Personalized Learning

If you haven't read Daniel Pink's Drive, go read it. I'd even be so bold as to say put off what you're supposed to be doing tonight in order to read it. His book is all about this. How we need to give students opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It's been one of the most defining things for me in my career in the past year or so. 

I have really found that authentic learning experiences come from authentic questions. That can be hard to do at times, but most of the time we can still meet standards while still giving students some level of choice in what interests them the most (even if it doesn't fully interest them). I've really started to do this with assigning essays. I no longer give essay topics. Instead, I brainstorm with my students a multitude of topics, and they each choose one that interests them the most. I've found way more engagement in this! Even though they still need to write about the novel in some way, they're able to write about it the context of things they really care about. 

We can personalize learning by giving them a voice in what they explore. I realize that not all classes have the same level of flexibility as Language Arts (and this is precisely the reason I don't teach anything else), but I think we have the ability to give more choice than we do on a daily basis. However, choices are scary for teachers. What if the student learns more about the subject than you know and you can no longer give him/her guidance? What if you don't know how to elements are going to react, and there's a great possibility of starting a fire? What if...?

I'm really coming to believe that my student's education is more important than the "what if..."s. The fact is, I do want my students to be smarter than me. I want them to be able to do more than I know how to do. Or at least to be able to do different things than I know what to do. I want them to be people that learn and explore, even if no one tells them to do that. Personalized learning can do that.