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In her recent EdSurge op-ed, past Across Boundaries keynote speaker and CEO of LEAP Innovations Phyllis Lockett, quoted philosopher John Dewey, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” It is this idea that is at the core of personalized learning, a concept that sometimes gets distorted as a means for the takeover of classrooms by the technology industry or its billionaire philanthropists.

When MAPLE began to research how the work of personalizing learning in Massachusetts is taking shape, conversations with educators did often shift to technology. Districts cited 1:1 device programs, wireless infrastructure upgrades, and the incorporation of tech-based platforms as examples of how personalized learning was being put into action in their schools.

However, focus groups and survey data alike more often shed light on the desires of school districts to support educators and administrators in ways that would build professional capacity. A common theme emerged: the return on investment of technology is low without investments in educators.

In the recently released Landscape Analysis of Personalized Learning in Massachusetts, MAPLE discovered that one of the most common needs cited by school administrators as necessary in order to personalize learning was increasing opportunities for teacher professional development. Districts also cited teacher leaders and early adopters of personalized learning as integral to culture and practice changes. Supporting educators was found to be at the core of many districts’ efforts to undertake this innovative work.

The MAPLE definition of personalized learning highlights technology as a tool for scaling student-centered practices and meeting the needs of all learners. But it is the flexibility of learning paths and environments, the building of meaningful connections with students, an increase in student agency, and ultimately, the knowledge and skills of educators that turns personalized learning into a powerful tool for increasing educational equity and ensuring that all students reach their full potential.

As Phyllis Lockett states:

“[As no] two students learn in exactly the same way, at exactly the same pace, or enter the classroom with exactly the same knowledge, it doesn’t make sense to give them exactly the same lessons. Teachers have always known that. But they now have more tools and technology to tailor their approach.”

Read more about MAPLE’s Landscape Analysis of Personalized Learning or check out this infographic on the report’s key findings.