New resource: Personalized Learning Playbook

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Aug 18, 2015

Education Elements, an education consulting company, is one of the pioneers in blended learning. Through its experience working with K–12 schools to create blended-learning programs, it has been at the forefront of developing some of the tools, models, and expertise for making blended learning work. Given the company’s vast experience and impressive results, it was exciting to read CEO and Founder Anthony Kim’s new book, Personalized Learning Playbook.

In the Playbook, Kim shares his thoughts on personalized learning that have developed over the last few years. The book is packed with ideas that should provide inspirational starting points for those interested in personalized learning. It also includes helpful graphics that capture the book’s key ideas in a concise and memorable format to give readers visual anchors for quickly thinking through and internalizing concepts.

Within the book, readers will find valuable framing to many of personalized learning’s big-pictures questions such as What is personalized learning?, Why is personalized learning important?, How does technology make personalized learning possible?, and How do you go about designing and implementing a personalized learning program? Importantly, in addressing these questions the book recognizes the central role that technology plays, but makes clear that technology is just a means for realizing the goal of personalized learning. It directs educators and schools leaders to focus not on technology, but on the creation of student learning experiences that engage students and honor their individual needs and interests.

The book also does a nice job articulating the point that technology has its limitations and that, contrary to the worries of some educators, technology is not a replacement of teachers. Rather, technology is a tool that amplifies the impact of teachers. First, it provides teachers and their students with more frequent and granular data on student learning growth than teachers would ever be able to gather through teacher created and administered assessments. Second, it gives students access to tools such as Google Docs that facilitate collaborative learning. Third, it gives teachers more power to create learning resources and content for their students.

Potential readers should know upfront that the Playbook is not a thorough guide for designing and implementing personalized learning programs. Instead, it works to convey the importance of many of Education Element’s core ideas and frameworks without fully developing them to a point where readers can easily put them into practice. But this treatment is sufficient for those who are merely looking to catch visions for personalized learning and will eventually turn to other resources for a more thorough treatment of planning and implementation.

Altogether, the book is a valuable starting point for educators who are eager to learn about personalized learning and need a good entry point. It’s nice to see a new resource filling this need for the field.

Thomas’ research focuses on the changing roles of teachers in blended-learning environments and other innovative educational models. He also examines how teacher education and professional development are shifting to support the evolving needs of teachers and school systems.