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Reclaiming Personalized Learning
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Reclaiming Personalized Learning
A Pedagogy for Restoring Equity and Humanity in Our Classrooms

First Edition

Foreword by Carol Ann Tomlinson



352 pages | Corwin

Where exactly did personalized learning go so wrong?

For teacher and consultant Paul France, at first technology-powered personalized learning seemed like a panacea. But after three years spent at a personalized learning start-up and network of microschools, he soon realized that such corporate-driven individualized learning initiatives do more harm than good, especially among our most vulnerable students. The far-superior alternative? A human-centered pedagogy that prioritizes children over technology.

First, let’s be clear: Reclaiming Personalized Learning is not yet-another ed tech book. Instead it’s a user’s guide to restoring equity and humanity to our classrooms and schools through personalization. One part polemical, eleven parts practical, the book describes how to:

  • Shape whole-class instruction, leverage small-group interactions, and nurture a student’s inner-dialogue
  • Cultivate awareness within and among students, and build autonomy and authority
  • Design curriculum with a flexible frame and where exactly the standards fit 
  • Humanize assessment and instruction, including the place of responsive teaching
  • Create a sense of belonging, humanize technology integration, and effect socially just teaching and learning—all central issues in equity

The truth is this: there’s no one framework, there’s no one tool that makes learning personalized–what personalized learning companies with a vested interest in profits might tempt you to believe. It’s people who personalize learning, and people not technology must be at the center of education. The time is now for all of us teachers to reclaim personalized learning, and this all-important book is our very best resource for getting started. 

“This is a compelling and critically important book for our time. With rich stories of teaching and learning Paul France considers ways to create the most positive learning experiences possible.”

 - JO BOALER, Nomellini & Olivier Professor of EducationStanford Graduate School of Education

“This brilliant book is a major contribution to the re-imagination of learning and teaching for the twenty-first century and should be essential reading for new and experienced teachers alike."

- TONY WAGNER, Senior Research Fellow, Learning Policy Institute

“In these troubled times, this book is more than a breath of fresh air, it is a call to action. Paul gives us an accessible and sophisticated book that explains how and why we should celebrate the humanity of every single student.”

- JIM KNIGHT, Senior Partner of the Instructional Coaching Group (ICG) and Author of The Impact Cycle

 
Foreword by Carol Ann Tomlinson
 
Introduction: The Paradox of Personalized Learning
 
Section I: Foundations
 
Chapter 1: Personalization Myths
Myth 1: Personalizing learning means that curriculum must be individualized.  
Myth 2: Personalized learning must be interest-based.  
Myth 3: Personalized learning is only the teacher’s responsibility.  
Myth 4: Digital technology is necessary in order to personalize learning.  
Myth 5: Digitally-driven personalization paves a path to equity.  
Responding to Industrialization  
 
Chapter 2: The First Dimension: Shaping the Collective Conscious
Shaping the Collective Conscious  
Connecting with Children  
Maintaining the Spirit of the Workshop Model  
Building on the First Dimension  
 
Chapter 3: The Second Dimension: Leveraging Small-Group Interactions
The Dangers of Homogeneity  
The Limits of Heterogeneity  
The Hallmarks of a Strong Second Dimension  
The Foundation of Individualization  
 
Chapter 4: The Third Dimension: Nurturing the Inner Dialogue
Authentic Engagement and Intrinsic Motivation  
The Power of Asking... “Why?”  
Intrinsic Motivation in the Third Dimension  
A Framework for Mediated Action  
Nurturing the Inner Dialogue  
Intersectionality and Identity  
 
Section II: Pedagogy
 
Chapter 5: Cultivating Awareness
Defining Awareness  
Self-Awareness  
Six Guideposts for Cultivating Awareness in Children  
Expanding Awareness  
 
Chapter 6: Developing Agency and Autonomy
Balancing Autonomy and Authority  
10 Tips for Teaching Agency and Autonomy  
Understanding the Inner World of a Child  
 
Chapter 7: Designing Curriculum with a Flexible Frame
The Danger of Teaching without Standards  
The Flexible Frame  
Supporting Humanized Personalization with Standards  
Using the Flexible Frame to Personalize in Three Dimensions  
 
Chapter 8: Humanizing Assessment
Cultures of Shame and Fear  
The Origin of Fear and Shame  
Campbell’s Law  
Triangulating Humanized Assessment  
Building the Frame to Weather the Storm  
 
Chapter 9: Humanizing Instruction to Personalize Learning
Emergent Systems  
The Foundation of Responsive Instruction  
Hallmarks of Responsive Instruction  
Engendering a Growth Mindset in Educators  
 
Section III: Equity
 
Chapter 10: A Sense of Belonging
The Forum for Changing the World  
The Threat to Belonging  
A Culture of Scarcity and Fear  
Equity vs. Equality  
Technology is Not the Solution  
Inclusive Classroom Practices that Humanize Learning  
A Work in Progress  
 
Chapter 11: Humanizing Technology Integration
The Purpose of Technology  
Where EdTech Falls Short  
Reforming Education in the Image of Technology Elites  
The Intersection of Education Technology and Social Justice  
 
Chapter 12: Justice
Intersectionality, Identity, and Personalized Learning  
What is Fair is Not Always Equal  
Personalization is a Problem of Privilege  
Tips for Socially Just Teaching and Learning  
Restoring Equity and Reconnecting with Humanity  

"A compelling and critically important book for our time. Many schools are rushing to offer “personalized learning”, usually assuming that means individualized learning,with limited evidence for its impact. In this wise book Paul Emerich France considers the nature of powerful personalization. With rich stories of teaching and learning he considers ways to create the most positive learning experiences possible."

Jo Boaler, Professor, Stanford University

“In this brilliant book by a dedicated practitioner, Paul France makes a powerful case for humanizing the process of personalized learning and shows us how to do it. He describes how real personalization requires a carefully constructed classroom culture, regular dialogue and social interaction, and individual reflection. This book is a major contribution to the reimagination of learning and teaching for the 21st century and should be essential reading for new and experienced teachers alike."

Tony Wagner, Senior Research Fellow and Best-Selling Author
Learning Policy Institute

"In these troubled times, this book is more than a breath of fresh air, it is a call to action.  Paul gives us an accessible and sophisticated book that explains how and why we should celebrate the humanity of every single student."

Jim Knight
Senior Partner of the Instructional Coaching Group (ICG) and Author of The Impact Cycle

"Personalized learning does not mean simply assigning students piles of independent work. Reclaiming Personalized Learning provides the path for authentic and relevant personalized learning that delivers on the promise of equity. Simply said, students in classrooms where these are implemented will thrive."

Douglas Fisher, Professor
San Diego State University

"Reclaiming Personalized Learning: A Pedagogy for Restoring Equity and Humanity in our Classrooms is both wise and smart, both visionary and sane.  It is both poetic and approachable, both challenging and affirming. Its author is deeply knowledgeable about technology and deeply skeptical of the likelihood that technology-centered pedagogy will better teaching and learning in today’s schools.  He is wary of adopting “personalization” as the next new thing, and yet offers a vision of personalization that is restorative.

"It has been a long, long time since I have read a book that has challenged me as often or energized me as deeply as this book has.  I wish that same experience for legions of other educators who care to create schools and classrooms that make us all more fully human."

Carol Ann Tomlinson, Professor
Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Beginning 20 years ago, many of us began advocating for personalized learning only to be disappointed by the digital dullness of online worksheets that replaced the printed version. Video playlists were only slightly better. The backlash of interest-based learning created the opposite problem of unstructured unchallenging play.

In his new book, Reclaiming Personalized Learning, Paul France shows us how to create agency and autonomy in the middle ground between authoritarianism and anarchy, both of which act in opposition to personalizing learning. His advice is conceptually sound and practical for all of us still searching for the promise of personalized learning.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO
Getting Smart

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ISBN: 9781544360669