The Connected Educator Month Kick-Off panel on October 2nd on personalized learning helped to lay the groundwork for the conversations that will no doubt be continuing throughout this month and far beyond. Darren Cambridge from the American Institute of Research (AIR) introduced Connected Educators month, provided some logistics, and then asked some questions to lead off the panel. The panelists were:

  • Kathy Cassidy represented teachers well sharing her experiences of personalizing learning in the classroom with primary children.
  • Will Richardson is a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks and education.
  • David Warlick is a speaker, writer, programmer, and a teacher with enthusiasm for helping people discover a brand new world of teaching and learning.
  • Jessie Woolley-Wilson is Chair, President and CEO of DreamBox Learning®, the company that developed the Intelligent Adaptive LearningTM platform.

After the panel, we, as the theme curators, came up with some questions:

Is Personalized Learning about data tracking and informed, responsive instruction as some would suggest? What about interest, engagement, motivation, and learner voice? Who is in charge of the learning? What does it mean to personalize learning? Is it “personal” or “personalized learning?”

The meaning that we made of the discussion is that our teaching, and the educational systems that we have set up on all levels, frequently model our own learning. Many educators see their role as being the ones who bestow information, monitor, and control the environment.  From that perspective, we can feel secure in what we teach, because we confine it to what we know. When we can see ourselves as self-driven learners…who seek and quest after our own knowledge… constantly learning and reaching beyond our own walls even, and especially, while teaching… it is then that we can model personal learning and provide that classroom/school/district/state/nation where both learners and educators can expand and become empowered by their own learning. Is it as Will Richardson says, “It is hard to teach in this century if you haven’t learned in it?” How do we get there?

Will stuck to his point on why we need to talk about “Personal” learning instead of “Personalized” learning that he interpreted as something being done TO the learners instead of learners owning and driving their learning. This caused the activity in the chat to increase with educators from around the world.  Kathy explained that even young children can take responsibility for their learning and provided some examples. One concern we had in the audience was the focus on the technology and not the learner. This came up several times and then David reiterated our concerns by sharing why engagement and motivation is necessary. Expecting technology to monitor progress based on algorithms that track performance is not “personal” to the learner. Will came back with why learners need their voice heard. We applaud this panel for taking on some of these difficult discussions, but we encourage you to check out the chat archive because the backchannel was very interesting and engaging.

Many more sessions on Personalized Learning are included throughout the Connected Educators month. Please visit our CEM Page on Personalized Learning. We are looking forward to continuing the conversations.

Meet the Personalized Learning CEM Theme Curators

romanDonna Adams Román is classroom teacher, blogger, trainer, and presenter committed to providing rich learning opportunities for her students and professional learning network. She is a recent recipient of ISTE’s first place SIGOL Online Learning Award. Donna is active in Professional Development online and in her district, CoSN, ISTE, and Flat Classroom®.


irinyiMichelle Irinyi is an international Montessori teacher mentor, instructional designer, blogger, and educational consultant providing professional development on positive, respectful, and personalized interaction and instruction between adults and students. She is also a judge for the SIIA CODiE awards.


brayBarbara Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist, Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and Founder/Owner of My eCoach. She is a writer, coach, professional developer, and change agent. She writes a regular column on professional development for Computer Using Educators (CUE) and was awarded the Gold and Platinum Disk Awards for the advancement of educational technology in teaching and learning.


mcclaskeyKathleen McClaskey is CEO and Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and President/Owner of EdTech Associates. Kathleen is an expert on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and has directed several projects using the UDL framework in math, literacy and science. She is the Advocacy Chair of NHSTE, an affiliate of ISTE and was the recipient of the 2012 ISTE Public Policy Advocate of the Year Award.

Barbara and Kathleen are co-authors of article: A Step-by-Step Guide to Personalize Learning in the May 2013 issue of ISTE’s Learning and Learning with Technology.

About Personalized Learning Theme Curators

The Personalized Learning theme is being curated by Barbara Bray, Kathleen McClaskey, Donna Adams Román, and Michelle Irinyi. We have produced a number of resources in addition to our blog posts on this theme. Theme Calendar: A link to the CEM events & activities on this theme (past, future, and ongoing) we consider the most useful to attend (or get archives from).  Here’s a direct link to our theme kickoff panel as well. Theme Pinterest Board:  Check out our Pinterest board of other sites, events, and activities related to this theme
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One Response to Personalized Learning, Week 1: Personal or Personalized Learning? What’s the difference?

  1. Thank you for the synopsis, and I am glad to hear Will Richardson’s voice and message loud and clear.
    This line — “Expecting technology to monitor progress based on algorithms that track performance is not “personal” to the learner.” — rings true to me, and we teachers need to make sure our ideas of personal learning and growth is situated in our own needs as educators continuing to expand our knowledge and skills, and not as some point on a school administrator’s data chart. And that goes for students, too, who need to find the passions that lead to authentic learning and real growth.

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