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[PL Summit Series] Go Big or Go Home! Personalized Learning Summit Workshop, Yuma Elementary School District One

By: Suzanne Alka on July 27th, 2016

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[PL Summit Series] Go Big or Go Home! Personalized Learning Summit Workshop, Yuma Elementary School District One

Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  EE Summit

In personalized learning, go big or go home. By Yuma School District one

Michael Fullan describes the necessity of harnessing the power of “new pedagogical innovations with technology,” in his article, “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform.” He continues by stating that the advances in digital content for educational purposes involve key elements needed for increased student achievement. These include, “engagement; entertainment; ease of access to information and data; group work; humanity; social relevance, and so on. In a word they make education easier and more absorbing. Learning and life become more seamless” (Fullan, May 2011).

Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit 2016 was such an amazing learning experience for many reasons, but especially because it is filled with educators who truly believe what Fullan expressed. These educators, who are committed to providing the most engaging and relevant educational experience possible for their students based on his/her unique needs, were there and sharing best practices with one another!

“Go Big or Go Home” was the title of our workshop. The title speaks to the massive initiative that our district undertook beginning with our planning and preparation in January of 2015. Our PL initiative encompassed all of our 17 schools at the same time and over 9,000 iPads. Everyone was “all in.”

We started by asking our workshop participant to envision what a personalized learning classroom or space looks like and represent that vision graphically. We discussed the importance of being able to see what personalized learning will look like, and also the ability to “revision” as you learn more about personalized learning.

We discussed the planning phase of our initiative. One of the key components of our district’s success has been our collaborative work with Education Elements. Their guidance, expertise, and ability to provide resources for us truly secured a successful planning and readiness phase. The readiness assessment that we used to assess both our district and our individual schools gave us a clear picture about where we were in terms of being ready for PL. EE also assisted us with looking at the whole picture, including thinking through and planning for the right device, content, and culture. Other critical components of our successful planning schedule were the use of a timeline, ensuring proper infrastructure, such as a robust wireless system, and the establishment of PL Teams on each of our campuses.

Our next step was to plan and execute our iPad distribution events. We held two events each night for nine nights in order to deploy our 9,000 iPads. It was critical to have an event plan for every school, including all of the stations that we would need, personnel to man those stations, and mapping out where each of the stations would be located at each site. We walked through every site with the principal prior to the iPad distribution event, and we held reflection and iteration meetings after each event to ensure that we were doing everything we possibly could to improve the process after each evening. This was a key, especially after the first evening of distribution events. One of the other key components to our successful distribution plan was that we had a core team of individuals who worked every event. These staff members went out and trained the other personnel on their station prior to the event beginning each night.

Our final topic focused on our first year of PL implementation. Again, I would say that one key to our success was the ability to work alongside Education Elements as we navigated this inaugural year. We also had district-wide professional development that took place. We had seven professional learning afternoons and one professional development day in which we focused on all aspects of personalized learning and the core four. Additionally, our PL Teams, instructional coaches and early adopters on each of the campuses truly assisted others in their PL journeys and with trouble shooting challenges. The other key to our success was establishing a safe environment for developing a culture for risk-taking.

We were honored to present at the PL Summit! We hope that our experiences assisted others with their own personalized learning path. We wish all of you the greatest success in your efforts to engage and energize learning for your students.


Fill out the form and access the slides "Go Big or Go Home" and  other resources from the #PLSummit 2016

About Suzanne Alka

Suzanne Alka, Associate Superintendent at Yuma School District One, AZ

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