Personalised Learning – April Homework

As part of our engagement with the Microsoft Showcase Schools Project, this month we are looking at the subject of Personalised Learning in our school.

The background to this is this paper on Personalised Learning, one of the Transformation Framework papers in the series produced by Microsoft Education.  It’s an important read for schools, particularly in the UK where the phrase ‘Personalised Learning’, has been replaced by new buzz words and phrases that have perhaps taken attention away from some of these themes.

Four our April homework, we have chosen the following questions to reflect on:

  1. Share an example of a personalized learning activity or environment in your school that has made a difference in student performance outcome.
  2. What technology tools are most useful in helping teachers personalize learning environments?
  3. What is the Roadmap for Differentiated Learning in Your School?

So… here goes!

  1. Share an example of a personalized learning activity or environment in your school that has made a difference in student performance outcome.

One of the ways that we allow learning to be personalised is through the Design Thinking curriculum.  The Design Thinking process supports personalised learning as within the areas there is scope for pupils to develop their own areas of learning, answering their own questions and thoughts and working within groups to produce their own outcomes linked to a common objective.

A great example of this in practice was the ‘Our World; My Future’ project which kickstarted our Design Thinking Curriculum a couple of years ago.  We started this in our Designated Special Provision with and this post describes the final event which consisted of children with complex Speech and Language difficulties giving TED style talks on a subject of their choice to a packed lecture theatre. It was a breakthrough project for us which showed the community what can happen when you raise the ceiling on aspiration for children and led to our Northamptonshire ICT in Education award in 2014.

Here’s a video with a summary of the project…  We dare you not to smile at the children’s faces after they have presented at the end.

Our World My Future Presentations from Christian Green on Vimeo.

Since then, we have developed Design Thinking further across the curriculum and there are distinct phases within year group topics where children are involved in immersion, ideation and synthesis in order to shape their learning around their own interests, abilities and preferred learning style.  This is still work in progress for us and each topic we meet, we get better at shaping the outcomes around the students.

2.  What technology tools are most useful in helping teachers personalize learning environments?

Recently, there is evidence of OneNote being used effectively to support differentiation and to support pupils with SEND. OneNote supported a pupil with ASD and ADHD to collaborate with his peers in a format that he felt comfortable using and where the social barriers he faces were irradiated. OneNote also allowed a child with dyspraxia to have his work valued and enabled him to collaborate within his group in a way that improved his self-esteem and so allowed him to produce one of his best pieces of work this year.

A more general tool has been the Windows 8 1 to 1 deployment in Key Stage 2 where children have access to a range of tools and online resources to shape their learning in different ways.

Allowing pupils to research their own learning and to make choices about the outcomes and how these outcomes will be presented support self direction- a good example of this is the DSP Our World My Future project- this allowed children to research, collaborate, refine and edit their own work whilst working at their own pace within a specific time.  A future step for this would be to use sway and OneNote to enhance the learning and use of technology whilst supporting pupils own learning.

 3.  What is the Roadmap for Differentiated Learning in Your School?

The biggest change for us is in the context of the current changes to the UK education system, described by many as ‘life beyond levels’.  This (should be) a transformational time for UK schools with a focus on deeper learning as opposed to a previous relentless drive to move children on and up through levels.  As part of this change, we are also looking at the introduction of non-cognitive competencies such as the 21st Century Learning Design materials in school.  Building in opportunities to plan, teach, assess and report on these competencies with the same importance as academic outcomes is a central part of our thinking at the moment and we look forward to engaging further in these materials further as we progress through the Summer Term.

In terms of a differentiated approach, we are now moving away from differentiation by ability and are focusing more on deepening learning opportunities for children as opposed to moving them on to new content too quickly.  Use of taxonomies such as Blooms and SOLO are important to underpin this process and rubrics such as those within the 21CLD materials are also really relevant.

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