Susan Blakely’s Six Tips to Personalize Learning
By Susan Blakely
Personalized learning for individual students is “utopia” for education. I would love to create a classroom where several students could design and implement their own instruction. I have already seen great strides in personalized learning with SMART products as one of my main enablers of individualized instruction.
In my classroom, I try and give students as much independence as possible with the technology I have. I am currently in a distance learning-equipped classroom and have a SMART Board, SMART XE Response system, and SMART Slate. Students also share with their cell phones or iPads which have access to the school’s Internet.
1. Personalization with SMART Notebook software
I use my SMART Notebook software daily. It allows me to give an explanation of our math lesson and helps keep my students engaged. I use the animation software in Notebook to fade in, fly in, spin in, etc. The activity builder allows students to come up and engage themselves with the lesson. I routinely use video to help give different perspectives and also make the lessons more enjoyable.
2. Personalization means get out of your seat
When I post some of the videos on my SMART Board, I actually encourage the students engage in a choreographed dance to help them remember specific concepts. There is an example of this kind of engagement in a PD presentation I gave at Radford private school and posted on YouTube.
With Notebook’s web browser, I can have any website available in a SMART lesson for further student engagement. My main goal as a teacher is to have students at the SMART Board more than I am.
3. Personalization with formative assessment
I am able to let students write questions and answer questions with the SMART Slate. They are able to help personalize the lesson during class. I also like the SMART Slate because it frees me as a teacher to move anywhere around my classroom. The SMART Response software allows students to take personal responsibility for their knowledge. When using SMART Response, every student is speaking at the same time with every question. They are allowed to see their feedback, and learning is now personal for them. The best part of the software is the teacher and students have immediate feedback and interaction. As their teacher, I save their responses, and can better evaluate student learning.
4. Personalization over distance
My classroom is a distance learning classroom. It is equipped to help me communicate live with other schools via cameras and microphone connections in the classroom. My classes are working on the SMART Board to create lessons for the Texas EOC review. The students are presenting these lessons to some of our feeder pattern schools. My ninth graders will teach 5-6th graders and my geometry classes will teach 7-8th graders. They presented a lesson called, “How to approach and solve word problems.” By teaching the younger grades the basics, my older students will develop confidence to work out their own level word problems.
5. Personalization with vokis
And of course, let’s not leave out the Internet in personalized instruction. I do not know if many educators use Voki Classroom at voki.com, but there is also a Voki widget which can be downloaded from the SMART Exchange website. This is an easy way to individualize student learning. Students are registered on the classroom site through the teacher, and are able to view their assignments. They create a voki (animated avatar) to explain parts of the upcoming lessons or how they did a homework problem. By letting my students teach, they are responsible for knowing the math subject prior to its introduction. The best voki created by a student goes on my Notebook lesson for next year and some of the other vokis are posted on my teacher website .
6. Personalization outside the classroom
The Internet also allows students who have questions outside of the classroom, a way to communicate. I have a special student/teacher Facebook account just to be able to chat with students. I am also available to Skype. Students are responsible to know the subject matter and have the ability to chat and research when they are confused or need assurance.
Summing up, personalized learning can also be regarded as innovative teaching. Our district, like many others, is unfortunately in the beginning stages. Therefore, teachers need to think “outside the box” when planning and teaching. We need to find ways, with and without technology, to motivate students to desire, to question, to explore and to learn. Teachers give students knowledge, but it is up to the students to figure out how to spread their wings and fly.
Susan Blakely is a SMART Exemplary Educator who teaches students in-class and virtually in the mathematics department at Coronado High School in El Paso ISD, Texas.