In March 2014, a group of GELP partners gathered in New York City to undertake a study visit of personalized learning in the NYC iZone. Participants each visited two schools, learnt from key iZone partners and the innovate NYC team, and took part in a workshop about the design of the new iZone Academy. On the final afternoon, groups presented learning on three key challenges to the senior iZone team. 

Two weeks later, another group of GELP partners met in London for the second paired study visit on personalized learning. Participants again visited two schools, along with other sites of learning, and met with key players in the London education ecosystem. On the final day, groups presented to a panel of system stakeholders in London. 

The videos below tell the story of the study visits, and what we learnt about personalized learning, and the system conditions that help or hinder its flourishing. Further down the page you can also find links to materials and outputs generated during the event. 

NYC: 19th - 21st March 2014

As pre-reading, participants engaged with the Personalized Learning framework used in the iZone. To understand the setting, we read an introduction to the NYC iZone written by David Jackson, as well as an EdWeek piece on iZones to set the NYC work in context. 

These slides accompanies the NYC team's introduction on Day 1, which set the group 3 problems of practice:

  1. How do you manage innovation in risk-averse environments?
  2. How do you foster innovation in schools that lack either vision at the leadership level or a school culture that supports change? 
  3. Conversely, how does a leader with a strong vision ensure it’s effectively implemented at the school or classroom level?

One of our first activities on this day was to try and hone in one what we meant by personalized learning. Rather than jump straight to trying to define it, we asked instead 'what would you NOT expect to see in a personalized learning environment'. Here are the ideas we generated, which fell into six categories: teacher-centred, passive students, content-based, uniform environment and inflexible timetables, rigid assessment and curriculum, and learning limited to classrooms. 

On Day 2, we embarked on school visits, using this tool to make observations. One of the sites we visited was City-As-School, where we heard from Principal Alan Cheng about the school's journey and the ways he and his teachers are working to develop their practice further. This piece, given by Alan as testimony to the state, provides some more background on this very engaging school.   

On Day 3, we heard in the mornig from the innovateNYC team and Public Policy Lab about the Design Challenges they have created to stimulate and spread an innovation mindset amongst teachers, developers and other players in the NYC education ecosysystem.  In the afternoon, groups worked up their presentations to make to the leadership of the iZone. 


London: 2nd - 4th April 2014

As pre-reading, participants engaged with an introduction to the London education system, prepared by Innovation Unit's Education Lead Louise Thomas, as well as background on the London Challenge, the largest every system-level education intervention in the city. We also read a news article by the head teacher of the school in which we all spent our first day, School 21.

On Day 1, we first had an opportunity to get to know School 21, their ethos and aims, and their approach to project based learning. We engaged with students on a tour of the school and saw the exhibition resulting from their school-wide project on Worl War 1.

We then had our introduction to the education system in London. In accordance with the principles of project based learning, we started our three days of learning by thinking about our end product:  the final presentations to Friday's panel. We were set questions in three areas that would shape the presentations:

  1. Why are the schools seeking to introduce personalized learning? What outcomes do they hope to achieve? What skills and competences are they seeking to develop? What is their theory of change? 
  2. What has helped and supported schools in introducing and embedding personalized learning? What has hindered or got in the way? 
  3. What strategies and approaches would enable the diffusion and scaling of successful innovative (personalized learning) practices and models?

In order to approach these questions, we needed to refine our colective understanding of personalized learning. We carried out a complementary idea generation activity as the one in New York: instead of asking 'what would you NOT expect to see in personalized learning?' we asked 'what would you expect to see?' The outputs from this second question can be seen here

In the afternoon, we met with four players in the London ecosystem who are providing new thinking: Carl Ward of EOS, a new teaching schools alliance; Teaching Leaders, a network of 'middle leaders' in schools; XP school, a new 'free school' based on expeditionary learning principles, and Whole Education, a network of schools working together to share learning and grow the profile of holistic approaches to education. These are the slides Carl referred to which include details of the approach at Hartsholme Academy, a school which managed to radically improve its standing through taking a whole new approach to learning and teaching. 

Slides from the first day can be found here

On Day 2, the morning featured more school visits: at Stanley Park High School, UCL Academy, and Bridge Academy Fulham. In the afternoon, groups visited one of 4 additional players who are providing new educational possibilities in London: Boxing Academy, the Aldridge Foundation, the Edtech Incubator and School of Communication Arts 2.0.

At the School of Communication Arts 2.0, we learnt from the Dean, Marc Lewis, about his method for creating a 'journey' for his students to experience over the course of a year, supported by a highly detailed delivery plan

At the Aldridge Foundation, we learnt about how they support students to develop their own learning and development goals and monitor their progress with the Shooting Star quiz and workbook for keeping record. This self-assessment tool comes with accompanying instructions for use with studnets, teachers and parents, and an organisational guide

On Day 3, groups prepared their presentations for the panel of London stakeholders, sharing, analysing and synthesising what the had learnt in their different meetings and visits. Here are the slides which accompanied the three presentations. 


San Francisco workshops: 7th-8th May 2014

During the study visits, we found that across our different contexts there are many different understandings of personalized learning. This grid was generated to being to capture the relevant different aspects and begin to think about how they fit together. 

Following the study visits, participants contributed videos of personalized learning in their own contexts, to expand our repetoire of visions and models. You can find links to many of these videos here, and the full 'gallery' will be accessible for download shortly. 

Our first workshop in San Francisco focussed on the learner experience in a personalized learning environment. The second focussed on the school and system conditions that enable such learning. For reference, here are the slides from the first and the second workshop. Outputs will be available in coming weeks.