District Administration May 2018 - 37

Liberty Public Schools, uses a personalized learning program to guide students
in setting academic goals each week.
"Students sitting next to each other
could be working on a variety of standards," Schmitz says. "Students remain
in the same learning area no matter their
ability, rather than having to be moved
to a different teacher group or room to
receive instruction."
The software also increases teamwork,
as students more often collaborate on
projects through online apps and other
platforms, Schmitz says.
4. Inexperience with digital platforms
Today's students may be digital natives,
but that doesn't mean that using selfpaced learning platforms comes naturally.
"It's not intuitive to kids like we might
think it is," Stephens says. "Kids aren't
masters of the learning process in any
realm-they're used to being told what to
learn and how to do it."
To better support students, all Upton
teachers were required to participate in
at least one online learning experience of
their own last year.
Gaining firsthand experience as online
students lets teachers design better online
courses and assist their students in navigating learning platforms.
5. Lack of immediate human feedback
Critics of self-paced learning assume
that students don't get the immediate
feedback that traditional instruction provides. That's not the case, Crawford says.
"Our teachers are constantly interacting
and discussing with students. As soon as
students take an exam [online or on paper], they go to the teacher to review it
and discuss it."
The nature of self-paced learning
means teachers must be ready at any time
to discuss a wide variety of topics with
students studying various subjects-and
sometimes it's simply not possible for a
teacher to have every answer.
"It's OK for kids to know that teachers don't know everything, as long as the
www.DistrictAdministration.com

STUDENT-CENTERED-Students at Upton High School in Wyoming set their
own schedule each week based on the projects they are working on. They also
collaborate with peers in multi-grade classrooms. Teachers offer guidance in
setting priorities and organizing time.

teacher is willing to say, 'Let's figure that
out,'" Crawford says. Online programs
provide teachers with detailed reports
on student performance that can also be
used as roadmaps for providing feedback,
Schmitz says.
The reports ask three questions of
students: What do I know? How can
I get better? What are my goals for the
week? "The questions follow a pattern of
every student establishing foundational
knowledge, reflecting and creating goals
to grow," Schmitz says. "On any given
day, you can see teachers going over these
questions and reports with individual
students."
6. Technical access
Having technology available and ready
to use is crucial for successful self-paced
learning, Stephens says.
At Upton, a BYOD policy, along with
available mobile devices, has given students the freedom to work in the ways
they need to, rather than being tied down

to desktop computers. Liberty Public
Schools has a 1-to-1 initiative, so each
student has their own machine to manage their learning experiences, says Christopher Hand, director of testing and assessment. A cloud-based online learning
platform eliminates the need for extra
server space.
Ultimately it's the educators who first
must become comfortable with this new
learning approach. Many teachers did
not experience self-pacing when they
were in school and may have to overcome
the same motivational challenges students face, says Stephens.
"I have seen young children learn to
regulate themselves and direct their own
learning, so I know it is possible," Stephens says. "What a fantastic idea it is for
our young people to do this. It will blow
up the world of work and higher ed as we
know it-for the better." DA
Nancy Mann Jackson is an Alabama-based
writer.

May 2018 37


http://www.DistrictAdministration.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration May 2018

District Administration May 2018 - Cover1
District Administration May 2018 - Cover2
District Administration May 2018 - 1
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