#PersonalizedLearning - What parents, teachers, students, and members of the public should know.

What is Personalized Learning? Defining the terms.

To make sure that we are all speaking the same language, we must be very clear about the terms, their meaning, and what we mean when we say or write them. This may feel like a frustrating exercise, but this clarity is important, as any lawyer (or grant-writer) will tell you.

In the ideal case, personalized learning is the umbrella under which both individualized instruction (or learning) and differentiated instruction (or learning) sit. Put another way, personalized learning is something the student does. Individualization and differentiation are activities that teachers do.

Also critical to these definitions (personalization, differentiation, individualization) are the methods by which information is transferred, or who is performing the action. In personalized learning, assessment, or testing, is the primary means by which students communicate to their teachers about their learning needs. In differentiated or individualized instruction, teachers use their training and expertise to guide students.[1] 

Where did personalized learning come from? Innovation is good. 

“Personalized learning” as a term has been around on the internet since at least 2004. In its current iteration, it started to really gain traction in 2010.

How does personalized learning affect CPS?

In 2014, with its contract with LEAP Innovations, CPS began exploring personalized learning as an educational strategy. It began implementing it in 2015, with plans to further expand the program.

In 2015, with Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) grants, individual charter, district, and online schools began to compete for funds to implement personalized learning, in Chicago and elsewhere. In 2016, five CPS and two Chicago charter schools were awarded grants to implement personalized learning.

 Also in 2016, CPS created a personalized learning department at central office.

What is Summit Personalized Learning Platform (PLP)? 

Summit PLP is a computer-based delivery platform for personalized learning (or, as one teacher wrote, “a platform for students to learn online and at their own pace”). It is sometimes called Summit Basecamp. One of its primary investors is Facebook.

Summit PLP is the primary vehicle for personalized learning delivery for four of the Chicago schools in the 2016 NGLC:  

Who’s paying for personalized learning?

Financially, the Board of Education has committed to invest about $3M into the venture. There’s also:


[1] Students learn - isn’t that what we, as parents, want when we send children to school? In English, unlike in French and Spanish, the verbs for teaching and learning are not the same. This distinction is important. In the context of PK-12 public education, one (teaching) is an action performed by a professional who must have at least earned a college degree and succeeded in a battery of tests and checks. One (learning) is an action primarily performed by the student, sometimes grudgingly. The issue with personalized learning is that it subverts a function that should be performed by an adult human to a child who may not be developmentally capable of handling it. It is the rare exception to find an 11- and 12-year-old child who can diagnose his/her skills deficit, and stay motivated through the steps necessary to resolve them. The issue with the implementation of personalized learning is that it requires young children to know how s/he learns, how s/he learns best, advocate or push for what s/he needs within the classroom and, most importantly, obtain those resources.