Journeys to Personalized Learning, Maker 2.0 and Project-based Learning

Dispatches from Remake Learning’s delegation to iNACOL 2017

A small cohort of educators from the Remake Learning network, including staff from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Wilkinsburg School District, attended the 2017 Symposium of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) held last month in Orlando, Florida.

Titled “Personalizing Learning: Equity, Access, Quality,” the conference was the largest for iNACOL, with over 2,500 participants drawn from across the country and around the world. iNACOL’s mission is to catalyze the transformation of K-12 education policy and practice to advance powerful, personalized, learner-centered experiences through competency-based, blended and online learning.

Throughout the conference, attendees had access to unprecedented networking opportunities where they were able to gain access to expertise, analysis, and trends in personalized, competency-based learning. The many thought-provoking sessions attended allowed the cohort to share information with innovative leaders shaping the future of education. The symposium included more than 200 sessions, each with a specific track to guide attendees toward sessions that fit their unique professional learning needs.

For teachers attending from the Wilkinsburg School District, the symposium was a revelation for how creative and innovative instructional practices already underway in their classrooms can help shape the future of their district.

“I have to admit, before I went to this conference I was thinking this wasn’t for me, but after a few of the sessions I attended, I soon realized I was getting a lot of good information that related to the STEAM classroom I teach,” said Russell Bush, a teacher at Wilkinsburg’s Turner Elementary School.

“Most of the sessions I attended were the Project Based Learning, where I kept seeing the connections to the STEAM classroom,” Bush continued. “The sessions stressed how in PBL, student learning goes far beyond the main objective of the lesson.  I realized I’m seeing these types of connections in my classroom.  When my second grade students are constructing Snap Circuits, the main focus of the lessons is to be able to construct a circuit and gain an understanding of how electricity works.  However, in this lesson, I realized the circuit board the students were using to construct the circuit was a coordinate plane.  Students don’t go in-depth with coordinate planes until 4th grade, but by working on this project, they are getting early exposure to concepts they’ll encounter in the years ahead.”

After attending a session on Blended Learning, Timothy Weinstein, who teaches the Pre-K to 6th STEAM program at Wilkinsburg’s Kelly Elementary, saw how he and his fellow teachers have been implementing personalized and blended learning, even if they haven’t been using the same jargon favored by the symposium.

“By the end of the conference, I saw how the Wilkinsburg School District was, in some ways, ahead of the curve,” said Weinstein. “And as we continue to restructure the district, we’re being guided by an administration that not only shares a common vision with the faculty and staff, but also knows how to effect major change the “right way”.

“At the session titled “Transforming Schools and Systems: Lessons from the Field,” we discussed how schools go about implementing change and the obstacles they encounter. As I listened, I reflected on the changes our schools have undergone since our current superintendent’s arrival. From the implementation of Text-Dependent Analysis as a high-yield literacy strategy to the use of special area teachers such as myself to work in small groups with academically struggling students and the addition of Positive Behaviors and Interventions Supports coaches and a social worker to help behaviorally struggling students, it became obvious to me that the Wilkinsburg School District is on the right track.”

The cohort from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit delved into the world of project-based learning, personalized learning for K-5, Maker 2.0, and how to scale projects and creative learning space designs from experts who provided hands-on specifics to walk even those newest and veteran to the field of virtual, blended and personalized learning.

“It was a tremendous learning experience with solid applications that will be shared with our network of Remake Learning partners,” said Jennifer Beagan, Senior Program Director in Teaching and Learning at the AIU.

For a collection of highlights from the iNACOL Symposium, visit inacol.org and dive into the keynote presentations and collections of resources shared at the conference.


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