A wave of change is on the horizon with respect to how we educate in Rhode Island. This wave of change has a name; personalized learning. The efforts of many people are coalescing around a common definition of personalized learning, as well as what it will look like for our state. There is also a lot of focus on what personalized learning is “not.”

RICAN Learning Pioneers

I was very fortunate to have been chosen as a fellow in RI-CAN’s Learning Pioneers program. I felt that the fellowship would give me an opportunity to learn more about what personalized learning is and how I could start to apply it in my classroom. All of that certainly happened. Through hours of research on current practice, pilot programs and the work of other states around the nation, I learned that I had a great deal to learn. The collegial discussions with the other fellows, the directors of RI-CAN and leaders in other organizations in Rhode Island who are focused on this work help to define what personalized learning is for me and how that meshes with efforts from the Rhode Department of Education, EduvateRI, the Highlander Institute and the Office of the Governor.

When I first began to work with Learning Pioneers, I had a very narrow understanding of what personalized learning was and could be. Through the work we have done this summer, I have become a firm and avid supporter of personalized learning as a means to redefine and redesign education in Rhode Island. The most meaningful change in personalized learning is the shift in focus from the curriculum or the schedule driving the learning, to allowing progress through the standards to be driven by the student’s personalized learning plan. This plan is designed with the interests, abilities, preferred method, place and pace of learning as the means to achieve competencies to meet promotion through grades or graduation requirements.

The growth in the use of technology for practices like blended learning and distance learning are certainly a part of personalized learning, but are truly only a part. Personalized learning encompasses a much broader scope of educational opportunities within and without the school building and day. Technology could allow learning practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It facilitates distance learning which removes many of the restrictions of location so students can access learning from around the country or around the world.

This is an exciting time to be a leader in education and I look forward to the future of education in Rhode Island. A future full of hope, renewal and promise.

Written by John Boutcher

RI-CAN advocates for the success of every Rhode Island student, from pre-K through college and career. We improve policy to help all students thrive and share promising practices and stories to demonstrate that all kids CAN succeed. 


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