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Friday

April 2014

18

Personalized learning comes to the Mukwonago Area School District

Section Elementary School hopes to create a community of engaged, passionate learners as it steps Mukwonago Area School District into the world of personalized, 21st-century learning with a pilot of the Innovative Personalized Learning Community (IPLC) next year. The School Board approved the program Monday night.

"We are looking at having the opportunity to do what the program is named," Section Principal Bob Slane told the board.

Asking for permission to learn and grow, to be different, innovative and given the opportunity to "fail forward," the pilot group could serve as the "think tank" for the district.

"I am very confident of the work these people have put into this," said Superintendent Paul Strobel.

A message will go out to Section parents this week informing them about the pilot, with informational meetings set for March 5 and 6. The pilot is expected to involve 130 to 150 students split between two groups of grades one through three in one group and grades four through six in another, taught by six teachers - a team of three teachers for each group of up to 75 students. With teachers having the ability to stay with students for three years, it allows students and teachers to pick up learning where they left off each spring rather than spend time assessing at the beginning of each new school year, Slane explained.

IPLC revolves around learning and assessing driven by Common Core State Standards in an open-community setting. Each student will have a learning profile based on their own learning path that will encourage inquiry-based learning for deeper understanding. Students will become more engaged in learning as researchers, pushing them to dig deeper and gain a wider understanding while working independently and in groups, learning at their own pace.

"Things will look a lot different," Slane explained. "There won't be a desk for every child."

Since rows of desk have been shown to be ineffective for learning, the classrooms will look different, with nontraditional furniture and arrangement.

The learning environment in IPLC would provide a comfortable, homey feeling, giving students a say in how it looks and is designed. Two adjoined classrooms would combine as one learning space that would serve as the home base for all students and teachers. Different areas in the room would be developed for learning functions such as reading, writing, math exploring, partner work, independent work or a large group meeting area. Students will move to areas that fit their particular learning needs such as bean bag chairs, soft chairs or a mix of desks and tables. A third room would serve as an inquiry room.

"Within the whole classroom there will be a variety of things going on," Slane explained.

Students will use a mix of technology such as Google tools, web-based curriculum using services such as iPads and Chromebooks to provide options for learning.

Technology will be used for instruction, moving away from textbooks, and to assist with learning assessments. The staff is looking into online assessment tools for that purpose. Students will conference frequently with teachers as they review assessments and determine each step in the student's learning progression.

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