Stepping Toward Personalized Learning and a Lesson on Walls, Plus a Free Webinar

When I first started teaching in the 1970’s there was an emphasis on ability grouping.
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When I first started teaching in the 1970’s there was an emphasis on ability grouping.
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I want to take a break from my Over 70 STEM Resource Series to have a conversation on Personalized Learning and its relationship to the Walls of education. Please take a moment to read and reflect on my ideas of what Personalized Learning might be and realize that there may be other translations. I also would like to invite you to a free ISTE OLN Webinar on Personalized Learning with Andrew Miller. Information on the webinar is below. Also, be on the look out for another series I have entitled the ABC’s of PBL… Investigating Seven Building Blocks! First, to ensure you do not miss a valuable post or other resources covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, Web 2.0, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration, please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). You can also find booking information at the end of the post. I would enjoy working with you at your school or conference. Please give this post a retweet and pass it on. Have a great week – Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Free Webinar – ISTE Online Learning Network: Personalized Learning with Andrew Miller
Monday, February 2 at 6 PM EST

As president of the ISTE OLN I invite you to our Webinar hosted by Michele Eaton (@lyonmi) and featuring Andrew Miller (@betamiller) . Not only is Andrew a friend, but he is an wonderful educator, writing and providing PD for BIE (Buck Institute), ASCD, and Edutopia. You will enjoy Andrew’s entertaining and informative look into the amazing world of Personalized Learning. Use the below link to register. Also be on the look out for my Webinar on PBL at PBS Learning Media later in the month. Note that there will be archives of both webinars. Register below for Personalized Learning – Michael Gorman (@mjgormans)

Register Here

Stepping Toward Personalized Learning and a Lesson on Walls… Michael Gorman (

When I first started teaching in the 1970’s there was an emphasis on ability grouping. Each teacher had a classroom and it was separated by other classrooms by those all too familiar concrete walls. Students were grouped… and walked through a similar curriculum, in different rooms, at different pacing. Perhaps the one room schools of only four wall prior to this era was a little closer to what could someday be the future.

By the late 1970’s and early 1908’s the idea of Individualized Instruction became a buzzword. This idea involved allowing students to go at their own pace, through the same curriculum and standards, proceeding when they gained mastery. The aim was to eliminate large group lecture and grouping, and instead emphasize individual progress and small group instruction. Since everyone was learning at their own pace, schools were eliminating classroom walls proving what was referred to as an open education settings. Teachers could work beyond what use to be their classroom walls. The movement was a step at focusing on the student as an individual learner. As I look back at this, I begin to realize that while schools were focusing on the individual, this should not get confused with Personalized Learning. Note that all students still went through the same lessons, with the only difference being… the pacing. In most cases the teacher was the manager of the process with students taking the uniform and appropriate steps mandated by a content standard based curriculum. It was not Personalized Learning but it was a great step at focusing on the individual.

Later in my career there was another step that may have gone beyond Individualized Instruction. In fact at this time period, the walls in the classrooms were being rebuilt and grouping was beginning to appear once again. Without a technology infrastructure that could truly provide individualization, each student moving through the same curriculum at their own pace was a difficult task. Instead of grouping by classrooms across the school, that practice before individualization, the tendency was to somewhat group inside each classroom. This of course allowed schools to rebuild those walls between classrooms. At this time the practice of Differentiated Instruction was becoming prevalent. It was noted that students not only learn at their own pace, but also have different learning styles. Teachers began changing lessons to accommodate these different styles. This was (and still is) a powerful step and is still a common practice of today. Note that the students are still going through the same curriculum with the teacher managing the process. There is an important focus on student learning style, but not necessarily the student interest. Technology has become a wonderful assistant to the process of Differentiated Instruction, and with this infusion of technology has brought another change to the school walls.

There seems to be discussion today involving the concept of Personalized Learning. Sometimes it is even blurred with the ideas of Individual and/or Differentiated Instruction. The difference between the words Instruction and Learning in these terms may actually be an important key. This difference might be the secret to transformational change in education and of course, those school walls. The advent of the internet has empowered students to a wealth of information and possibilities. Students are now learning 24/7, and the method of learning may be quite different outside, as compared to inside the school classroom walls. Personalized Learning acknowledges this change, and begins to focus on the student becoming an owner of their own learning. Through Personalized Learning, students work with the teacher in the design of curriculum staying within proper constraints. The teacher becomes a co-learner and coach, assisting in the activation of learning possibilities. This might take place especially in classrooms emphasizing flipped learning environment, PBL(Project Based Learning), blended learning, online learning, deep learning, STEM/STEAM education, or in a classroom where a teacher is incorporating a student centered learning approach. As educators move toward Personalized Learning, the whole design of the classroom begins to change. There is an amplification of authenticity, connections, and relevance filled with student driven purpose. The culture of learning becomes more important than the classroom. The students and teacher are engaged in the process of learning…. and the walls…. they no longer matter!

Thank you for joining me and I hope you found this information something you can use in your school and useful to share with other educators. As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit. To ensure you do not miss a future valuable post or other resource covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week… enjoy the Websites! – Mike (

Future Posts: Over 70 STEM Resources…. ABC’s of PBL… My PBL Webinar Hosted by PBS Learning Media … Sign Up Today to the Blog and follow me on twiiter: @mjgormans

Booking Info – Time to think about your school or conference needs. Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have done 100′s of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page. Please contact me soon if you have an interest. I am almost booked through August and am already taking fall dates for 2015 – Mike

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Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at



Ten Steps to Transforming Past Lessons for 21st Century Learners by Michael Gorman

These ten important, yet simple, steps supply a recipe for any educator to transform their past lessons of success into 21st century engaging hits for any digital learner. Be sure to download the hand outs with in the post that supply the formula to facilitate teachers in planning a lesson incorporating technology, 21st century skills, and content standards. These ten steps will supply a curricular ride that will place classroom instruction full steam ahead with an alignment on the Common Core.