By: Brittany Stone on February 24, 2017
What comes to mind when you hear the word, superhero: Batman or Superman? Merriam-Webster defines a superhero as an exceptionally skillful or successful person and that is exactly what West Fork High School is producing in our Personalized Learning Academy (PLA)! When brainstorming ideas to write about, I immediately thought “the real superheroes are the students and skills they gain throughout PLA.” Now don’t get me wrong, I AM a superhero. Designing and implementing personalized learning (PL) in my classroom is intense and I would love to increase my superpowers by attending the PL summit. Below, are several reasons why I feel my ability to empower my students is my superhero power!
When my school went 1:1 last year (every student in our building received technology; Chromebooks), we realized the opportunity to develop 21st century-skilled citizens. Students could now increase their knowledge in content through technology and learn how to advance in our modern world. Deeper learning, student-directed learning, and career readiness became our focus. After visiting with a PL school in Indiana, we decided to create an academy on a volunteer-basis, where students work at their own pace through digital curriculum with class sessions and mentoring to support. As a pioneer in our region, PLA addresses the needs of our rural community; high poverty, few opportunities, and lack of engagement. We focus on agency, ownership, freedom, power, self-efficacy, and grit. At PLA, we EMPOWER students and teachers.
One might ask, “Why did I choose PLA and what are some reasons I felt I needed to do something different?” The answer was easy. I felt frustrated with not being able to differentiate and meet the needs of every student in a traditional classroom with time, pace, place, and path requirements. There is no question that students learn at different rates and require different teaching styles. PLA allows students to differentiate themselves, learn in their own way, and at their own pace through self-regulation and guidance from teachers. Traditional strategies still exist:
- Class sessions with labs, math, discussions
- College hours for students who need structure/guidance
- Whole, small, and peer group learning
- Opportunities for students to feed off of each other’s questions/ideas
I developed curriculum for all of my courses (Physical Science, Pre-AP Physical Science, Physics) and uploaded content in Schoology, which allows 24/7 access. Tasks align with state standards and include offline materials, labs, activities, etc. to enhance student learning. A schedule of events and recommended deadlines, including class sessions, guides student pacing.
PLA empowers students through one-on-one and small group time. I diagnose strengths and weaknesses in content, communication/socials skills, and I now know where my students are in the learning process every day. Students are skilled learners who know where they need more support. Students create high quality work and manage their time. Some of my own learning goals I would love to address at the summit include:
- Personalized PD to help support myself, school, and district
- Grading, assessment, and data culture to further analyze student success
Merriman Webster says, “To empower is to give someone the authority or power to do something.” Through PLA, my superhero power has been to do this very thing; empower my students and give them the power to achieve their goals, obtain a great education, and strive for excellence in the future!
Guest Blog By: Brittany Stone