Chapter 3 – pages 73 – 110

Comment below regarding this chapter.


11 thoughts on “Chapter 3 – pages 73 – 110

  1. I couldn’t help but think that this chapter should have been an earlier chapter in the book. I’m sure it would have relieved some stress. Like any big change, stress is relieved if the change is taken in steps.
    In implementing Genius Hour in my class, I did exactly what Shelley Wright did. My students had to answer: “What are you going to learn?, How are you going to learn?, and How are you going to show me your learning?” Overall, it has been successful. The largest challenge for me is the time it takes. It does take more time than the usual lessons. Students just do not move that fast on their own learning.
    I still do have a critique about this book. It presents the view that everything will be great if we go totally into personalized learning. That instantly brings up red flags in my brain. I believe in balance. There is no single magic elixir of education that will make everything wonderful. (Remember what happened with Whole Language? Teachers went totally into it and left out important things like phonics, etc.) Great education is about mixing and matching the best things in our repertoire. There are many lessons that I can think of that work great as group instruction. There are many I can think of that would not work as personalized learning. I fear that teachers would adopt this all or nothing strategy and it would be detrimental. Just saying, that’s all….

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  2. I appreciated the idea that the shift to more personalized learning can also be personalized for each teacher. It is important that the change meet our unique personalities. This chapter states that the environment will look different in every school and classroom. Reading the stories of the different teachers individual journeys was helpful in visualizing how to implement more personalization in my class. I am most excited in exploring the idea of creating an environment that encourages the natural desire to explore and learn. The challenge still seems to be allowing kids to be in charge of decisions while being responsible for state standards. I think we all want to see kids who are more motivated, engaged, and invested in the learning process. How this happens is the question to consider moving forward. I think we all realize that the traditional method has the danger of leaving the kids on the fringes behind. The fact that each stage begins with considering your most diverse learners in the development of personal learning profiles or journeys is really powerful. I think this opens up success for all our kids.


  3. Well, once again, I find myself in between streams of thought, on the one hand feeling very excited about children personally engaged and thrilled to be learning. On the other hand, the practical part of me thinks there are things which would work brilliantly for some and disastrously for others. Sarah talked about the pendulum. So the question is, has it been swinging…have we really been changing, or not? When I student – taught many years ago, I was in an “open” school, meaning there were no walls, (one open ‘great room’), with the exception of two teachers who wouldn’t teach in the open room environment – emphasis on “wouldn’t”. That open mode did not last long because it induced too much confusion for kids, too much noise etc. But the idea was that removing the walls would allow teachers and kids to share, group fluidly through greater proximity. I saw two extremes within one school. But the walls went back up a few years after it was attempted. I think we have been dealing with swings for sure, and instead of finding the right balance, we give up and swing the other way all together. People get frustrated and then want to go back to the safe thing which is always more static, more controlled – So I would want to see this done well. I like that there are testimonials of teachers in the book who are in different stages of the process, scaffolding, and removing scaffolds as their students get comfortable with choice. With a gradual approach, I think it is doable. There may be some students who never get comfortable with self-directed learning. Some would take to it like fish. By the way, the example of Chris’s second grade classroom in Lincoln, England, was not a Level 3 learning experience, in my opinion. He provided all the prompts and directed them in exactly how they could find it. Still, it was an impressive exercise for second grade and so much fun.

    I’m also thinking that balance is not just about how we structure learning. It’s also that learning is very much about knowledge – a body of learning as it has been mined over thousands of years. I know that in some circles it is out of vogue right now. And in other circles, it’s all that is talked about. Another polar issue. I think we like to bat around the “knowledge” ball by saying that learning isn’t just about “facts and figures”. To me, that is coming from a position of frustration with the ‘powers that be’ who are forcing schools to demonstrate results at the expense of process – losing teachers and students along the way. The frustration isn’t really about facts and figures or learning content. It’s about our options for making knowledge available, not forcing our students into restrictive boxes, or our concern about who is looking over our shoulders. I for one, don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We stand on thousands of years of facts and figures. What we know is because somebody else discovered it, or thought about it, or wrote it. So far in the book, I have not seen this conflict addressed. What do we do about content? And is it important that every learner has the same content? In the “messiness” of learning, what is getting left out? Is it now preeminent that kids are excited about learning, while what they are learning is left to the preference of a child. This is where the teacher is critical.


  4. I appreciated the emphasis on the various stages of change that a teacher can work towards. It was refreshing to know that it doesn’t have to happen quickly, but over a large period of time if needed. Already, I feel like so many Ute Pass teachers help empower students by taking on roles in all three of the stages mentioned in the chapter from our emphasis on student goals, to grid projects, to unpacking standards. It was really refreshing to know that we are doing so many neat things that have the power to be extremely impactful for our students.
    Much of this chapter struck me as being very open-ended and free form when it came to student and teacher roles. I think that allowing students to take charge of their learning is a really neat thing. However, I do have doubts about it. I think that too much choice can be really intimidating for students. Many of my students crave structure, as to I at times.
    When I’ve worked with older students, their ability to pave their own paths is much more matured. Transitioning into a personalized learning environment takes steps for our students as well. They need to be exposed to a personalized learning environment from the beginning of their Ute Pass experience so that each year we can hand them more responsibility, as appropriate.
    But, as Greg mentioned, balance is a beautiful thing.


  5. I really appreciated Greg’s red flags. I’ve been thinking a lot about the paradox between direct instruction and personalize learning. Some of the reading I’ve been doing recently suggest that both can coexist but that we have to develop systems that allow them to coexist. We want kids to take ownership of their learning and to explore freely. But we also know the teaching your child how to speak does not mean we don’t speak to them and hope that through free play they discover it for themselves. Thus I would assume we all agree that teaching powerful content through powerful direct instruction also belongs in the 21st-century classroom. While driving to Seattle I came up with two recipe formulas for possibly doing this:

    1. Factual Knowledge Gives Curiosity Staying Power: Gather knowledge like wood to build a warm fire of curiosity. Vocabulary, facts, dates, information matter. They must, however, be moved intentionally from the domain of cognitive strain to the domain of cognitive familiarity (Kahnemann & Leslie – these were two books I listen to in the 44 hours I had in my car.)

    2. Plan For Tough Thinking: Create Incompatible Conclusions in the Classroom: They Can And Should Exist at the Same Time. The goal is epistemic, not variable curiosity. (Leslie, p. 108)

    Great thinkers embrace paradox. They can hold TWO paradoxical ideas in their mind at the same time. You cannot learn without discomfort. Too much discomfort and you cannot learn. The curiosity zone like the zone of proximal development wise between what you know what happens when you realize there’s just a little more you don’t. The associations we intentionally develop across time form the foundation of student beliefs). Beliefs (System One Thinking). These are hard to undo.

    Thus, examples of What Great teacher thinkers ACTUALLY do on a regular basis:

    • Recognize and act on the fact that Control can lead to learning AND Control can undo learning. (Collins, p. 39)
    • Act on the fact that Luck can lead to success AND Luck can lead to failure. (p. 351)
    • Are BOTH Disciplined and creative
    • Embrace BOTH Consistency and change
    • Have Ferocious ambition and are not egocentric
    • Have Paranoia and courage
    • Regularly Zoom in on details and zoom out on the big picture. If they can’t do it, they train themselves to do so.
    • Recognize and act on things like: Decoding can lead to reading/Decoding can hold reading back
    • Recognize and act on things like: Manipulatives can lead to better learning/manipulatives can hold learning back.

    I believe this paradox can coexist inside the model of personal learning but I’d love to know what others think.


  6. “Get out of their way.” This quote struck me in that when we see a child or adult who is passionate about something they are learning (or growing) we all get out of the way! As supportive humans we naturally set others up to grow.
    The examples of teachers’ experiences with personalized learning left me wondering about the pieces not mentioned. Like Greg, I found it interesting that the individuals seemed to believe the change was the magic elixir. I have watched so many ideas come into education that are supposed to be the answer. It leaves me wondering. Balance is extremely important.
    I liked the stages which I felt were quite open ended. Many students need structure and guidance, others need less of both. Looking closely at the diverse needs of the students appears to be a well grounded place to begin. Building around needs would create safety as well as confidence for the child and teacher. Just as our students, each of us has our own gifted manner of supporting students. We also possess our own ways of personalizing learning in each of our classrooms.


  7. Just imagine what the pre k/k and 1/2 open exploration classes will look like. This chapter could be used as an inspirational guide for the journey we, as primary teachers, are on. The difference between learner-centered and learner-driven is still vague to me as a primary teacher. The example of the K teacher stuck in Greenland on his way to the North Pole motivated the the class to the extreme but was only learner centered as he gave them the questions. Creating PLP’s on a unit by unit basis or checking in on a bi weekly basis seems like a way to navigate to learner- driven. Visually seeing it daily is tricky so maybe this is how to balance direct instruction vs this approach. Being an educator that understands when to use the different approaches might be crucial.

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  8. When thinking about the ‘paradox between direct instruction and personalized learning’ this chapter helped me put a few things into perspective. On pg. 83 they talk about a project in stage 1 and then one that is transformed by giving the students more voice and choice. I feel that these simple tweaks give the students much more investment into their learning and the tasks. We recently finished a book study where students had to show their learning and understanding of the book and concepts in several different ways. One of the more successful pieces was their vocabulary. They had to choose 15 words and show that they understood those words in a way that they choose. Some students made crosswords, one a word jumble with clues, and a few used the words with in a story with context. All the students had to find words that they did not know and they had to find some way to show that they understood them. This was certainly an improvement and a new way of looking at assigning students vocabulary words and testing them on them.
    I have tried this in a few other assignments and feel that it works exceptionally well for the self-motivated students but for those that are not, they still need some structure and plenty of coaching along the way.


  9. One of the many paradoxes we have in education…
    Yes, balance is key. We cannot throw out direct instruction. We need to be able to discern when the time is necessary to give more or less guidance as well as when the time is optimal for direct instruction vs. personalized learning. And this changes all the time~ by unit, learner, skill set, time, etc etc etc. Part of it I would think would also be training learners to be able to recognize and ask for more guidance if they feel stuck, uninspired, or what not. Structure is a good thing as well as freeing up for open-ended creativity and following ones passion. Knowing ourselves and knowing our students is so important in order to balance this ebb and flow.
    It was interesting reading the teachers’ journeys, though I thought some of them seemed a bit like an end-all system rather than a continuing, fluid process.
    I liked the part about redesigning the learning environment~ how we set up the “learning zone” can have a huge impact. I know I get stuck and cannot always see how it could be rearranged differently for the better.
    Like Louisa mentioned, I think down the road students could really utilize their voice and choice in amazing ways if they’ve gone through this process in various ways each year in each classroom.


  10. This chapter was very refreshing for a couple different reasons. As others mentioned, it was nice to read that there is a transition and a process to implementing this type of learning environment. It was a bit overwhelming jumping into this book, feeling the gap between the environment it is describing and the one we currently operate in, and then feeling like you would have to make this big leap into something new without the tools or materials to do so. This chapter helped to make clear what that transition can look like and how it can be more gradual. The other refreshing aspect of this chapter was that I found myself thinking that many of us are probably doing a lot of Stage One components in our classrooms or could easily make more of that shift into Stage One by making simple adjustments or additions to what we already do. I was really excited reading especially after the conversations that we have been having in the primary team. It was so inspiring and validating to see that there is an existing system where a child’s learning doesn’t have to be about their age, grade-level, or specific level standards. It is possible to create that competency-based environment where students learn what they need and what their ready for. They move through it at the pace they are developmentally ready for and in a way that speaks to them as a young learner. I think many of us could see ourselves making that leap and would love to begin that conversation of how to get the support and materials needed to starting taking those first steps. I think that all comes with the understanding that because moving to this system would be such a drastic change from where we’ve been that it will be a process. We need to allow ourselves and our students a little bit of grace as we adjust, reflect, evaluate, and move forward communicating about how to set up learning environments that we feel are the most beneficial for our kids.


  11. I found this chapter instructive – using stages of growth in personalized learning. My teacher goal was to allow my students more independence with projects – choosing tools and presentation modes. However, I think I jumped them from what the chapter calls Stage 1 to Stage 3 too fast. My third project fell apart and I had to intervene and get the students back up and running. I learned that students can not learn in a way that they have never witnessed or been guided through. So the framework of personalized learning had to be laid before taking off into independence. I like this quote from Staci, “Looking closely at the diverse needs of the students appears to be a well grounded place to begin. Building around needs would create safety as well as confidence for the child and teacher. ” So now I take it one small step at a time and pace myself, my enthusiasm with my students’.


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