Chapter 1 – pages 1-36

Comment below regarding this chapter.


19 thoughts on “Chapter 1 – pages 1-36

  1. I love the idea of transitioning from teaching to learning. I have reached for this in my own classroom. I find that motivation increases when students are taking control of their own learning. The iPads have helped out a lot on that front in personalizing. Things like Genius Hour also add to student control. It does take a lot of effort and hype from the teacher to get them there. Some students need more continual structure and guidance and cannot get to the personalized level.
    On the other hand, I would hate to see the classroom experience as a total personalized environment where everyone is continually working on their own thing. So much is lost without a group experience. For example, I have always resisted going to total individual classroom student reading books. (The students do have independent reading books.) Students gain so much experience, emotion, and knowledge from group experiences like group discussions and experiences.
    I guess what I am all for is balance. There is a time for personalization and there is a time for group instruction.

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  2. Totally agree with everything Greg shared…and would like to add “performance sharing of learning!” i.e. musical programs, theatre, Shakespeare and DI!!! In this way everyone learns! In DI kids choose the challenge…what do you want to learn? architecture, classics, technology, science, games, street theatre, etc. and then you learn all year through individual and group research and experiences. On competition day you watch how other teams of kids your age tackled the learning…what creativity did they add to their solution?


  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Greg and Candy as well as the authors’ definition and call for personalizing learning.
    As Albert Einstein stated, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
    Our system is making many, many students feel stupid and incompetent.
    However, if we focus on the learner and support helping them discover how they learn best, give them ownership and responsibility in their learning, build on their personal background, interests, and talents we will be encouraging the development of individuals who are prepared to be creative contributors to society.
    In Barbara’s story, in the intro, she states, “It took so long for me to realize that I have talents and passion about something that I love to do.” That’s something we all want to help our students realize and as the authors wrote, “Personalizing learning is all about the stories behind each learner.”
    We need to be sure we are taking the time to learn our students’ stories.
    One more quote that I think is relevant:
    “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
    -Stacia Tauscher


    1. I am very interested to get into this book to see how the authors treat personalized learning, and very interested to try some new ways to engage my students more. I embrace differentiation, which seems to me to be quite doable in a standard classroom. Of course, the goals are much the same for all kids. When a class has gone well, and students have gotten excited about exploring a topic, I feel so good about it and go home feeling successful as a teacher. But sustaining that is the part that seems difficult. So often students will start out with enthusiasm and lose it. How do we keep them engaged? How do we find time to meet with them individually to help guide them in a more individualized approach especially in the specials time? How do we give them freedom to explore and yet keep them from using up valuable classroom time?
      If I had 5 students, what I could do with them! The age-old problem is cultivating a love and joy of learning, while at the same time providing, somehow, the necessary historical and cultural knowledge, which I feel is not obsolete, but extremely relevant. If we were to hope in their “exploration” they will stumble on this body of knowledge, it’s not going to happen. I am assuming the authors are not suggesting that. There must be a happy medium where “learning to learn” can be nurtured while acquiring the important “stuff”. One thing I liked in the first chapter was the mentioning of the student’s voice. I do think we often ignore what kids are feeling and therefore, we miss some of our opportunities to address their learning styles and interests. There is a lot to chew on.


    2. I love this, Lynn. I think the student’s own stories are the most important stories for them to connect to. All the rest becomes relevant and interesting once they come to embrace themselves as the result of intertwining narratives. Yes, what is this beautiful being TODAY. Do they know or care? Does anyone else?


    3. I love your choice of words …”Personalizing learning is all about the stories behind each learner.” The word stories resonates with me. I think everyone has a story to tell and a story to behold with learning at the center of each. When you have stories, you are vested in the experience.


  4. Wonderful discussion of “balance” above. Personalized learning is such a broad term. Catherine (my wife) is pretty funny about it. Her summary after just reading the title of the book: “Not long before it becomes another meaningless piece of jargon.” Ha!

    So, without any euphemisms, what IS it? What I do know is that it’s diametrically opposite of “Personalized Curriculum.” That would be pretty tough to master with 30 kids (or 27…). I think it’s way more practical than that. It’s also NOT differentiation per se. Differentiation has the teacher doing a lot of the work.

    I love the chart on pages 9 & 10 (particularly at the top of 10). What does the learner DO under the three models. What I think is particularly thoughtful about Barbara and Kathleen’s work is that they don’t say ONE is the best. They simply ADD “personalization” as an option for connecting the other two. It’s subtle. They recognize, at least in my opinion, that neither differentiation or individualization are very effective without personalization – it ties them all together.

    And then there’s the question of content in all this. Beth’s comments really hit the nail on the head for me -“The age-old problem is cultivating a love and joy of learning, while at the same time providing, somehow, the necessary historical and cultural knowledge, which I feel is not obsolete, but extremely relevant.”

    Curiosity is founded on knowledge. If you know nothing, or what you know is clearly unreliable, learning isn’t rewarding – it hurts.

    I can’t wait to see what others are pondering over.


  5. After reading Greg, Lynn, Candy,Beth, and Chris’s thoughts, I realized we all have forms of personalization in our classrooms integrated with teaching instruction. Just how we think about and talk about students proves our investment in our students as people first with “stories” and then see them as learners when they engage in our classrooms. Our constant discussions as colleagues and lunchmates shows that we are growing ourselves and our students everyday.

    Being the SPED teacher and having to be within the confines of the compliance laws under IDEA, I basically have been trained to differentiate for students labeling it “individualization” and as we all know that the this “individualization” is dictated by evaluations and systems, service providers, therapists, and teachers not ever the student. I believe one of my responsibilities towards my SPED students and all students is to give them the opportunities to understand themselves as people and as learners. I feel it is especially important that all students first and foremost see themselves as vital and a part of a community, whether that is the classroom or the school or the town. Those connections help us blur the lines between grades, gender, age, background, and ethnicity. This gives the students a large arena to want to explore, become curious, interact. They need to find meaning in why they come to school, however, personal that is. Personalized Learning as defined in the book is a path I’d like to walk and explore. I’d like to get out of my students way. I’d like to become a learner and an explorer again. I believe this is true education.


  6. I love the idea that personalized learning puts students in the driver seat, because allowing students to take hold of the reins of learning will make students deeper learners. Often I feel like students do a ton of surface learning because it is comfortable and all they know how to do.

    The moment the flame of learning ignites in a student, and they have options, choices, and voices, they take their learning to deeper more meaningful level, naturally. As an educator, I try to ignite those flames daily, and I always know when a student has gone from being a passive learner, to an active one.

    Like my students, I’m learning each and every day how to reach my students on personalized levels from making math problems relatable, to picking read aloud books that make a room go still.

    This quote really summed it up for me: “When driving, we have an idea of a destination, perhaps a map of the area; we have our hands on the wheel, steering, making decision as the journey unfolds. This is crucially related to the core process of noticing how it’s going and how that relates to where we want to be (pg 24).”

    Each day I get into the driver’s seat, and so do my students. Together, we pick destinations, and we work our way there. We don’t always reach the destination on time. But, all of our detours are learning opportunities and they are where a lot of the deep thinking begins.


  7. Reading the above comments, I have to agree! There are many important facets of education!
    As I complete chapter one I feel that many teachers thrive to use unique methods to excite students. I believe that’s what is at the heart of passionate teachers. It’s wonderful when any child drives their own learning and I think we see it often.
    Each of our students need to know themselves, to have a voice in their learning, and to understand that their personal strengths and weaknesses require different pathways of learning. Isn’t that the picture of an adult learner? (not all…)
    Reading about the personalization, differentiation, and individualization, it resonates with me that balance is very important. All parts bring elements to the educational arena which may or may not aid in the overall learning environment.


  8. As I read the chapter, I continued to think that what is being advocated for is high quality teaching- the many components that we strive for everyday as teachers. I didn’t see things as a total shift or a new program to implement- more of a remeinder of our priorities and an attempt to get us focused away from a performance driven system.
    A few things that stood out to me were:
    Assessment FOR learning- p.18- ‘so that teachers can design the most appropriate next steps in instruction.’
    Student voice, belonging, choice- pg. 19- As a new grade level at UPE, the sixth grade has been building all year long and I feel that one of the more successful components has been making sure that students feel that they have a voice and a choice when it comes to learning and being a part of the school community. For an assignment last week, students had to create a story that showed their understanding of nonpoint water pollution. The instructions laid out a pretty specific set of instructions but at the beginning I sggested that they didn’t have to follow them perfectly. I had students adapt the instuctions in several ways including one who wrote about air pollution instead of water. All students demonstrated some level of understanding but took the assignment in a direction that made sense for them and that they were interested in.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. After reading chapter one I was most intrigued by the idea of learning to learn and what this means for the youngest learners. I agree with Lynn, that differentiation is easier to manage, although I agree with the book that it doesn’t place enough responsibility for learning in the students hands. The PDI chart was very helpful in clarifying the differences because I have heard all of these terms used interchangeably and clearly there is a big difference in the role of the learner. I think as teachers we have a hard time relinquishing control and responsibility to the kids. This will certainly be the challenge for me in this process. I have to say that the part that gives me the most pause is the use of technology. In working with younger students I feel that technology has its place but not at the expense of social interaction, hands on exploration, and play. I hope that there will be more examples of primary classrooms in future chapters. I am very intrigued by what I’ve read so far!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. While reading the first chapter, I felt that I longed for many of the elements of a Personalized Learning Environment, but struggled with how to balance letting them explore and guiding them to the information they need to succeed. “Learners own and co-design their learning, while the teacher is there to guide their personal journey,” (p.14). The first struggle I have is the learner takes responsibility for their learning. Love the idea, but feel that some parts of differentiation and individualization have to be present for the student to be motivated to learn. The teacher has to understand the learner, including listening to their voice, in order to guide them. For me, I did not take responsibility for my learning until I realized the impact it had on my future. So how do we help students take responsibility and self-direct their learning? What about the unmotivated learners, who do not take responsibility? What does this look like at Kindergarten versus high school aged students? The second struggle I had while reading was the learner understands how they learn best. Once I discovered this (in college), it was completely true. I was suddenly able to be a responsible learner, choosing how I learned things and voicing my ideas. So, my question is how do we guide elementary students to understand how they learn, especially at an early age?
    These are areas that I am excited to learn more about my role as a guide and encourage students to reach the point where they are co-designing lessons, exploring opportunities, and being responsible or owning their learning. The struggle mainly comes when I break down the content they need to learn during units. It is easy to let go of control once the information is provided (using differentiation strategies), allowing them to explore the content. How does personalized learning work without the other components balanced within teaching?

    There should be a point where the teacher guides the student and then steps back to let them take off. This take-off is where assessment AS Learning is clearly evident, and the teacher knows the student is working harder at learning, than the teacher. This is one point within first chapter that excites me to learn more about how to personalize learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. When we give an idea or a concept a label, a name,it is funny how we all latch on to it. 14 years ago when I started teaching “differentiation” was the big concept. Although I see us all demonstrating personalized learning in different ways and at different times I am afraid of the word itself. I think it divides us based upon our perception of what it looks like in action. It can become a tool we use to mark each other.
    The focus of the chapter, for me, was helping students learn to take responsibility for their own learning. How is this taught? Can it be taught? Does it begin at home? If it has not started to develop at home can this responsibility be learned in school exclusively? How can we develop the independence in primary grades? Is it a series of skills needed in sequence or is it one lesson that ignites them forever?
    This to me is why urgency is needed. I am glad because it can re-ignite teachers and in turn students. I witnessed this for years at Bella Romero in Greeley. It was a long process to develop in them the desire to be responsible for and motivated by their own learning. But when only 45% in the Hispanic community graduated High School the urgency was there even for our primary bugs. Every day HAD to count. Striving to motivate and engage our kiddos is the key and I guess if it takes a vocabulary word to focus us in; “personalized learning” – then I will learn to embrace is and not be afraid because it is not about me it is about them.


  12. This is my second attempt to post to the blog. I had written quite a response, went to fill in the details below and all my work was lost. (Yes, this even happens to me.) That was yesterday. I was so frustrated I shut my computer and walked away. Today, I’ll try and recall my thoughts, but already they seem different. And, I’ll make sure to copy it before I post the comment. Ugh!

    …Lots of thoughtful comments related to chapter 1 of Make Learning Personal. I think Kym hit the nail on the head when she said the greatest challenge would be that of relinquishing control of learning to students. So many of our views on learning are contrary to this idea. Educators tend to take full responsibility not only for student learning, but for student motivation, engagement, excitement and even empowerment. I’m amazed what students can and will do once we do relinquish that control. I’ve seen it happen in my own classroom and once you’ve seen the magic it never leaves you. Perhaps that’s why I’m so passionate on the subject. Beth asked, “how do we keep them engaged?” The answer is – We don’t. That’s the educator in us wanting to be in control. We need to foster the grit, determination and perseverance in learners that is needed when their engagement wanes and they grow tired, bored and frustrated with tasks. This “disengagement” will happen throughout their lives. Sometimes learning is fun, sometimes it’s hard work. The internal satisfaction of achieving cannot be given, it must be earned by the learner themselves.

    One of the first pieces of information I came across when I was running a personalized classroom was the PDI chart explaining the differences between personalized, differentiated and individualized instruction. I loved all aspects of the chart as I felt it really identified the differences between these topics. Finally, I had found something that put the learner first. Everything is personalized learning was about the learner. When you look at the chart as a whole and read the first column you become amazed as to what learners can do. If you haven’t downloaded a copy of the chart – here is the link:

    Whenever the topic of personalized learning is discussed it is often followed by a conversation about the need to balance a love of learning with the need to learn the “important stuff.” Again, the view on learning that learning is being taught shines strong. Is the only way to learn the important stuff through someone telling it to us? Personalized learning is not about learning what ever you want whenever you want to learn it. We are governed by state and local standards that specifically outline what each and every student should know and be able to do in a certain grade. These standards can be used in conjunction with personalized learning. They can serve as an umbrella to guide students in their learning and understanding of necessary topics. Students need to learn how to unpack standards so they are meaningful and relevant just as much as teachers do. As educators, our job is to facilitate the process of making sense of standards, not deliver them. Russ Vogel describes this shift in teaching to that of moving from the “Sage on the Stage” toward being a “Guide on the Side.” Educators need to build a bank of resources and skills to facilitate the varied needs of each of the learners in the classroom in addition to being versed in content. But it’s not our job to do all the work. I’m convinced this is why so many teachers leave the profession from burnout. They do the job the learners should be doing and in doing so, unknowingly rob the joy of learning from students.

    The book Make Learning Personal will point to lots of schools who are embarking on a personalized learning journey. The authors’ website also has many journal entries with interviews from teachers all over the world. ( )


  13. As I read Chapter One in this book I read a lot of ideas that I really loved and then I found myself asking so many questions! I didn’t find myself questioning the ideas presented, I just found myself very curious and wanting to understand more about how this really works. On the very first page it told a story of a multi-age classroom and I love the idea of breaking down the walls of age and grade level. I know that’s something many of us, especially in primary, have talked about and even experimented with in some small ways. Even after just reading the beginning of this chapter I found myself really evaluating what personalized learning means to me and seeing that shift from having something personalized for you versus personalizing for yourself.

    I think one of the questions I have and the big part of this system that I still need to develop a better understanding of is how we ensure that students learn what is necessary for them to learn. How do we guide them, especially our little bugs, to learn the skills that we know are necessary for them as they progress through school? How does the “how they learn” and the “what they need to learn” line up? Or is that just me being stuck in the mindset and system that we have all be trained in?

    As I was reading I kept asking myself, “What does this look like for first graders?” I wondered how we really assess and determine whether a student is progressing and how much the teachers get to guide the skills and content students engage with. Is there such a thing within personalized learning as what they NEED to know or learn? Again, these are questions that I ask wanting to deepen my understanding, not criticize the ideas being discussed.

    I love the ideas of increased independence and a system where it is all about success and failure is no longer an option. I love that kids could feel that without that being a pressure (I can’t fail at this) that so many of us feel even as adults.

    I loved Figure 1.2 representing personalized learning and how it demonstrated the importance of relationships within this system. As I read about that further I found that it really seemed to line up with our philosophies in Manitou.

    There was a quote in this chapter that talked about how learning is a decision to engage with information. We often talk about how we can have what we think is the best designed lesson or the coolest activities, but we can’t make that choice for our students to engage. I think there is really something to say about offering our students an environment where they can’t help but engage because they are in the driver’s seat.

    Another wonderment…do we feel we have the resources to provide the multiple curriculum pathways that a system like this should provide kids or would that be something we would need to build?

    As I finished the chapter, the idea of us having to “unlearn” what we’ve all kind of been trained in so far was strongly resonating within me. Making the move to personalized learning seems like something that would take a lot of time, adjusting, communicating, and extreme commitment. Is it a system that we could see ourselves committing to completely and for the long haul no matter what else might come down from outside our walls?


  14. While I appreciated that the introduction to Chapter 1 introduced the vision of the ultimate personalized learning environment for mulit-age, I also appreciated how it was mentioned right after that personalized learning environments can and may all look different. This is because these environments are further personalized to the learners, teachers, schools, and community. My mind started swimming with questions concerning what our community, school, students, and very importantly, the teachers and educators within our school, think personalized learning should and could look like at Ute Pass Elementary. What kinds of things are important for all of us involved in the love, care, and learning of our students, and what kinds of things may not fit? Would we have answers to that, or can we even answer those questions as an entire school? I like the potential these kinds of visions for everyone involved can have for serious conversations as to how we would collectively like to see ourselves and our school facilitate personalized learning. But I also think it is important to have those conversations to determine what kinds of things are already happening within our school that are already fostering personalized learning experiences for our students.

    The hardest part, for me, is to begin to think about how personalized learning is and isn’t happening in my own learning environment (both my own, and the one in which I am the teacher). I do like how Chapter 1 went into detail to describe that personalized learning environments start with the learner. I think, though, that most, if not all educators have their learners in mind when they think about next steps or planning for new things in the classroom. I like how Greg and Kym mentioned that, when taking learner’s needs into account, it’s important not to throw out what has worked for students, even when it does look like whole group instruction and not just individual. Like or scrapping technology for the sake of personal and social interaction, and reading a collective book with many students and being able to watch them learn from each other. In this way, I do think we can get more creative in the way we assess “learning”, as well as define as a whole what personalization looks like… because we all know it when we see it!


  15. I believe that, as educators, personalized learning should be a goal toward which we all should be striving for every one of our students. After reading the first few pages of this chapter I was a bit frightened of the concept of personalized learning (especially as a first year teacher) when put in this definition: “In a personalized learning environment, learners actively participate in the design of their learning. They have a voice in what they are learning based on now they learn best” (p. 14). I quickly found myself imagining my music room full of twenty-eight second graders all holding boom whackers and deciding that the design of their learning should involve using the boom-whackers as light sabers.

    However, as I continued to read I began to understand this definition more by focusing on the second part: “They have a voice in what they are learning based on how they learn best.” This, in my opinion, seems to be the most important part of individualized learning. I think the question is, what is the best way for our kiddos to express their voice to let us know how they learn? Maybe this question is unanswerable, and maybe it looks completely different for every student. I would say the way a 5th grader expresses a voice about her/his learning is definitely different than the way a kindergartener expresses her/his voice about learning.

    I was very intrigued by Sarah’s comment when she stated: “I think one of the questions I have and the big part of this system that I still need to develop a better understanding of is how we ensure that students learn what is necessary for them to learn. How do we guide them, especially our little bugs, to learn the skills that we know are necessary for them as they progress through school? How does the ‘how they learn’ and the ‘what they need to learn’ line up?” Sarah’s questions directly coincide with my misunderstandings as well. She brings up a great point, and one of my main concerns. After reading this chapter (only speaking from my own point of view of course), I would say that the best way for me to determine a voice for our kiddos is to make sure I do three things:

    1) Listen deeply to each and every child; not just listen to what they say, but how they say it, and how they feel about learning, in order to give me a better understanding of how to better connect with their learning style.
    2) It is important to make sure each and every student has a variety of options regarding how they learn what they need to learn (Greg’s genius hour is a perfect example of this).
    3) I must be willing to change and adapt based on the learning styles of each and every student.

    This is what I got out of this whole idea of personalized learning. I’d love to hear what you all think about it, and sorry for posting so late!!!


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