Individualization, Differentiation & Personalized Learning – A comparison #BCSLearns

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), through feedback from educators with whom they work, created the following definition of Personalized Learning: “Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda authored the recent book published by ASCD called Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. The image below is a table compares three different instructional models: Personalized Learning, Individualization and Differentiation. Note the differences between the three…


Personalized learning, in short, can capture completely the key aspects of both individualization and differentiation while achieving clearly higher levels of authenticity, problem-solving, inquiry, analysis, co-creation and self-discovery.

Nellie Mae Education Foundation  mission is to “reshape our system so that learning is personalized, and students have a true voice in their education.” Check out the video below that brings this mission to life.

The Gift of Metacognitive Moments #BCSLearns

I posted a bit about wisdom last week, and this week’s post focuses on reflection – metacognition.  Confucius quoted that, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching cites a variety of research concluding that “metacognitive practices increase students’ abilities to transfer or adapt their learning to new contexts and tasks.  They do this by gaining a level of awareness above the subject matter: they also think about the tasks and contexts of different learning situations and themselves as learners in these different contexts.”  In short, reflection for learners, at any age, is a highly effective tool for learning.

How do we provide ourselves and our students metacognitive moments?  A tweet from TeachThought, referencing Exit Slips, listed 8 Reflective Questions to Help Any Student Think about Their Learning.

  1. What surprised you today, and why?
  2. What’s the most important thing you learned today? Why do you think so?
  3. What do you want to learn more about, and why?
  4. When were you the most creative, and why do you think that is?
  5. What made you curious today? How does learning feel different when you’re curious?
  6. When were you at your best today, and why?
  7. (Assuming we were studying the same thing and you could decide and have access to anything), where would you start tomorrow? Why?
  8. What can/should you do with what you know?

As educators, is easy for us to pose reflective questions like the ones above, but how do we help students make metacognition a habit.  Metacognition: The Gift that Keeps Giving from Edutopia shares specific details on how to teach students to be more metacognitive.

  • Define the term metacognition.
  • Ask students to describe the benefits and supply examples of driving their brains well.
  • Look for opportunities to discuss and apply metacognition across core subjects…
  • Model metacognition by talking through problems.

Dr. Derek Cabrera is an internationally recognized expert in metacognition (thinking about thinking), epistemology (the study of knowledge), human and organizational learning, and education.  Check out his TedTalk below on “How Thinking Works.”

Want More Metacognition Resources?

Intelligence, Creativity and Wisdom #BCSLearns

I had another great article pushed to me last week from The Marshall MemoTesting for Better and Worse by Robert Sternberg in Phi Delta Kappan.  “Our testing culture may be making us smarter,” says Robert Sternberg (Cornell University) in this Kappan article, “but at the expense of the wisdom and creativity we’ll need to flourish in our world.” Intelligence – Creativity – Wisdom – Here is Figure 1 from Sternberg’s article to serve as his take on these “three human dimensions”:


Intelligence is the cognitive ability as measured by IQ and other tests serving as a gateway to higher education and economic success. See the above descriptors.

Creativity defined by Sternberg as thinking that produces a novel, surprising, and useful idea or product. See the above descriptors.

According to Sternberg, “Knowledge can help, but also interfere with, the creative process.”

Wisdom, according to Sternberg, involves using positive ethical values to seek a common good, balancing one’s own interests with those of others and thinking about large versus small interests. See the above descriptors.

Is creativity more important intelligence? Sternberg contends that “We’d still be in the Stone Age were it not for human creativity. Children use creativity to figure out how to persuade their parents to buy toys, and their parents use creativity to figure out how to maintain parental control in the face of their children’s demands for new toys.” Sound familiar – with your students in the classroom or your kids at home? OR, is wisdom more important than intelligence and creativity. “Many political leaders around the world, including in the United States, attended prestigious colleges and universities that admit only very intelligent students,” argues Sternberg. “But how many of them would you classify as wise?… The problem is that smart people can be foolish.” We desperately need wisdom as we navigate this growingly-complex world of ours!

But ultimately, is wisdom enough? Sternberg conclusion is that “solving the problems in our homes, communities, nation, and world… requires a balance of creativity, intelligence, and wisdom: creativity to generate new ideas, intelligence to vet the quality of the ideas, and wisdom to ensure that the ideas serve a common good. It’s not enough for schools to teach and test in ways that only develop and reward general intelligence. Teachers can teach and assess students for creativity and wisdom as well as for general intelligence and knowledge base…If we don’t start putting these ideas into practice, we and our world will suffer for it, perhaps irretrievably. Our world would be a safe and wonderful place for most of us to live in if only our creativity and wisdom had improved in the last century the same way our intelligence did.” Thank goodness that our BCS vision, values, and beliefs align with these notions!

Check out the full article here.

Want more on this?  Check out Sternberg’s TEDx Talk on “Why Standardized Testing Fails…

The Future is Now! #BCSLearns

“The future is in school today.” In an article, The Future Is Now: Ten Realities for Educators and Communities, in Principal, I discovered through the Marshall Memo, Gary Marx (Center for Public Outreach) lists ten downstream realities faced by educators and the public at large:

  • Every institution is going through a reset. The question is not, “When will things get back to normal?” but “What will the new normal look like?”
  • Lifelong learning is available any time, any place, any way, and at any pace.
  • Everything that happens in the world has implications for education. “If it isn’t already, international learning should be among our basics,” says Marx.
  • The future is in school today. Kindergarteners who entered school last fall will turn 65 in 2076 and 89 in 2100.
  • People entering the workforce today can expect to hold up to eleven jobs and go through several career changes during their working lives.
  • If we don’t constantly take the initiative to create the education system we need, someone else will.
  • If we manage our diversity well, it will enrich us. If we handle it poorly, it will divide us. Our students must learn to thrive in a highly diverse nation and world.
  • Gross inequity will increasingly be seen as unfair, unconscionable, and unsustainable.
  • Polarization is standing in the way of progress. Shouting too often replaces civil discourse. We all need “to exercise empathy and ethics, respect others despite differences, resolve conflict peacefully, and listen to others’ ideas,” says Marx.
  • Future-focused leadership is essential if we hope to prepare students for life in a fastchanging world.

Schools are of this world not separate from it.  As schools we need to be connected to the world, not separate from it.  This is how we stay in touch rather than become out of touch.  Check out Marx’s 2-minute video where he appropriately states,  “The future is in school today.”

Intense Learning – Let’s Ignite it!

In a previous post, I shared research and strategies on how we can Keep Working to Make Schools Less Boring. With us coming to the close of the first school semester and looking to finish the second half strong, I thought I would share some “rules” for learning. Below are fellow educator and ed tech innovator Al Juliani’s 10 Simple Rules for Learning:

  1. Learning starts with attention.
  2. Attention happens for two reasons: Necessity and interest.
  3. Relationships directly impact attention, and therefore, learning.
  4. Learning happens inside our head. Understanding is demonstrated outside our head.
  5. Technology is a byproduct of learning + creativity. Both must be present for technology to exist.
  6. Learning has nothing to do with innovation. But innovation has everything to do with learning.
  7. Intrinsic motivation will always outperform extrinsic motivation when it comes to learning. (check out a previous post about motivation)
  8. Worms are better than strawberries and cream.  Dale Carnegie said, “Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?” 
  9. Make learning meaningful and relevant, you should go the extra mile every time.
  10. Learning is wild, it’s messy, it’s free. Rules don’t often apply, including these ten.

Finally, as I work to do every week, I have included a little video below.  Ramsey Musallam’s “3 rules to spark learning” are listed and his 6min. 30sec. TedTalk follows.  As a chemistry teacher, it was surviving cancer that helped him invoke these three rules.

  1. Curiosity comes first; it drives questioning
  2. Embrace the inevitable mess of trial and error
  3. Practice intense reflection for design and revision

Check out the video below for inspiration!

You? Yes, You! #BCSLearns

January is here and 2017 is upon us! Last week I posted about New Year’s Solutions rather than “resolutions.”  This week, I would like to share the 3-minute video below with you.  The video comes from “The Journey of Purpose” whose videos are inspired from their message that “We are the creators of our own imagination, what story will you create?”  As you embark on this great new year, 2017, the core questions that this inspiring video asks us to ponder are quite fitting for a new year to be sure:

  1. The first question to ponder is, “Why?”
  2. The second question to ponder is, “Why not?”
  3. The third question to ponder is, “Why not you?”
  4. And the final and perhaps most powerful question the video asks us to ponder is, Why not now?

There is no time like the present!  Check out the video below and, if you find it inspiring, check out other videos from The Journey of Purpose. Enjoy the video and even feel free to share it with your students!

Let’s Talk about New Year’s Solutions #BCSLearns

Happy New Year! There’s no doubt that in today’s fast-paced society the stress in our lives can mount.  In thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, an article from Fast Company entitled 6 Simple Habits to Keep You Consistently Happy Every Day by Joel Gascoigne may promote your thinking about potential resolutions to make for 2017.  The article details this author’s perspective on how to keep our lives happy.  Try some of these in 2017…

  1. Wake up early – “to do some great work and be super focused”
  2. Exercise daily – to “feel fantastic and can more easily take on other challenges”
  3. Have a habit of disengagement – “this prompts reflection and relaxation”
  4. Regularly help others – “helping others can significantly increase our happiness”
  5. Learn new skills – the power of novelty and our brains
  6. Have multiple ways to “win” each day – set daily goals (including physical) and achieve them

The short 1-minute video below shares “five scientifically proven ways to get and stay happy,” and these align, to some degree, to the above list.  This video gives the importance of the following acts in getting and staying happy:

  1. Meditate
  2. Go outside
  3. Get involved in cultural activities
  4. Spend money on others
  5. Volunteer

As we head in to a New Year, 2017, may your days be filled with acts such as those listed above where you find time for joyous activity, reflection, helping others, new learning, getting outside, and “winning”. Resolutions worth considering indeed!