Thrive opened with the plan to provide personalized learning to all of our students, so we didn't have an internal shift of priorities. This intentional start, however, came from working in traditional school settings, seeing some students held back in their learning and others unable to catch up to their peers. We took a hard look at the fact that we've been doing school pretty much the same way since the onset of the industrial revolution, despite the fact that our students' needs have changed drastically. Personalized learning also lets us capitalize on student voice and choice. As we know as adults, the more agency we have over our experiences, the more likely we are to buy into them. We believe that the same goes for students.
After soliciting feedback from our students, it was clear that our assumptions about the traditional industrialized model of education does not work. Our moral imperative to act became evident--so we did!
There are a few different ways to answer this question. First, there has been a discussion in education circles for over two decades relative to differentiation so, in one sense, personalized learning is not a new topic. The difference, however, in 2017, is that we now have the tools to address the needs of each learner whether through standards or competencies. Adaptive diagnostics such as iReady, playlists with built-in formative assessments, dashboards where students can visualize progress and the immediacy of feedback possible through digital platforms are truly innovative features in education that make personalized learning reachable.
We started by asking the question -- How DON"T we want our students to learn? And, of course, most parents or educators very quickly arrive at the conclusion that they want their children to feel a sense of ownership in their learning as well as to address their individual needs. To this end, thoughtful technology integration brings us closer to those goals.
Additionally, the Morris School District is a very diverse student population with over one-third of our students on FRL and another third of our students in the upper socio-economic level. With such wide differences it made great sense for us to completely dive into this concept.
Finally, we believe strongly in many traditional practices. Blended learning does not mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Yet, technology is not going away and we feel that it is difficult to make the case that students will be prepared for a good and useful life if they are not adept at "knowing how to know" when it comes to technology.