“We need to develop learners who are skilled at personalising their learning, as the changing nature of knowledge means this is a fundamental skill for today’s workforce.”

(Olsen, 2011)

This page is aimed at educators. It begins by explaining, briefly, what is meant by ‘personalised learning’ before outlining what The 12 Apps of Christmas project is all about this year. Examples are given then of some small changes that you could make to your day-to-day teaching and learning practices, and in your approach to education more generally, to help create a learning environment within which your students can harness the opportunities mobile technologies, and apps more specifically, offer for personalising their learning both inside and outside of the classroom. It is recommended that you read the page on this site that has been written for students too as this gives some additional information about the way the 12 apps are being reviewed for them each day. We would love to hear from you so please tweet your opinions, insights, and tips and hints to #12appsDIT.

What is ‘personalised learning’?

Each student has very different learning needs and where a personalised learning approach is taken to their education, students, along with their educators, work together to tailor (where possible) pedagogy, curriculum, and the learning environment to suit those individual needs. According to the literature, the benefits of taking a personalised learning approach include increased engagement and achievement, increased retention and, ultimately, greater success.

What is the 12 apps project all about?

The 12 Apps of Christmas 2015 is aimed primarily at post-secondary students of all ages, but also at you, their educators. Technology has made personalised learning easier than ever before, and The 12 Apps of Christmas project this year focuses on helping students with one aspect of the process of personalising their learning. Its aim is to help students understand how they can self-direct how they access and engage with information and express their understanding of it effectively, and how mobile apps can help them do this specifically.

Central to the success of the personalised learning approach is the student understanding how they learn best and then taking responsibility for driving their own learning. So, included on this site is a page for students which explains that when they learn in a way that suits them they are much more likely to both understand and retain that new knowledge. That page goes on to explain what personalised learning is and sets out the four steps they need to follow so as to start the process of personalising their learning. The apps featured over the course of the 12 days of the project have been chosen very carefully and demonstrate the many different ways that mobile apps can be used effectively to help students to access and engage with information and express their understanding of it whilst playing to the strengths of their preferred learning style. Tying in with this, each app has been reviewed specifically in terms of how it can help them to access or process information, engage with that information, and/or express their knowledge and understanding of that information. By reviewing the apps in this way, we are also giving them an easy strategy that they can continue to use to evaluate any other apps that they come across to see if they suit their preferred learning style and help them address their personal learning needs and achieve their learning goals.

How can you help your students personalise their learning?

Before exploring how you as educators can encourage, facilitate and support your students as they personalise their learning, it’s important to note here that personalisation, in general, works best within a connected learning environment. As a model of learning, connected learning pushes us to ‘reimagine the experience of education’ in the information age and it “draws on the power of today’s technology to fuse young people’s interests, friendships and academic achievement through experience laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks.” It is described by the Connected Learning Community as being real-world, social, hands-on, active, networked, personal, and effective! If you would like to know more about this very effective learner centred approach to learning and teaching click here first to view a great infographic that explains connected learning very simply before clicking here to read about what connected learning ‘looks like’ and discover its three guiding design principles.

When you are planning your courses/modules, and designing learning experiences, tasks, and/or assessments for your students, there are some very practical elements that you can embed within your design that will provide opportunities for your students to personalise their learning. To explain, let us consider this image which explores the elements of personalisation at subject level.

Central to personalisation is the element of choice. The more choice you can give your students within the different aspects your course/module, the more authentic opportunities they have for personalising their own learning and taking ownership of it. The integration of technologies, particularly mobile technologies and apps, makes this process even easier than before.

So, for example, you could...

  • have them set personal learning goals and outcomes for your course/module. You can facilitate this formally via learning contracts and then there are a variety of apps that they can use themselves to track, evaluate, and reflect on, their progress

  • give them some control over the place, pace and time at which they learn. You can do this by being creative around the blended learning, online learning, and m-learning solutions and activities that you provide for them. Most virtual learning environments (VLEs) now provide a student app so bear this in mind and keep your content and activities mobile friendly.

  • give them the freedom to choose their own projects and group activities along with the mode and format in which they present their work. Again, there are a huge number of free apps available that allow students to present their work in a very creative ways using mindmaps, infographics, podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts, video etc.

  • give them the opportunity to choose the mode and format that their assignments will take and how their work will be presented subsequently for assessment. An assessment rubric can help with this as they make choices and decisions.

  • build in opportunities for communication and collaboration not just amongst their classmates but amongst their peers elsewhere and professionals in the field also. Apps that facilitate communication and collaboration encourage students to expand their personal learning networks and lead to the creation and sharing of interest-driven academically relevant content, all of which is part and parcel of personalising their learning.

By embedding the use of learning technologies (and in the context of this project, mobile apps specifically) into your regular teaching and assessment practices, and encouraging the creative use of these technologies and apps to collaborate and communicate amongst themselves and with others, to access information, to engage with that information, and to express their knowledge and understanding of that information, you are providing unique opportunities for your students to personalise their learning.

Follow The 12 Apps of Christmas project this year along with your students and see for yourself how these 12 apps in particular can help them access, engage with, and express knowledge in ways that play to the strengths of their prefered learning styles. Let us begin to harness the power today’s technologies provide for learning.