Last week during my teacher advisory period, I asked my 7th and 8th grade advisory students if they could share their trimester goals with me electronically. All of the students have these documents in their Google drives but when the documents began to trickle into my inbox, I was taken aback by the results.
What was so unusual about such a simple task? Of the first 5 students to submit their work, four had chosen to complete the task is subtly different ways. One student simply took a screenshot of their goals document and embedded that into the body of an email. A second student shared the Google document using the Share feature. A third student directed me to her website where I could find the document and a fourth student included the document as a .png attachment.
This was an eye-opening reminder of the importance of personalized learning and the role that technology can have in allowing students to achieve the same goals with different problem-solving strategies. In his 2007 Phi Delt Kappan article, “What is Personalization?”, James W. Keefe alludes to the advantages using technology to personalize learning:
Personalization requires interactive learning environments designed to foster collaboration and reflective conversation. The personalized learning environment is child-centered, with a values orientation, a measure of creativity, and constructive learning activities. It builds on the child’s natural ways of learning, with a unity of thought, action, activities, and experiences. An essential ingredient of personalization is a school culture of collaboration in which teachers, students, parents, and other community members work together in a cooperative social environment to develop meaningful learning activities for all students. (Keefe, 221)
In my line of thinking, the use of technology dovetails beautifully with Keefe’s vision of an interactive learning environment. Indeed, the students in my advisory, through their demonstration of different solutions to a relatively simple task, demonstrated the importance of allowing students the opportunity to demonstrate learning using a wide range of formats. In this case, as with the hundreds of other tasks, small and large that students complete in our classroom, technology provides students the opportunity to successfully achieve objectives through multiple pathways.
Equally important is the notion of a collaborative learning environment. Technology allows teachers and students to collaborate and share the learning experience. In this case, the sharing of Google documents enables me to monitor, share, and discuss student goals and hopefully, to encourage and personalize the student learning experience so that they can achieve them.
Keefe, James W. “What is personalization?.” Phi Delta Kappan 89.3 (2007): 217.