Making School Design Personal

State & National Leaders Collaborate on Ohio’s First Personalized Learning Design Lab 

The idea for a Personalized Learning Design Lab took root last fall when we received calls from district after district seeking help in writing Ohio Straight A grants to implement ‘blended learning.’  In the consultation process, we discovered that districts really wanted to innovate, but were often stuck contemplating a technology integration or one-to-one initiative due to lack of support.  While these efforts may be important, they don’t fundamentally change the institutional structure of school by using time, talent and resources differently to create effective student-centered experiences (and the outcomes we need). So we began brainstorming: What strategies might support schools and districts in charting their own path toward blended learning?

The recently released report “State of Opportunity: The Status and Direction of Blended Learning in Ohio” (from the Ohio Blended Learning Network, in partnership with The Learning Accelerator and the Christensen Institute) provides us with a comprehensive look at the extent to which Ohio schools and districts are implementing blended learning, and the needs according to participating schools and districts. Professional development, resource coordination, and particularly support for planning and networking top the list.

Lack of planning time and a need for more thorough planning was noted as a primary challenge with blended-learning implementation. The report notes that iterative innovation processes are helpful in planning for blended learning because, even though there are building blocks, there is no “right formula” in implementation. If school leaders understand how to use iterative innovation processes to meet their specific goals, the planning and implementation of blended-learning programs will be more efficient and will move schools more quickly toward discovering approaches that improve their students’ outcomes. The event was conceived to support teams of educators with new, more iterative design processes—and the Lab itself is infused with a more personal yet collaborative approach to creating new models of learning.

The Ohio Report and my own ‘in the trenches’ research clearly demonstrate there is a significant gap in resources, coordination, and collaboration that must be addressed in order to ensure that all youth thrive in school – and beyond.  Few schools and districts can truly re-envision school without significant attention to ongoing, iterative innovation processes, networking and consultation, yet too few organizations have the time and financial capital to go it alone.  This challenge is especially difficult for the small/rural districts, community schools, and STEM designated schools we serve.

Making School Design Personal

The Personalized Learning Design Lab will be unlike any other professional learning or networking experience.  School or district teams submit an application describing their current plans/implementation and the challenges they are facing.  From these applications, we will invite 20 – 25 school or district teams to attend the March 17th Design Lab where they will:

  • Engage in personalized sessions with cutting edge experts where they share their journey, plans, successes and challenges. Experts will listen, offer feedback and strategies for moving forward.
  • Explore high quality/vetted resources (free or low cost) to enhance teaching and learning experience for adults and students.
  • Talk candidly with fiscal experts about strategies for re-envisioning fiscal and human resource practices to incubate, expand and sustain personalized learning.
  • Prototype their team’s personalized learning initiative with specific strategies and action steps.
  • Network with like-minded individuals and organizations and create opportunities to collaborate or bring to scale plans and practices which will greatly benefit Ohio learners.

Design support is provided by National Supporting Partners: The Learning Accelerator, Mastery Design Collaborative, PAST Innovation Lab and Pillar Technology as well as BattelleEducation, BetterLesson, and the Ohio Blended Learning Network.

Teams can apply here.

As a result of this event, we believe school and district teams will begin to increase their local capacity to incubate, expand and/or sustain personalized learning that is essential to student success – in school and beyond.

By Michele Timmons

Founder & CEO



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