CoverAbout This SeriesDiscipline-Specific Editions in the SeriesGeneral Introduction to Blended Teaching1. Introduction to K-12 Blended Teaching2. K-12 Blended Teaching Competencies3. Evaluating Blended Teaching with the 4Es and PICRATNew Content in the SeriesAppendicesAppendix A: AcknowledgementsAppendix B: Research12-3. Arts: Online Interaction12. The Arts: Intro to Blended Teaching12. The Arts: Intro to Blended Teaching12-1. Arts: Why Blend?12-2. Arts: Online Integration & Management12-4. Arts: Data Practices12-5. Arts: Personalization 15. Special Education (SpEd): Intro to Blended Teaching15. Special Education (SPEd): Intro to Blended Teaching15-1. SpEd: Why Blend?15-2. SpEd: Online Integration & Management15-3. SpEd: Online Interaction15-4. SpEd: Data Practices15-5. SpEd: Personalization
15-5

SpEd: Personalization

DELETE: Introduce teacher videos and quotes in a way that both introduces the videos and ties them to the competency of the chapter. Place your videos and quotes where they make the most sense in the chapter.

15-5.1 The Importance of Personalization in a Special Education Classroom

When we personalize our classes, we give our students some control over their learning. 

As mentioned in the data practices chapter, ELA students vary widely in their abilities to think critically, employ evidence, write in standard English, use other types of media, organize information, and read critically and analytically. Students are on different reading levels, or English may not be their native language. Some have strong skills in writing; others do not. Some know how to lead a group but not how to participate in one. Others might have strong analytical skills  but not know how to communicate their ideas in either writing or speaking. Some might need to develop collaborative skills or editing or rewriting skills. 

Because students vary in essential English language arts skills, personalization becomes a way to help students develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. It allows students to focus their attention on areas where they can really grow and not spend time doing exercises in areas they have already mastered. It allows students to use their time efficiently for their own growth. It can also help students gain confidence in their ability to communicate in a variety of different media and in their ability to have something to contribute.

One of the advantages of an ELA curriculum is that students can be involved in the same or similar activity but be working on different areas of growth. For example, in a unit on To Kill a Mockingbird, you may ask all students to write an essay on setting or to create a narrative of an event in their lives much the way Scout does. However, in each of these writing activities, different students could be focusing on different ways to improve their writing. Some might work on transitions; others, on effective introductions. Some students could focus on finding and organizing support for their analyses, while others could focus on using the same tense throughout. Still others could be honing skills on a multimedia presentation on some aspect of the book or practice their editing skills. Personalization looks a little different for each student. The teacher below shares some of his experiences with personalization and its effects.

It is helpful to approach personalization and the idea of student control in two different ways: through allowing students to personalize along the  dimensions of personalization and through allowing students to personalize learning objectives, assessments, and activities we use in our teaching.  

15-5.2 Personalization Dimensions in a SpEd Classroom

One way to think about personalization is to examine the ways students can personalize. The five dimensions of personalized learning are guidelines for ways or methods we can apply to allow our students to personalize their learning. These dimensions are goals, time, place, pace, and/or path. 

Figure 1

Five Dimensions of Personalized Learning

IM3.5.1a_PersDim.png

In the sections below we will explore each of these dimensions.

15-5.2.1 Personalizing Goals

Goals are a means of making choices specific and purposeful. Facilitating goal setting increases student ownership of their learning, encourages lifelong learning skills and attitudes, and increases motivation and self-regulation abilities. 

In order for students to personalize their goals, you and they need to understand something of their needs and proficiencies as SpEd learners. This is where you can use the data you have gathered from the activities mentioned in the Data Practices chapter. 

Information from such sources helps you understand where students are in their abilities, skills, and aptitudes. Learning outcomes and standards give focus for where students are expected to be. The difference between where students are and the course outcomes is the place for growth—and goals. 

Goals are not goals if they are just aspirations. Writing goals down and tracking them are important processes for achieving them. Here are a few ideas about goal setting conferences and how they might be used in an English language arts classroom.

In Class

Conferencing (regular goal setting meetings)

Monitoring (tracking progress between conferences)

15-5.2.2 Personalizing Path

When you allow student to personalize their learning path in your classroom, your students are not all doing the same assessments and activities. You may find that you have become a curator of resources and activities that will best help your students. These resources/activities can be compiled in playlists or choiceboards, which give the students choice about the order in which they complete the activities or about which activities they choose to do. 

15-5.2.3 Personalizing Pace

Personalizing pace means allowing students to take more or less time based on their own ways and pace of learning as well as their personal and family life circumstances. It often includes giving students a window of time on due dates for completing activities, assignments, and assessments. Personalizing pace encourages students to manage their time. They know what they need to do and when it needs to be completed, but they also know the other demands on their time (sports, school, play, family and work obligations) and learn to plan for these situations. 

15-5.2.4 Personalizing Time

In a traditional classroom, students may have a class period to finish an assignment. In a blended classroom this time can be expanded to include time outside the class. Because activities can be accessible outside of the classroom, students can choose times that work well for them. For example, a student may have a difficult time learning in the morning, when he has class. But because he can access his assignment later in the day, he is able to complete it and do a good job. Time is closely related to pace. Because students are not bound to a specific time to do an assignment, they can increase or decrease their pace according to their own preferences, needs, and abilities.

15-5.2.5 Personalizing Place

Personalizing place revisits traditional practices about place. Because blended courses often include online instruction, students can choose to do activities at home or at school. In addition, they can access instruction when they have to miss activities because of illness, travel, or extra-curricular activities. However, another aspect of place is the configuration of the classroom. Classrooms are often viewed as rows of desks or sometimes desks grouped into tables. But classrooms don’t have to look this way. They can be made more comfortable, inviting, and conducive to the kinds of activities that take place in a blended classroom. 

15-5.3 Personalizing Activities and Assessments

Approaching personalization through the five dimensions is one way of planning to personalize. Another way is to look directly at what you do in your classroom. Typically teachers plan assessments and activities around learning objectives to make sure they cover the material they are mandated to cover. Finding ways for students to exercise choice in some or all aspects of these activities and assessments is another way to foster personalization in your classroom. 

15-5.3.1 Personalized Assessments

What do assessments look like in your classroom: an essay exam? A final  paper? Short answer questions about a text? A presentation? Do all your students do the same thing? 

Personalizing assessments means giving students choices in the ways they demonstrate mastery of a learning outcome. Often this means creating a list of ideas that students can choose from, while also allowing them to suggest their own ideas.  Insert ideas, videos, quotes to illustrate.

  • How were these assessments personalized?
  • How are these assessments different from traditional assessments?
  • What kinds of growth do these assessments encourage in the students?

Table 1

Personalized Assessments

Personalized Assessments
Students choose the media they use for the assessment: powerpoint, google docs, video, etc. 
Students choose the form of the assessment: mindmap, essay, documentary, brochure, story, art, performance, exam, etc. 
Students choose the topic of a piece of writing or other form of assessment.
Students choose to do the assessment in groups or on their own.

In your Blended Teaching Notebook, create a few ideas of personalized assessments that students can choose from in order to show mastery of the content area you choose earlier.

If you haven't already opened and saved your workbook, you can access it here.

15-5.3.2 Personalized Activities

Personalized activities are based on data and goals. Students can choose activities that help them accomplish their goals from playlists and/or choice boards that give them choice in path, pace, time, and place. They may include online interaction as well as online integration of activities that are personalized or differentiated for individual students.

Table 2

Personalized Activities

 
Personalized Activities
Create a choice board of activities for exploring theme in a book.
Introduce comparing and contrasting activities by providing links to several different artistic renderings of a text in different forms: film, poetry, art, music, graphic novel, etc. Students choose two and fill out a compare/contrast chart.
Have students choose a character from a book the class is reading, put the character in a scene outside the book, and write about what the character would do in that situation. Share the writings in a discussion board and have the other students guess who the character is and give evidence for why they think it is the character they chose. 
Students choose another setting for a book they are reading and try to persuade a group of students why that setting would be appropriate for the novel.

pencil icon) Blended Teaching Workbook In your Blended Teaching Notebook create a few ideas of personalized activities that students can choose from in order to show mastery of the content area you chose earlier. 

If you haven't already opened and saved your workbook, you can access it here.

Personalization is a powerful pedagogical tool. It allows students to grow where they need to grow and in a way that is meaningful to them. It combines all the other competencies of blended learning: online integration, online interaction, and data practices to create a unique learning experience for each student. Throughout these chapters you have learned how to use these competencies in a language arts context. Now it is up to you! You are ready for that first small step!

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