space Station (ISS) passes over our heads. Students study space, but do they really “get” it? New Prospect students had the privilege of talking with the astronauts aboard the ISS in real time, having submitted questions for the astronauts to answer.
NASA has named September 2017-September 2018 as A Year of Education on Station (YES) to educate students on the ISS and its role in NASA’s journey to Mars. This year two former teachers turned astronauts will be aboard the station during different missions. STEM activities for all grade levels are available on the NASA website, http://www.nasa.gov to assist teachers. These lesson plans highlight the STEM curriculum, but are not limited to STEM teachers. All teachers can take advantage of these lessons.
Each year schools can apply to be one of a small number to talk live with the astronauts aboard the Space Station. In April, New Prospect Elementary teacher Kati Searcy submitted an application for her school to have this opportunity. New Prospect was chosen and given October 23, 2017, as the date for their live chat.
To prepare for this event, a website was created http://www.talktotheiss.weebly.com. Students applied to ask questions of the astronauts and this site was used to help educate them about the ISS. Over 184 students submitted questions and 20 students, grades K-5, were selected to ask their question. One of the criteria of selection was that the question be one that could not necessarily be answered through a Google search. Schoolwide, cross-curricular activities to prepare for the event gave each student the opportunity to feel part of the event. Choice boards gave students multiple options for completing activities related to the ISS. Prior to October 23, two dry runs with NASA gave students the chance to practice asking their question and NASA to get the camera and audio controls set.
October 23, 2017—The school is abuzz with excitement. The cafeteria is set for the 20 minute conversation with astronauts Joe Acaba, a former teacher, Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei. Students and parents are seated and quiet. Mission Control verifies that the astronauts and New Prospect are ready to begin. Then our students come to the microphone, one-by-one, to ask their questions. Every classroom in the building was tuned to this live event so that all students and staff could view it. This event is broadcast on NASA TV. It can be viewed all over the United States and anywhere there is access to the World Wide Web. The astronauts sounded as though they were closer than 240 miles above the Earth. The time went by too quickly.
After the event, Ms. Searcy heard from parents and grandparents who were able to view the event even though they were not at New Prospect at the time. One email came from grandparents in the Netherlands who watched their grandchild ask a question of the astronauts.
This once-in-a-lifetime event made the space program and the ISS real and personalized the space program for each New Prospect student.
Suzanne Petersen KSU iTeach, Instructional Technology Coach
It wasn’t too long ago that paper and pencil tests, scantrons and student projects saturated the documentation process as teachers attempt to document student progress and growth throughout each learning unit. With the onset of new technology, including apps and programs created to provide students with opportunities for creativity and reflection, the way students are able to share what they have learned in the classroom is ever increasing. Seesaw is just one way that many teachers across Fulton County are not only able to allow students to self-reflect and share what they know about content in a variety of ways, but also to document their learning progression and the mastery of content to their teachers and their families.
Since students learn in a variety of ways, it is safe to say that they also must be able to demonstrate what they have learned differently in order to effectively communicate their understanding in their own unique learning style. The Seesaw app offers our young digital natives an opportunity to do just that while giving them the ability to share what’s happening in class by accessing their own Seesaw profile through Launchpad. All across the county, teachers are digitizing their assessment techniques and using this application to offer students creative ways to model their mastery using photographs, text, drawing tools, creative voice and video recording of content!
In Kindergarten and first grade classrooms, teachers and students are working together to take pictures of student work while using the microphone feature to capture the student’s fluency of reading the onscreen text. In reading, students are creating digital book summaries, sharing in text, audio or video the text features they are learning about in class. In math, the live drawing feature allows students to demonstrate active problem solving while calculating the numbers on screen and explaining the process verbally while they work! Students can now even create their own paper slide shows including their personal drawings and summarized content describing what they have learned in science and social studies! This app lends itself to some interesting assessment alternatives for every subject!
Help students get excited about assessments using selfie mode! The video capture tool can be quickly and easily used to ask students to reflect back on topics discussed during reading and writing conferences given simple prompts (What I am doing well is…What I need to work on is…). This helps confirm that all involved understand the common goals the teacher, students and parent are working together to achieve throughout the learning process. Creating a quite Seesaw recording area is perfect for this! You can even prompt students to self-record their own responses to your EQ to get a quick measure of progress. Working with the standards in mind to ask students to demonstrate exactly what they are expected to know is a great way to know if future lessons require some remediation or reinforcement of concepts. And by taking a picture of standard assessments along the way, parents and students can see their growth over time; never again will that last test never make it home for parents to view!
In this selfie driven digital age that we live in, the options for learning and demonstrating what students have learned using Seesaw are almost endless! Why not use it to your advantage, empower students by giving them a chance to demonstrate what they know in a way they understand and connect them to the technology that is drives their interest while providing a great way to show off what they have learned with the world at the same time! Please see your KSU coach, Instructional Technology Specialist or the following resources to help you get started today!
By Ann Marie Carrier, KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
Northview High School
Arguably, one of the most overlooked areas for creating personalized learning opportunities occurs in physical education classes. After all it is a common misconception that all kids do in PE is play dodge ball and walk the track, right? Well, dodge ball is not the only activity that occurs in Fulton County Physical Education classes. PE teachers are responsible for meeting Georgia Performance Standards. But standards aside, physical education teaches students skills and strategies that will impact students and empower students to care for their health for the rest of their lives. What is more personal to any student or adult than their own physical well being?
At Northview High School, department chair Jenn Barr is using QR codes to empower students to create workout routines that increase flexibility, fitness, and muscle tone. Coach Barr came to me shortly after the beginning of the school year and said, “I have an idea, but I don’t know how to do it.” She explained that she wanted students to complete a variety of exercises, but she can’t be with every student to demonstrate how to perform all the exercises. She wanted to know if there was a way to have students use their devices to pull up videos featuring these exercises. Using Just-in-Time direct instruction allowed Coach Barr to empower her students to access this information whether it was from the gym at NHS, or it was at home when students were working out on their own.
We worked together to find videos that demonstrated many of the exercises she wanted the students to do. They had names like “Sumo Jump Squat” and “Extended Plank Jack.” I linked the videos to QR codes; students simply scan a QR code when they are faced with an exercise they are unfamiliar with and can immediately see how it is done. Coach Barr can help students create custom workout routines that focus on personal fitness goals students identify for themselves. She and a student can Co-Plan a personalized workout with a simple set of QR codes for the exercises that will help them attain their individual fitness targets.
Johns Creek High School
Students completed an online survey once a week for the semester to gather data over a few months. For at the end of the semester, students evaluated their personal data and identified strategies they could use to reduce stress. Providing students personal data on which to reflect is a great way to Co-plan Learning. This data collection ultimately led to students developing their own goals and objectives to improve their health which they can use for a lifetime. Students were also able to use the Voice and Choice personalized learning principle as they applied the strategies they had learned about in class to their data in order to identify sources of their stress and ways to reduce stress.
Lake Forest Elementary School
One standard physical education teachers are responsible for is: “[student] values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.” How in the world can you teach children and young adults to value physical activity for social interaction? While that may seem like a stretch, one way to meet this goal is to use Varied Strategies such as a field trip! What’s great about field trips nowadays is that students never have to leave school to go somewhere. Discovery Education’s “Virtual Field Trips” is one way to access incredible locations like the Houston Texans’ practice facility or center court at the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
At Lake Forest Elementary School, students took a virtual field trip to learn about the NFL and how playing for 60 minutes a day can make a difference in their lives. 3rd and 4th grade students enjoyed themselves, got to be an insider at a NFL practice facility, and learned how physical activity can be enjoyable, an expression of self, and a cool social activity. The best part is they lost no academic time traveling and the school didn’t have to pay for buses!
Personalized learning should have a valuable impact on all students. These were just a few examples of how personalized learning can be implemented in physical education classes. Personalizing physical education will help our students grow up to be healthy and active adults. I encourage all PE teachers to reach out to their technology coach!
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
Second grade students at Barnwell Elementary School were excited to start their science unit on life cycles. They began by learning about tadpoles and butterflies and the cycles they go through. Taking an authentic approach to learning, Ms. Silverboard wanted students to have a way to watch chickens hatch. To accomplish this, she started a “Chick PBL” (Project Based Learning).
With the help of several KSU iTeach coaches, I was able to set up a live stream to allow students to watch the process of baby chicks hatching. Ms. Silverboard and Mrs. Stiers acquired the 12 eggs and placed them in the incubator. The live stream was set up through Safari Montage so that students and teachers could watch the live stream in the school. The live stream was also available outside of the school through FultonTube. This allowed students to continue their curiosity at home and share what they were learning with their family. Personalized learning takes on a whole new meaning when students get the opportunity to learn about something that interests them. Students were able to co-plan on this project by asking their own questions and deciding on research material through the use of Destiny and MakinVIA. With students taking a more active role in their learning, they truly are engaged and excited about what they are learning about. A second grader named Jordan expressed, “I like showing my family what I am learning about in class”. Sean, a second grader in Ms. Silverboard’s class, was able to see the start of the first egg hatching at home.
“I like showing my family what I am learning about in class. " Jordan
The 2nd grade students used this live stream to help with their Chick PBL. Through this PBL students took on the role of a farmer so they would know how to take care of the baby chicks once they hatched. They started by defining words they were not familiar with like “incubator”. Now that the chicks are hatched, they take care of them until they are ready to go to their forever home. One second grader named Kaleb described seeing movement when they were eggs and he enjoys watching them play now that they are hatched.
KSU iTeach Coach
Barnwell Elementary School
585 Cobb Ave
Kennesaw, GA 30144