Make Learning Personal by Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey

I would like to add one more book that is required of your time and mind when it comes to Deeper Learning, Project Based Learning, and anything that will help schools enhance education. This book has been waiting a long time for me to review and finally after crafting out some time to get back to blogging I am ready to introduce the book Make Learning Personal by Barabara Bray and Katheleen McClasky.

The reason that I feel this book should be required reading for all educators is that the book brings up so many thinking points about how we learn and ideas that work best to reach our learners. I will be honest in that when I hear the phrase personal learning I get it, but I don’t get it because I feel like the term is overused and everyone seems to have a slight adjustment to the meaning. Additionally, the phrase is often linked to blended learning and flipped classrooms which can either make you a fan or not based on your experience.

When I started reading the book I was not sure if I would be sold on the idea or not. However, I was hooked right away in the preface when the following statement was read, “…personalizing learning is not something someone does to a learner.” This phrase is the backbone of what I believe with education and one of the main reasons I push for student voice, makerspaces, project based learning, and deeper learning. Learners should be driving their education and schools should not be thrust upon them.

“Learning is personal”

I think this statement is one that everyone would agree with so the question becomes how do we do this and make it happen in schools across the nation? Our goals in schools should be to prepare students to accomplish what they want to do in life and not force them to learn the game of school and figure out the best ways to be compliant to just jump through the hoops.

The book does a wonderful job exploring the what, who, WOW, where, and why for personalized learning. It does a fantastic job defining what it is and what it is not. For example there is a great passage discussing the difference between individualization and personalization. The key between the two is control. It provides the example of when a teacher differentiates instruction, the teacher is in control and working harder than the learners. I like this concept, but realize the control piece is the most difficult. How do we handle learners who don’t want control? How do we handle learners who don’t know what to be in control of let alone establishing goals for themselves? How do we help teachers let go of control? These are major barriers that must be thought through very carefully when thinking of implementing. This book does an excellent job providing so many ideas, tips, and complete thought into the topic of personalized learning to help the reader process through these situations.

I read a lot of books and not all get reviews. The ones that do have to strike a chord with me. These are the books that hook my attention, challenge my current thinking with new thoughts, or lead me down a new path to explore. This book does all three. I really liked the attention spent on what is personalized learning before diving into the many more complex ideas. I found this to be an essential piece to really make sure the reader understands what is meant by personalized learning.

If you are an educator or administrator looking to find more information about how to move the learning into the hands of learners, providing learners to take control of the learning, and to develop a stronger culture of learners not only in classrooms, but schools system wide, then read this book. I will be infusing the many ideas I gained from this book into my Deeper Learning and PBL blog series as there were so many great things I read as well as ideas that I question and need more time to digest. This is what makes for a quality read and the authors have done a nice job.

As schools are starting to realize that the way we have done things in education is not the answer anymore, the concept of personalized learning is one piece to the puzzle. It is a critical component as we move forward to find what works best for learners. I hope you read this book and when you do please reach out and let us discuss!

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