• Author, Deb Mayer

Building a Personalized Learning Teacher


"Building a Personalized Learning Teacher" (PLT) is the title of a workshop I attended at the 2016 SxSW education conference. "Robotics?" I wondered. Well, yes and no. The workshop summary contains this bit of information:

"As schools adopt competency-based, personalized or student-centered learning models that are more responsive to the needs of every child, teachers must interact in new ways with students, peers and the broader community. Yet most educator development systems don’t explicitly address the unique mindsets and skills that these teachers need. In this interactive session, explore issues, share ideas and learn about recent work to define these educator competencies in ways that system leaders can act upon. Learn what steps some state leaders are already taking."

The presentation was hosted by a Director of Innovation Lab Network at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which was a major player in creating and implementing Common Core. Also presenting was an assistant director from the nonprofit, The Institute for Personalized Learning (TIPL). And finally, a fully built personalized teacher was trotted out for show and tell.

The idea is for teachers to earn badges (think boy scouts) for skills mastered to be certified as a PLT. The PLT candidate progresses by ingesting digital content, performing required tasks (including producing video-taped field studies), and passing a test. She then proceeds on to the next module -- in much the same way her students will be expected to do in the future. She can take as long or as little time to complete the certification as she likes. According to the TIPL representative, completion of 13 modules at $135 each is required for certification. This information was not part of the presentation but answered reservedly during the Q & A with the caveat, "Don't quote me on that." Her answer to the question, "Must you be a licensed teacher to become a Personalized Learning Teacher?" was a muddled no.

The revelation that Oregon was one of eleven states that had already signed on with The Institute of Personalized Learning took me by surprise. I was also surprised to find my state mentioned as a prime example of 40 states changing to competency based learning (aka personalized learning) in Pathways to Personalized Learning digital magazine, (p. 12).

A move by states to shift to competency-based learning in K-12 education has gained traction in recent years. Altogether, about 40 states are implementing competency education in some form, including Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Since I pay close attention to education issues in Oregon, it seemed odd that I hadn't at least heard about this. After all, this is a major shift in the way curricula is delivered. Shouldn't school districts and parents be included in this decision?

This section of ESSA has the potential to all but obliterate the teaching and principal professions if a state chooses to do so.

ESSA allows states to use some federal funds to establish, improve, or expand alternative routes to certification. In Section 2101(c)(4)(B) of the new law there is a list of 20 types of things that states can do with their allocated federal funds. This section of ESSA has the potential to all but obliterate the teaching and principal professions if a state chooses to do so.

A search for The Institute of Personalized Learning on the Oregon Department of Education website yields nothing. Likewise for a search for financial data on The Institute of Personalized Learning -- no 990s. nada, zilch. Legislators seem to know nothing of Oregon's involvement with TIPL either.

On Friday Governor Kate Brown said this in her State of the State address:

The budget also includes significant investments in high-quality teaching and learning. There are increased resources for supporting and training excellent teachers, which every student in every school in this state needs and deserves. Because who among us has not been inspired, even transformed, at some time in our lives, by a gifted teacher?

I hope this isn't reform double-speak. According to the East Oregonian, she expects to hire a Chief Innovation Officer within the next two weeks. The lack of transparency around the hiring of the new CIO, the apparent engagement of TIPL in addition to the under the radar agreement between the state of Oregon and GoOpen, begs one to wonder what role parents play in the education of their children.

GoOpen is the subject of an upcoming blog post.

#ESSA #PersonalizedLearnig #SxSW

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