Models for PL and CBE in Practice

Reaching for SuccessA View from Northern New England

Right now, I am posting from Old England (London) where I am visiting family and trying to find spring flowers and green grass. I have deserted New England, which is still waiting for snow to melt and to turn the mud into something that indicates that spring has arrived-and not just on the calendar.

Last week I explored the changes that are on the horizon in school systems across the nation, and this week I will share some of what’s happening in Northern New England with a different take on collaboration.

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in various stages of implementing competency based education policies that have been adopted recently. New Hampshire (2005) has led the way, Maine (2012) is close behind, and Vermont (2013) is catching up. What these states have in common, besides snow and ornery natures, is a reverence for self-determination.

Competency based education has been defined at the state level (a bit differently within each state), but the framework for implementation is being developed at the district and school level. Instead of top down, it is happening bottom up. The state education agencies are providing resources to help districts develop implementation plans. The three states are collaborating to explore best practices and to provide professional development so that educators can learn from one another. The progress is faster in some places than others, but there are shining examples for possibilities to improve educational experiences for now and next gen students. The League of Innovative Schools is one of the opportunities for professional development across the region.

Find out more here: “Innovative Schools turning Around Lives in New England,” http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/05/20/innovative-schools-turning-lives-around_2013-05-21/

If you are interested, here are a few snapshots of what’s happening around the northern NE states

New Hampshire: PACE-Performance Assessment of Competency Education

Maine: Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan to Put Education First

Vermont: Act 77: Flexible Pathways

One School’s Journey

Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School (Mt. Abe) in Bristol, Vermont has been headed down the personalization path for the past ten years.  In order to keep high school students in school and to make learning relevant for those who were at risk of dropping out, educators developed a program, “Personal Pathways to Graduation.”  It has been one of the choices that high school students can make as an alternative to the traditional course based track for graduation. Other high schools have developed similar models to meet the varied goals and needs of diverse students.

In the personalized learning program, students set goals and makes plans that are meaningful for their future. They take selected regular academic classes combined with apprenticeship opportunities. Some may take online courses or enroll in college classes, and go to other schools for classes.  There are about 23 full time students in the program and up to 50-70 others, who cycle in and out part time.  Two full time coaches lead participants and keep them on track in school, and also in outside school learning experiences.

Now, with the Act 77 timeline, all 7-12 schools in Vermont should have a system in place by 2017 that reflects the Flexible Pathways Initiative. The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (home of Mt. Abe) is in the process of formulating plans, and providing professional development for educators that is modeled on the personal pathways program success.

Mt. Abe has an innovation team that has been offering professional development and training in personalized learning pedagogies for district educators,  and has been helping set up record keeping systems and portfolios for students and teachers to coordinate progress. Students move toward mastery of knowledge and skills within areas of competency, rather than to take a course and get a grade.   The personal pathways program is now a model for changing the traditional path to graduation that incorporates personalized learning opportunities for all students. It is a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight, so there is ongoing support for teachers to adopt and adapt.

Lauren Parren, the Innovation Coach for the school district, heads up the Instructional Coaching Services Team. The team includes other content specialists and consultants, and is located in a flexible learning space within the school learning commons area. The team works one on one or with small groups of teachers and students, or can embed in the classroom to encourage and model best practices in personalized learning. They have a very busy schedule.

Laura Mina, the high school library media specialist, is one of the team consultants. Her role is central to the work of the team, as the expert on information services.  She has been renovating the library learning space for the past few years, and has a powerful virtual library that uses LibGuides as an organizational tool.  https://sites.google.com/a/mtabevt.org/library/

Laura has compiled various resources and pathfinders for both teachers and students who are involved in creating personalized learning plans or developing curriculum. She is available for just in time teaching and learning, or for more formal classes, workshops, or other training opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about the progress for personal pathways at Mt. Abe, follow Lauren’s blog or join her, Barbara Bray, John Parker, Jon Tanner, Kathleen McClaskey, and Pat Lusher who will be speaking at the ISTE Conference on June 29 and July, 2015.

Off to do some sightseeing-Cheerio!

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

On the Horizon

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This month, Judi and Lucy have highlighted some ways that school libraries and teacher librarians have continued to provide resources and instruction that support the variability of all learners in a diverse school community. At the heart of our mission is the concept of equitable access to information and the freedom to read a range of literature in many formats. Another part of the vision for library service is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for active learning for contemporary learners to “Think-Create-Share and Grow.”

On a personal level, teacher librarians get to know learners’ individual reading tastes, interests, strengths, and challenges in a setting other than the classroom. Often, we have a longer view of student growth over time because the school library space is a constant from year to year. We develop relationships with students that extend through their time in elementary, middle, or high school as we see their talents and personalities evolve. I always found that to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

As Lucy has said, “to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice.” Now there is a new/old opportunity on the horizon for teacher librarians in the emerging field of personalized learning, and we should be ready to collaborate with our teaching colleagues in a shift from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that has the potential to change teaching practice now and in the future.

Emerging technologies and new pedagogies focused on learners and learning have already brought about tremendous change in the traditional classroom, and there is more to come.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe many approaches to customizing instruction in the field of education. The term is used in multiple ways to describe an approach to learning that gives students voice and choice in their own learning. When learning is personalized, teachers help students set goals based on their interests, knowledge, and skills. As “guides on the side,” teachers help them to develop learning plans to achieve the goals, and monitor progress. The objective is for students to master competencies and demonstrate evidence of learning through performance. Self-assessment and reflection are integral to student success in mastering learning. Gradually, students will be able to take responsibility for their own learning and chart their own pathways for the future.

Personalization of learning, personal learning plans, and performance portfolios will impact the way that students will be using classroom and library learning spaces, and how teachers and teacher librarians interact with students. Students will be trained to set personal goals, and to develop a system for designing what, why, and how they learn.  Teachers will become coaches, and provide instruction as needed, and how this will impact the traditional way that schools and curricula are designed is in transition.

Why should teacher librarians be at the PL table?

When you look at Standards for 21st Century Learners (AASL 2007), the dispositions and competencies in the document align with concepts for personalized learning. These are the standards that teacher librarians use to guide their daily practice in designing learning for students. Along with Common Core State Standards, or other state standards as frameworks to guide curriculum, teacher librarians collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful and engaging performance tasks that provide authentic learning opportunities. Teacher librarians are already in the business of partnering with students in their inquiry, problem, project, and place-based learning assignments, so personalized learning is an extension of their professional practice.

Across the nation, there are 41 states and the District of Columbia that are in various stages of exploring, developing, or implementing competency based education policies that are driven by personalized learning for students. The state legislation or education rules already in effect or being proposed provide “flexible pathways” for determining graduation requirements from high school. Instead of using the Carnegie Unit (time), there can be alternative ways to evaluate performance through mastery of competencies, and local school districts are charged with developing systems for tracking individual performance, and mastery. This is a major paradigm shift in educational delivery models, as well as a change in school culture. There is lot to talk about, and teacher librarians should be part of the conversation, too.

How can I learn more about personalized learning?

There are journals, websites, and professional texts that are excellent resources for gaining understanding about the concepts and challenges for shifting the way we approach teaching and learning for our increasingly diverse learners in an age of information and ubiquitous technology.

Here some recommendations that you can share with your colleagues to get the discussion rolling:

  •  Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Make Learning Personal. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Website: http://www.personalizelearning.com/
  • John H. Clarke. Personalized Learning: Student-Designed Pathways to High School Graduation. Thousand Oaks, CA: 2013.
  •  Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis, and Diane Ullman. Learning Personalized-The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2015.
  • Competency Works website:
  1.  State Policy Resources http://competencyworks.pbworks.com/w/page/67261821/State%20Policy%20Resources
  2. A Snapshot of Competency Education Policy Across the United States http://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/inacol_competency_snapshot_oct_2013.pdf

It’s time to get personal!

 Next week-A look at models for PL in practice.

Image:

http://www.birdclipart.com/bird_clipart_images/ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU.jpg

 

Transformation vs. Reform

For the past two decades, there has been a movement across the nation to “reform” education. The drumbeat of standards and accountability has dominated discussions about improving educational experiences for all children.  The term reform itself has a value laden connotation.  Think “reform” school…  Reform from the top down-identify the problem and fix it.  Instead, think about the term “transformation.”  It has a more positive connotation-a movement from one status to another through innovation.  Transformation comes from the inside out, in response to situations and experiences.

 

Meanwhile, as a culture, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from an industrial to a technological age, and the transformation continues to redefine everything we have known. New norms are evolving in the business, political, cultural, and educational worlds.  We are a work in progress, as usual-exciting times!

 

What does this have to do with collaboration?

 

Collaboration skills are the key for transformation to an educational system for personalized learning, not only for students, but for educators, administrators, and other community stakeholders.  How do we learn and use those skills, and how do we teach our students to value and incorporate the contributions of all? How do we create environments and spaces that encourage creativity and collaboration for all learners? How does technology enhance the learning experience?

 

These big ideas were explored by the keynote speakers at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont on May 16-17, 2013.  Jointly sponsored by Vita-Learn and the Vermont School Library Association, the annual conference showcases exemplary practices of statewide educators and invites national experts to address contemporary issues in education.   Last week Ira David Socol, Pam Moran, and Steve Hargadorn spent several days visiting Vermont and sharing their expertise with attendees at the conference.  Ira, an educational consultant and historian is currently working in the Albemarle County School District in Virginia where Pam is the superintendent.  They are leading transformation through a collaborative model with educators in the local schools, and they shared their ideas and progress in encouraging innovation that focuses on personalized learning.  Digital technology tools are integrated across the curriculum to enhance deep learning, collaboration, and engagement.  Take a look at the videos for the Iridescent Classroom on Ira’s web site to get a glimpse of their work together. He also has a terrific overview of the history of education that contextualizes where we are today.  Lots of resources there to explore, so take a look!

Steve Hargadorn, of Classroom 2.0, and Library 2.0, presented an overview of the process of how technology is changing our culture, and how that change will impact education in the future.  Real educational transformation will come about with the evolution of the culture, so stay tuned.    He shared many examples of how the cultural shift is happening due to the impact of social media and technology applications. Here is a link to his slides DynamicLandscapes2013Hargadon that demonstrate the shifting sands of the 21st Century. As I said before-exciting times ahead…

Once again, I was struck by aha moments, as I listened and learned.  As educational leaders in our schools, teacher librarians are pivotal in the transformation process embedded in collaboration.  As Steve Hargadorn said, “Be ready to unleash energy and potential through participation, creation, sharing, and engagement.”

Are you ready?

References:

Dynamic Landscapes Conference 2013. Web site.  Retrieved from  https://sites.google.com/a/vita-learn.org/dynamiclandscapes2013/home/th-keynote

Classroom 2.0. (2013). Web site. Retrieved from http://www.classroom20.com/

Hargadon, Steve. (2013).  Education,Technology, Social Media, and You.  Web log. Retrieved from http://www.stevehargadon.com/

Hargadon, Steve. (2013). Educational Network is the Learning Revolution: Future of Education. Dynamic Landscapes Keynote address, May 17, 2013. (PDF).

Library 2.0 (2013). Website. Retrieved from http://www.library20.com/

Moran, Pam. (2013). Superintendent’s Blog: Albemarle County Schools. Web log. Retrieved from http://superintendent.k12albemarle.org/

Socal, Ira David. (2013). Challenging the Systems. Web site. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/iradavidsocol/

Microsoft Clipart: Crystal ball.