Everything we have learned about Personalized Learning

It is crazy to think about our journey down this road to personalized learning just started a little over a year ago. We loaded up four facilitators, three administrators and headed off to Maine to observe some schools. Professionally this is one of the best years of my life. I get to empower and support four amazing facilitators that are trying to do away with grade levels.

“My biggest celebrations have to be our amazing team and looking back at what our learners have created and how they’ve grown as individuals. As a team I feel we’ve grown so much and really work to better one another, support one another, and step up when it’s needed. In many instances help was provided without even being asked! I don’t know how I functioned as a one part teacher before now that I have this team!” ~Krista Hansen

It is exciting times in our program right now. Coming back after christmas break we felt great because our parent survey that went out about enrolling for next year was complete. We had 100% of our parents want to enroll their learner back into the program for next year. With these results our district has now decided to add onto the program by adding four new studios next year at Freedom Elementary and Journey Elementary. Parents have a choice of either Team Create (traditional) or Team EPIC (personalized). We are excited to be adding more learners and facilitators to our team. I am also excited to be starting a new position next fall as the Harrisburg School District’s Innovative Programs Director. This new role will help roll out our personalized learning programs across the district as well as some other innovative projects that we are working on.

“So many celebrations from this year! It’s an everyday thing! It’s super fun watching learners pass MT’s or understand MT’s better. It has been fun to watch how creative the kids can be when you give them some space! The learners are always excited for changes and ideas that will help them with their work!” ~Kali Gottsleban

We are busy now hosting Friday visit days for other school districts. We promised ourselves that we would do this to help other schools just as we were helped when we started this journey. We would not be here without the support, collaboration, and mentoring that happened. We made several trips to Chaska MN to see Pioneer Ridge Middle School. We also have worked with the staff from Cornville Charter in Maine.

Our visit days have been a great time to share, reflect and answer questions others may have about our program.

“It’s also so incredible to look back and reflect on how far our learners have come in such a short amount of time. They have truly been so open minded and flexible throughout this whole start. For that, we are so lucky! I feel so much more empowered to teach and learn from them when I have the time to have those conversations about what works/doesn’t work for them and how they’d like to showcase their own ideas and creativity to show their learning. They are incredible individuals and I feel that this program recognizes each of them as an individual which is empowering for them and us.” ~Krista Hansen

One of the keys to our success is the focus on the following:

  • The focus on the 16 Habits of Mind
  • Daily 3 foundation for math
  • Daily 5 foundation for reading

“Since the beginning, I knew we were doing something that no one else in the state has done or attempted. Looking back, many of our “first” ideas have been tossed out the window because they didn’t work how we thought they were going to once the learners arrived. Thankfully, we, facilitators and learners, have been so flexible throughout this entire process.” ~ Shana Wagers

These three things have kept us moving forward and empowering our learners to drive their learning. Each learner is on a different learning journey, but they all are still built on a foundation that helps support them. It has been incredible to see 7 year olds walk up and advocate for what they need.

“I have grown a lot as a facilitator. I always used to make the decisions and decide what my students needed. Now, they can articulate to me what they need and how they want to learn or what they want to learn about. It took some time to change my mindset completely, but I could not go back to the traditional way of teaching after being a part of this wonderful program.” ~ Shana Wagers

The best part of this entire program is when we get out of the way and allow our learners to show proof of mastery. They are so creative and passionate about their learning that they will go above and beyond what is expected. We have worked hard on empowering them to drive their learning this year. Here are a few samples of what this looks like.

“I think the biggest celebration for us as a group is the community that we’ve built. It’s great to see when I have a mix of age levels working on the same MT in math, and even if a middle passes an MT before a molder of an older, they’re still celebrated for passing by their peers. I think we can also celebrate how well we work together as a team. I feel like our bond has gotten stronger as the years gone on and we are trusting each other more and letting go from our traditional ways.” ~ Tyler Muth

We have received many encouraging messages from our parents about what they are seeing at home. This video shares a glimpse into how our parents are feeling about this program after seeing it on one of our shadow days.

The last part that has truly made this year special is the work that these four facilitators have put into building this program from ground up. Are we where we want to be? Not yet, but they continue to work hard and focus on each learner in the program. It has been incredible to be along for this ride. If I can be of any help to you or your district please let me know.

Connect with Travis on Twitter or visit his website.