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Teaching & Learning | News

Blueprint for Personalized Learning: Dell Releases 5-Step Guide

As one of the goals of Race to the Top-District — personalized learning — begins to percolate interest among districts and schools around the country, Dell wants to be there to work with them as a consulting partner. The company chose ISTE 2013, the annual conference for the International Society for Technology in Education, to announce its work in this area.

Dell has just released a "blueprint" document that lays out a five-step set of processes for schools to work through in their efforts toward student personalization and blended learning. The goal, according to Jon Phillips, Dell's director of Worldwide Education, is "to better place technology in the instructional setting to start to achieve some of the desired outcomes that we all want to see in terms of student engagement, student outcomes, and students being better prepared for workforce and college and career."

Dell pulled together think tanks consisting of students and parents, teachers, administrators, and other education leaders to understand their education-related concerns and challenges. Along with those sessions, the company also commissioned an education survey in September 2012, which found that nine out of 10 parent, student, and teacher respondents around the world believe that technology helps students learn. Seven out of 10 respondents said that students have access to "more advanced technology" at home than at school. On the school IT front K-12 IT people said that implementing "ubiquitous computing" was their greatest challenge.

Bridging that gap between what's widely available at home and what's available in classrooms that can enable personalized learning, said Phillips, "really starts with understanding how to define personalized learning for a school, what the steps and processes are to do that." For example, he noted, the first step in the Dell blueprint is to "establish a vision for learning." "We believe so much that it's important for the school to really craft their vision before they make technology decisions."

Step 2 is determining the "right IT infrastructure," including wireless connectivity, mobile device management, access security, and hosting models, such as cloud-based hosting vs. on-premises hosting of applications and data.

Step 3 in the Dell blueprint addresses making the transition to personalized learning, which covers professional development for teachers, ensuring "equitable" access to resources by students, and the move to digital content and curriculum.

Step 4 covers ensuring access to computing at home and school, and step 5 reiterates the need to "reinforce professional learning."

Phillips said these processes assume three "major tenants that we think are imperatives."

First, the teacher must be involved. "This is not an initiative to say that technology can replace the teacher. It greatly amplifies the teacher's role in the experience--moving the teacher into [the role of] guide and mentor and facilitator around meeting students where they need to be, in motivating them on their learning path."

Second, the student must be invested in the learning experience. "Even though we're on a standardized competency-based model, whether it's around Common Core or other state-based standards, we can still invite the student into the equation and give them options for how they want to prosecute competency against the standard," Phillips explained. "Getting them invested in the learning process is really critical."

The third element is figuring out how to use technology to "enrich the experience and facilitate and enhance personalization," he said.

Dell said in a statement that 16 districts have chosen the company over the last two months to provide consulting and/or computing equipment. Among them is Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas, which intends to deploy 30,000 Dell Latitude 10 tablets running Microsoft Windows 8 in its 43 schools. The district has hired Dell, Microsoft, and Intel to provide "professional learning services" during the adoption process.

The 1-to-1 initiative will be funded over the next three years through a voter-approved bond. The Dell tablet was chosen by a district committee of educators, students, technology specialists, and administrators.

"Having Microsoft Office on these tablets is the perfect blend of something teachers already know with a new opportunity for anytime, anywhere access. It makes for a natural progression. Now, we can focus on the integration and learning, rather than the workarounds," said Kelly Lane, a district technology integration specialist.

Added Clear Brook High School student Andrew Barrett, "Every student today feels the polarization of traditional education and the real world. The average classroom experience often lacks relevancy. This initiative is by far the most influential move yet in bridging the widening gap between academia's demands and a student's life."

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