It may be the most frequently asked question in the education profession today: “What is personalized learning for the 21st century?”. Parents wonder from the perspective of “what does it mean to my child?”. Employers may ask, “Is it all about technology? Does it mean readiness for work?”. Communities want to know how students will engage and contribute to civil society. Multiple definitions co-exist to help understand the concept, and how it relates to living, working, succeeding and contributing to an ever-changing world.
Directors of instruction Dr. Julie Parker and Joanne Robertson are two professionals who provide leadership in the North VancouverSchool District to support personalized learning for the 21st Century. Their inspiring insights reflect the dramatic shift happening in education at this point in time. As Julie routinely reminds her colleagues: “It’s about learning”.
Q: Can you define ‘personalized learning in the 21st Century’?
Parker and Robertson: If you Google the term, you’ll find pages of definitions to wade through. They generally have some very common elements that affirm the individuality of learners. In the past, we focused on defining curriculum and the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. That is now shifting to facilitating learning for each student and the options and choices that are available to teachers to broaden the support they provide.
Many definitions emphasize education that puts the learner first and is flexible, creative, collaborative and complex. In his book Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner gives us a solid starting point. He offers a definition that emphasizes the “minds” to cultivate in life-long learners. Qualities of discipline (expertise and skills), synthesis (surveying vast amounts of knowledge to assess what is important and how to make sense of it to one’s self, and others), creating (how to stretch from what is known to how it can be developed in new and unexpected directions), respect (diversity as a positive that can enrich the world) and ethical (recognizing the rights of others, and our responsibilities as citizens).
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