The "Smart" Connection Between Personalized Learning and Educational Technology

Posted by Reed Howard on Nov 27, 2016 8:00:00 PM

It’s difficult to deny the fact that striving to create a personalized learning environment within your classroom is a great method to help students achieve learning gains. In an ideal setting, we all certainly would like to personalize our instruction methods to meet the interests, preferences, and learning needs of each kid.

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Topics: Personalized Learning, Technology in the Classroom

Educational Big Data's Emerging Effect on Personalized Student Learning

Posted by Reed Howard on Nov 20, 2016 8:00:00 PM


For the past few years, businesses, corporations, and even political bloggers have made efforts to harnessbig data to better inform themselves (and the world) of trends, interests, and predictive Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 3.06.16 PM-1.png
action. The big data movement is now making its way into the education field. Much like data allows websites, search engines, and even brick-and-mortar stores to figure out who you are and what you like, schools are realizing that large student data sets and analytics can help educators provide customized and personalized education paths.

Don’t get mired in numbers, instead focus on student learning

Unless your title is Educational Data Scientist, the massive amount of numbers, data points, and spreadsheets synonymous with big data is most likely a bit overwhelming and frankly a bit over your head.

And, that’s totally fine! The following sections detail how educational technology resources help you avoid the crunching of numbers, and instead offer more valuable instructional time utilizing data analysis to improve individual student achievement.

Leveraging educational data in today’s classroom

In a general sense, the ability to use data to offer true personalized learning experiences based on interest, learning goals, and pacing is a welcome progression. The idea of inputting student "symptoms" and immediately receiving real-time feedback on the best approach for a student or group of students is beyond encouraging.

However, the validity of big data in schools is directly tied to proper and efficient application. Predictive tools that enhance learning for individual students are readily available, but they must work well and they must be easy for educators to use.

Seek tools and resources that help educators design a personalized blended learning curriculum that collects data at every step of the Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 3.16.26 PM.pnglearning process, but also quickly interpolates the data for easy educator use. Doing so allows the educator to adjust a student’s learning path at the click of a mouse without getting mired in the depth of numbers and data points.

To achieve this, the personalized learning EdTech resources you seek out should include:

  • Easily accessible progress reports
  • Descriptive usage reports
  • Curriculum customization ability at the teacher and administrative level
  • Customized learning activities and interactions, based on difficulty and pace
  • Blended learning problem solving activities that develop critical and creative thinking.
  • Assessments that measure “ depth of knowledge “

Effective EdTech Data Tools are readily available

The great thing is, implementing personalized learning through data sharing is already possible. Big data and big analytics can be brought into the K-12 classroom on a useful scale with online services including learning management systems, student information systems, and valuable EdTech resources that collect and return useful analytics for all educational stakeholders (teachers, students, administrators, parents, etc.).

These resources are all designed to meet needs of learning standards and individual learning goals, while also providing teachers with tools to deliver personalized education to each and every student.

Quickly identifying areas of needed reinforcement and/or enrichment also provides more time for valuable one-to-one instruction and the scaffolding of needed critical thinking and analysis skills in collaborative settings.

Use Big Data as a Stepping Stone and then know your students well enough that you are sure they are on the right path

Certainly, new technology needs to be applied carefully, checked and adjusted at every step. We’d be remiss to not be cautious with the technological potential of educational big data, specifically the chance that the technology is simply wrong about a student’s projected learning path.

As MIT professor Mitch Resnick , creator of the EdTech learning too Scratch, notes:

"I wouldn't want to be limited only to what a machine suggests for me. If it's central to my experience, if I'm categorized in a certain way and pushed down a certain path, it could make a much worse experience for me. The machine could have students avoid things they might have been interested in."

We must use data to help quide an individual learning path but monitor that path not only through technology but one to one interaction with the student to make sure that we do “get it right.'

The key is to view the benefits of big data and prescriptive educational technology as a “jumping-off point” for the personalized learning process, instead of the end-all-be-all. Big data and big analytics – combined properly with the solid instincts of the classroom teacher's experience and talents - can give educators an unprecedented means to combine educator intuition and understanding with suggestions from technology to create an effective and efficient learning experience.

Share your experiences with Educational Data in your classroom or school

Has your leveraged educational data to enhance personalized learning? What are some of your limits or blockers when it comes to your ability to utilize the data on a student-to-student basis? We'd love to hear your stories and successes!


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Topics: Personalized Learning, Technology in the Classroom

Wowzers Teacher Feature Blog

Posted by Reed Howard on Nov 6, 2016 8:00:00 PM

This month we are featuring Catherine Romero, a Nationally Board Certified Teacher with 20 years of experience. She teaches at Central Elementary, part of the Belen Consolidated Schools, which has been using Wowzers since early 2015.

In Catherine’s fourth grade class, students use Wowzers on Windows desktops, iPads, and Mac laptops several times per week, in 30- to 45-minute segments. Here’s what she has to say about Wowzers:

Currently we are on multiplication and about five students really understand the concept and have their multiplication facts memorized. I love that they can go on in the Wowzers program without waiting for others. Oftentimes they are on my classroom computers while I'm working one-on-one with students that need more individual help.

My students last year showed great improvement in math, but honestly, I think Wowzers helps with reading comprehension skills too. Students read or follow along a lot with the program, but it's in a fun way and they don't even realize the amount of reading they've actually accomplish in a session.

I just love Wowzers. It's like having another 23 math teachers in class!

Catherine’s Teacher Tip:

Know your students. Some students need to be advanced through sections or they lose motivation and get bored. I require each student to keep a math journal that they often refer to.  The journal shows their work so I can see how they are solving problems and their notes are a good reference for them.   

Central Elementary’s principal, Emily Sisk-Layman, fully supports Catherine’s enthusiasm for Wowzers as well. She reports:

From what Ms. Romero has shown me, I see that her students are engaged in the program and are working on very specific skills. She has shared with me very informative data reports on her students’ progress on those skills. She has shown me how she can provide feedback in the constructive response format on student tasks.

I would recommend the program to the schools simply for the fact that I see that students are highly engaged in using the program and are involved in tracking their progress.

We love hearing from teachers and administrators who are using Wowzers in innovative and creative ways!

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Topics: Personalized Learning, Wowzers Tales, Technology in the Classroom, RTI, Common Core, Implementation Examples

5 Key Elements of a Personalized Learning Evironment

Posted by Reed Howard on Oct 16, 2016 10:00:00 PM

There is no denying that personalized learning is one of the most pervasive buzzwords currently going around in education. Accordingly, we hear the term "personalized learning experiences" thrown around quite a bit as a goal of schools and classrooms.

However, personalized learning is often equated to the idea: "as long as the experience isn’t the same for every student, it’s personalized." Simply put, that "definition" is a very broad brush to paint with and it leaves out quite a few important details.

Read below the break to learn more about five often overlooked, but vitally important elements of a truly personalized learning environment.

A true personalized learning environment

1) Supplies opportunities for every student in every possible situation

What I mean by "every student in every situation" is that the curriculum you provide must be accessible to each individual student, regardless of status, learning pace, interests, etc. -- i.e. you don't have a personalized learning environment if the personalized experience is only truly available to those who have access to iPads and netbooks outside of the classroom.

This element may seem like a given, but it’s worth mentioning considering just how different students can be from one another. Each student's socio-economic status, language ability, learning disadvantages, etc. must to be considered for any school seeking to adopt a personalized curriculum.

2) Utilizes near-constant assessment techniques

Hey, I know that the over-assessment of today's kids already carries a negative stigma, but you cannot provide a truly personalized learning experience without constant assessment techniques. In a literal sense, you must have an understanding of what Jane or Johnny knows at regular intervals in order to tailor a personalized learning experience.

The key is to not get mired in the idea that every assessment you administer must be a sit-down quiz or test. Use your own instincts as an educator as well as valuable and descriptive assessment means (formal and informal, formative and summative, online and offline) to develop a constant stream of prescriptive understanding and awareness. This real-time status will help you make informed decisions on the next step of a personalized curriculum.

3) Provides a prescriptive curriculum to each student

No two students are the same and neither are their educational histories. If a basic concept was not understood when it was first taught, the lack of mastery can impede learning for the rest of the student’s career (in school and beyond). Additionally, if a student is excelling at a particular subject or concept, the same-old curriculum path may be boring and unchallenging, causing the student to disengage.

Beginning with your constant assessment process, use the findings and observations to quickly diagnose these knowledge gaps and accelerated proficiencies. The next step is to apply a prescriptive curriculum that both addresses the knowledge gaps/proficiencies and provides your individual student the needed learning content to meet his/her needs and help him/her get back on their own track.

4) Affords students the ability to learn via different modalities

Here's where the differentiated aspect of personalized learning becomes very important. Each student (most-likely) has an ideal learning modality or a combination of modalities. Maybe Johhny likes a more interactive approach (tactile) while Jane wants to listen to learning content via a tablet or computer (auditory). Your personalized learning environment must be able to tailor itself to the instruction methods in which your student learns best.

Identifying the ideal learning modality is a two-part process involving the student and you. In the later grades, you can often simply ask students how they like to learn and combine their responses with your own observations and analysis. However, for younger students, chances are they probably don't know what they like yet. In this case, don't be afraid of a little trial and error or formative assessment. Look for both engagement, demeanor changes, and concrete progress data (at all age levels) to help inform your observations.

5) Truly addresses student interests and needs

Don't forget, relevant information is learned information. Your learning environment should account for the goals of the student when making decisions on aspects of the personalized curriculum.

  • Are we staying with the state learning standards or are we moving the student toward a chosen career?
  • How can we do both, if need be?
  • What kinds of situations could come up in that career that we can address through math or other subject areas?

These questions are pivitol in crafting a personalized curriculum and help deter the dreaded question, “Where am I going to use this?” Instead, there should be a cognizant plan between you and the student that results in tailoring the learning (and your conversation) to both show interest and to guide the learning toward those goals.

I'll admit this last element is very difficult in a class of 20-30 students, but isn't the overarching idea of helping students identify and reach their learning goals the reason we all got into education in the first place?

What are your key elements of a personalized learning environment?

These five points are a good start but they definitely do not cover the whole story. We'd love to hear about the key elements and strategies that define your personalized learning efforts!

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P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

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Topics: Personalized Learning

Wowzers is aligned with NWEA, The Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)

Posted by Reed Howard on Oct 9, 2016 8:00:00 PM


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Topics: Common Core Assessments, Technology in the Classroom, Common Core, Standards, NWEA/MAPS, Assessment Prep, Test Prep

Wowzers and Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Posted by Reed Howard on Oct 2, 2016 8:00:00 PM


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Topics: Technology in the Classroom

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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