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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Finding Inspiration at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning

I’m sitting in the Baltimore airport basking in the after-glow from the Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning 2017. I had never heard of this conference before being asked to present there – on micro-credentials and on community engagement – and I was genuinely intrigued about what I would find. I’ll admit I am New England centric and, perhaps, naively provincial, but I grew up in New Jersey and I was pretty keen to find out what was going on – personalized learning-wise – between the Hudson River and the Potomac.

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Teacher Leaders from East Pennsboro, PA tell their story.


It was fascinating. First off, full marks to the organizers who put together an extraordinary event. I’m no world-weary, grizzled veteran of these things, but I have been to my fair share. The space, food, schedule, and technology all worked effortlessly. I don’t know who thought of the idea of having speakers behind the registration counter that any presenter could access, but … genius! Secondly, all praise to the (other) presenters and participants. Just over 450 educators came to wrestle with one of the more challenging, important, and values-based movements to come through education in a number of decades. There were marvelous insights and innovations, but the best part was to hear educators and leaders tell their stories about their change process in moving to personalized learning.

I spent most of my time listening to districts and schools tell those stories. South Western High School in Hanover, PA, is using the framework of Customized Learning – Inevitable -- as their guiding star. Three students spoke to the power – and challenges – of their work. I could have listened to them for more than the allotted hour. The lead piloting teachers from East Pennsboro, PA, also laid out their story, which involved a time-crushed grant application process, and then the realization that – having gotten the grant – they were going to have to make the change! They embraced the challenge. Everywhere I turned, either in a presentation or over coffee, I asked, “Tell me what you’re working on.” In most cases, that elicited a story worth hearing.

There’s something very interesting about traveling out of one’s own region, and talking with a crowd of folks interested in your work, none of whom you know. I learned that each state has its own state agency with its own problems, yet all the schools I spoke with share in the struggle to develop personalized, proficiency-based cultures in an environment that often resists such change. Mid-Atlantic districts have partnered with districts and consultants all over the country. Oftentimes these partnerships involved traveling northeast and observing the exciting practices taking place in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

Part learning experience, part tent revival, anyone doing change work in personalized learning should get to a gathering such as this. You are not alone, and you deserve to be inspired.

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