Learn how ‘Personalized Learning Playlists’ can give students ‘choice and voice’, from Renee Dawson.

As access to devices and internet service continues to increase and students return to in-person learning, teaching methods need to change to keep them engaged and supported in the classroom. The pandemic and online learning showed teachers around the world that some students thrived in a self-paced learning environment, while others needed additional support. Personalized Learning Playlists offer both the freedom self-paced learners desire and the support that is needed by those who struggle with independent learning.

What are Personalized Learning Playlists?

Personalized Learning Playlists (PLPs) are a sequence of resources and/or activities for students to complete to master a performance task, standard, or unit of study. PLPs are flexible content that can be scheduled for students to complete over any duration of time, from one class session to an entire semester. They provide intentional learning and are usually presented in a list, table, or hyperdoc format. The Depth of Knowledge level increases as the playlist progresses and all digital materials should be ‘Augmentation level’ or above on the SAMR Model. Additionally, John Hattie’s research on visible learning 1 supports that differentiation, scaffolding, and technology use with PLPs all fall within the Zone of Desired Learning (the Zone of Desired Learning occurs when teachers see learning the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers).

There are many benefits to using PLPs in the classroom. Playlists with multiple activities to choose from at each level offer students choice and voice. Since students are learning at their own pace, their ownership of learning increases.

The learning is intentional and it supports data collection and student goal setting.

How do you design a PLP?

There are a variety of ways to design PLPs based on the needs of your classroom and the content being taught. The design can be based on a specific learning standard or target, the type of template being used, or specific activities for the students to complete. PLPs can also be scaffolded or differentiated to meet the needs of specific students in the classroom.

It is important to start the use of PLPs by introducing one or two sections at a time, as this is a different method of instruction than most teachers and students are familiar with. Technology should be used to enhance the content, but content should be the foremost focus of each activity. Finally, teachers should use the class time during independent student learning to pull individual students for one-to-one sessions or targeted small groups of students for remediation or extension of the content.

There are a variety of types of PLPs that can be used. Checklists, graphics based, and gamified templates are most effective for younger students, but are well received with all age groups. Hyperdocs, theme based, and performance task based are most often used with older students but could be adapted to meet the needs of younger students as well. Finding content to use to create PLPs is much easier post-pandemic. Hundreds of teachers created YouTube videos and other technology-based instructional materials that are readily available online.

Use the educational technology programs in your district or one of the several free educational technology programs online to find materials that will fit the needs of your PLPs. Teachers who I work with in my school and district are often surprised at how easy it is to find and use content that is free and available to create their PLPs. Measuring student progress on PLPs is another opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning, successes, and struggles. Progress can be measured through game boards, badge systems, or even data trackers. Having students keep track of their progress on their PLP helps the teacher tailor support to their specific needs.

Now hit play

As you continuously strive to improve your teaching methods and increase student engagement, I hope you will give PLPs a try in your classroom. When my school first started implementing PLPs, we saw sweeping increases in student engagement and ownership along with an extreme decrease in classroom behavioral issues.

As you continuously strive to improve your teaching methods and increase student engagement, I hope you will give PLPs a try in your classroom. When my school first started implementing PLPs, we saw sweeping increases in student engagement and ownership along with an extreme decrease in classroom behavioral issues.

Furthermore, teachers stated that they felt closer connections to their students through the increase of one-to-one and small group time in the classroom.

Head here for more PLP information and a variety of resources.

Author

  • Renee Dawson

    Renee is an educational technology support specialist in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She is passionate about differentiation and personalized learning. She is a self-guided learner and enjoys learning about new technology in her free time. She is a speaker, YouTuber, digital designer and content creator.
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