Personalized Learning in KPBSD

Where do you want your learning to take you and how can KPBSD help you get there? #PLinKPBSD

Category: FAQ

PL and Blended Learning

Forging ahead as a district in our Personalized Learning journey and beginning book talks expanding our knowledge, Blended Learning is one piece of the Personalized Learning pieit might be useful to consider why three of the four books being offered are on “Blended Learning”. The question to address is this: if Personalized Learning is the pie in the sky, the whole enchilada, the big kahuna, then why Blended Learning? Quite simply, the foundations of blended learning is in shifting mindsets, using groupings and rotation models, planning instruction based on quality data. As it turns out, these are also the foundational tenets of Personalized Learning!

Blended Learning, as it explains nicely in this article by the Christiansen Institute, is a “modality of instruction” that incorporates technology as a key piece of the structure. This incorporation provides more resources and often eases the teacher’s burden for things like collecting data and assessment. This format of instruction started KPBSD’s foundational shift toward PL in many ways.

Personalized Learning is a much broader term that is really a philosophy of pedagogy – a way of doing things. Unlike Blended Learning, Personalized Learning doesn’t require technology to be meaningfully incorporated into a school or district’s way of doing business, although certainly a factor to be taken into account. So, the reason that there are three Book Talks offered on blended learning is to provide the foundational shift support – the mindset, if you will. We are talking about station rotations, flexible content, data and assessment options, student accountability and engagement, and an all around mindset shift toward building school culture around these topics. We need all these things as we continue on our PL journey.


Who is on the District’s Personalized Learning Council (PL Council)?

The District’s PL Council is comprised of educators across the district, representing a variety of grade levels,  geographic areas, and academic content areas.  The  PL Council’s objective is to help guide the district-level decisions and direction for what personalized learning looks like in KPBSD.


School District Representation:

  • Sean Dusek–Superintendent
  • John O’Brien–Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
  • Eric Soderquist–Director of Information Services
  • John Pothast–Director of Elementary & Secondary Education

District Specialists Representation:

  • Darci Drury–Professional Development/Instructional Coach
  • Melissa Linton–Curriculum Coordinator

Teacher Representation:

  • Kersten Gomez–Redoubt Elementary School
  • Jen Booz–Homer Middle School
  • Meredith McCullough–Kenai Central High School
  • Kim Leslie–Distance Education

Principal Representation:

  • Doug Hayman–Tustumena Elementary, Hope, and Cooper Landing Schools
  • Sarge Truesdell–Skyview Middle School
  • Trevan Walker–Seward High School


Innovation and change in KPBSD classrooms

This seems like a lot of work, and for what? Why are we always being asked to change and innovate?



Sir Ken Robinson, a leading advocate for innovation in education, says that,

“Innovation is hard because it means doing something that people don’t find very easy. It means challenging what we take for granted.”

This is challenging work, but it is important work right now! We are preparing students for a world that is vastly different than it was twenty years ago, let alone the world in which our education system was first created over a hundred years ago. Our students are entering a global environment unlike any experience in the past, and are entering a workforce where the top employer expectations are more different than the “factory model” of the past. In a 2013 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the top five skills employers say they seek are:

  • Obtain and process information
  • Work in a team
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Communicate verbally with people inside and outside the organization

These types of skills are valued in today’s economy. Personalizing education for our students is a means to ensure our kids are not exposed to them for the first time once they leave school.

It would be better to describe this as a different process, in contrast to hard. We will still be using curriculum materials like we have always done, but they may be adapted differently. We will continue to use Professional Learning Communities to talk about student progress, but will have real-time data to help guide decisions. Good teaching has always put student needs at the center, and great teaching has always differentiated instruction for individual student needs—going forward we will have better tools and training to fulfill that promise to our students.

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Why do I need to incorporate Personalized Learning in my class?

I think my classroom works fine and my students are learning. Why do I need to “do” this?


Personalized learning is not a program. Personalized learning is not a piece of technology that may or may not fit within the structure of any particular classroom. Rather, personalized learning is the structuring of schools, classrooms, and instruction so we can better respond to the individual needs of students, in contrast to the expectation that students fit a current mold or adapt to structures that may not be successful for them.


Personalized learning is about continuing and improving our shift away from the one-size-fits-all, factory model of education to better prepare students for the jobs and needs of their future. We want to directly connect students to rigorous learning that is relevant and prepares them for life, college, and careers they will encounter after high school, and create a system that supports this approach.


Because of this, all teachers are expected to work with their principals, school leadership teams, district leadership team and Education Elements. This process and commitment will allow our staff to explore, define, and implement strategies and tools that will allow all teachers to deliver effective instruction and empower all learners to shape their futures. KPBSD students will pursue their dreams in a rigorous, relevant, and responsive environment.

Where are you in PL map

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Why do we need Education Elements to help us?

Do we really need Education Elements? Can’t we just do this ourselves?



At the conclusion of the January 2017 KPBSD Innovation Committee meeting, members agreed that this is exciting work the district is ready for. Members acknowledged our district has been working towards this for years. However, there were concerns about our district capacity to successfully implement this important work on our own. Each of us knows that every one of us is already working full time, every day.


Thankfully, Education Elements provides all the support and a proven process to assist KPBSD in this ongoing work and transformation that benefits students and education.


“We had great confidence in ourselves and decided we could make this transformation on our own, so we “went”. We tried to go alone and failed. In retrospect we did a lot of things wrong because we thought we knew what we were doing, but we really didn’t know.” –Indiana school assistant superintendent

PL Framework 2017-1

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Dear KPBSD teachers…

Teachers will have powerful tools and strategies to help differentiate instruction and personalize learning for each student


  • Digital content frees up time for small group instruction and provides better data to make instructional decisions. “Teaching to the middle” becomes less likely as you can reach every student effectively and efficiently. Realtime data and instant feedback on student progress allows you to intervene quickly to ensure a student is mastering a concept. You can also provide pathways for accelerated learning for students who are ready to move on sooner than others.


  • In a personalized environment, teachers are designers of their own classrooms, and therefore have the opportunity to innovate, learn new skills, and develop themselves as professionals.


  • We are committed to being a personalized learning district. That means we are not only personalizing learning for our students, but also for our staff. We want to make sure your needs as teachers are being met, and therefore will be moving towards providing more personalized professional learning opportunities.


  • Personalized learning is not a new concept—we know you as teachers try to meet the needs of your students every day. What is new is our district’s renewed commitment to personalizing learning at all levels, as well as a focus on making sure you are supported with the most effective resources, strategies, and tools.

The Positive Power of Personalized Learning

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I’m a teacher – how will Education Elements help me?

How exactly will Education Elements help me in my classroom?


  • EE will come into KPBSD, and in addition to working at the district and school level, will also meet with individual teachers, in classrooms. EE will look at what is already in place, what needs exist, and will work on personalizing what an educator needs to successfully set up a plan to meet the needs of every student.
  • Teachers will not need to reinvent wheel. EE will provide the guidance to assist teachers to design and implement new strategies.


  • 25 kids … 25 needs! Some of those 25 need a challenge, some are on target, while others struggle. The responsibility of a teacher is to make sure every students receives what they need and deserve to progress and be successful. EE provides workshops and professional learning for school teams about defining personalized learning and the various ways PL can take place in schools and classrooms.”


  • EE visits schools. The process begins with a Readiness Assessment, classroom observations, and talking with teachers and principals about what is currently happening in the school and classrooms.


  • EE returns to schools with data collected from the previous visit in order to help design personalized learning environments throughout the school, and in all classrooms.


  • Teachers and school teams continue to work with each other and EE to define and refine design plans for personalized learning. Once schools and teachers are comfortable with their designs, EE helps schools and teachers launch their personalized learning environments.


  • Every 4-8 weeks, EE comes back to conduct school visits, check in with teachers, help adjust design plans, work directly with school teams and teachers to iterate PL instructional designs. This process can continue for 12 or more months, to ensure the instructional designs work for schools, teachers, and students.


  • The district office will continually to provide support though this process.

Where are you in PL map

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Will kids spend the day stuck in front of a computer?

It sounds like we’re getting rid of teachers and putting kids on computers to do all of their work.


Unfortunately, a common misconception is that personalized learning efforts are simply a step toward replacing teachers with computers, which is unequivocally not true. With personalized learning, the teacher is more important than ever. The role shifts, however, from primarily delivering information to creatively facilitating and problem solving so all students can learn at high levels. Using real-time data, teachers frequently assess student progress, give immediate feedback, determine individual learning needs, and help them figure out the best path to success.

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Can PL really be for every student in a class?

Will teachers be able to truly apply a Personalized Learning approach to all students in a classroom? Won’t that be too much work for the teacher to manage?


Personalized learning has been around for decades, but the challenge has always been limited time and resources. Teachers often found it hard to manage because of the time it took to plan different lessons and find different activities and resources for each of the different needs of students. With a class of 25 students, how does a teacher find the time and resources to meaningfully meet the individual needs of students with such great diversity in every classroom?

The modern concept of personalized learning leverages technology tools, classroom organization, student ownership, and redefines the terms teaching and learning to help teachers truly meet the individual needs of students in their classrooms. Through this process, we create new classroom environments that allow students to do some work at their own pace, path and place, and some work directly with small group instruction from the teacher, which allows teachers to better focus instruction and target student needs.

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Is Personalized Learning the next fad in education or one more thing?


Is Personalized Learning just the next fad in education or “one more thing”?

No, we don’t believe it is. The concept of personalized learning has been around for decades, and it is rooted in the belief that great teaching understands that students have unique, individual needs, and as educators, it is incumbent upon us to help tailor our instruction to those individual needs. The challenge has always been limited time and resources. With a class of 25 students, how does a teacher find the time and resources to meaningfully meet the individual needs of students with such great diversity in every classroom? The modern concept of personalized learning leverages technology tools, classroom organization, student ownership, and redefining the terms “teaching” and “learning” to help teachers truly meet the individual needs of students in their classrooms.


Additionally, there really is nothing new in personalized learning in today’s classroom. It is simply taking all the things we are currently doing and using them a little differently, and giving a clearer focus about how the various things we do fit in with each other and support each other. For example, teachers across our district are already working with tools such as:


Blended Learning; Professional Learning Communities; Video Conferencing (Skype); Digital Content & Resources; Online programs; Targeted Instruction; Centers/Stations/Small group work; Flipped Classrooms; Student Ownership; Project Based Learning; Data Driven Decisions; Differentiated Instruction


Most teachers use most or all of these things to some degree. Personalized learning allows districts, schools, and teachers bring all of those tools together in a unified way, and helps embed them in a way that they become an integrated piece of our regular teaching.

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