Teach Students to Persist in the Face of the Unexpected

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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We preach personalized learning as a way for our students to gain access to and truly prepare for the real world beyond school. That motive is sometimes garbled and distorted, seen instead as a way to give children what they want instead of challenging them.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and I had the opportunity to act as a real life case study at the Create Something Great event on Monday, June 6.

As a member of the four-person panel, I presented to a room full of teachers and administrators about the personalized learning filters Bena Kallick and I put together as part of our upcoming book. I started my presentation and introduced myself and the filters when — about 30 seconds in — the auditorium went dark.

personalized learning
Yes, that’s me. Presenting in the dark.

No sound, no slides, no lights. What do I do? I was literally mid-sentence when everything went dark.

As I saw it I had two choices: keep rolling with the punches or sit and wait until the power outage ended. I chose to stand up, ask people to shine their lights on me, and had a rock age moment of sorts, feeling the energy and the lights come alive.

After about three or four minutes, the lights and the microphones came back on, the screen started to come alive again, and I sat down and finished the presentation.

How does this align with personalized learning?

The correlation is simple: our goal with personalized learning is to prepare our students for the real world, which includes unexpected — and inevitable — twists and turns.

When a student is asked to come up with the path a project or assignment will take, he or she is experiencing what it will mean to be given a task at a place of employment.

When a student takes the guidelines of a basic assignment and incorporates a passion or personal goal into it, he or she is learning how to set off on a career path that will serve a purpose.

When a student is working within a maker space, tinkering with a project until it succeeds (or ultimately fails), he or she is learning persistence and problem solving.

There are so many ways to align my experience with that of a student on a personalized learning path. Personalized learning is not a new concept. It is not a fad nor is it unattainable. It is a mindset that can be adopted with time and persistence.

My time at the CSG event shows there are plenty of teachers and administrators that possess that mindset and are excited to shine a light on it and spread the word!

Join us in our quest!

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