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Spring Reading



Book reports, do teachers still use them?  When I remember doing book reports in school, they were focused mostly on a simple plot summary.  I imagine teachers who do them today have students be more reflective in their reporting.

I read three different books over this spring break.  Two were fiction All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.  The other book I read was Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning by Dr. James Rickabaugh. For this report out I’m focusing on Dr. Rickabaugh’s book.

The subtitle of the book is A Roadmap for School Leaders.  A teacher looking at that subtitle may not see herself as a school leader, but this is not a narrow definition of the word “leader” educators may have become accustomed to.   In this case, leaders are those looking to institute change.  Educators are leaders.  Everyday we guide students through activities/lessons we played some role in designing.  

Don’t think of this book as something that you will read over a couple of days and never have to come back to.  To unleash the full potential of this work, leaders must treat it as the interactive map.  This is not a simple text to be read; it is a rich activity book. These aren’t one and done activities, I imagine coming back to these time and again.

The power of personalization is that it allows learners to craft their own path.  Dr. Rickabaugh believes this so as leaders look to their roadmap, they need to design their own path.  The book is broken up into different chapters.  At the end of each chapter, there is as activity which is meant to provoke deep reflection and help map out the next steps on the journey to personalization of learning.  After each activity, the book provides a menu of actions leaders can take.  Now, I’m just going to provide a quick overview.  I don’t want you to waste too much time reading this when you could be reading the actual book!

The book has 6 major chapters with a powerful introduction that will hook any school leader.  The introduction of the book guides us through personalized scenarios that may seem like they come from a utopian future but are currently in practice.

Chapter 1 guides us through some of the assumptions we as educators have allowed to guide our legacy practices and how facts may contradict those practices.  The chapter then moves on to show us how the personalized learning framework can be utilized by employing the levers of structures, samples, standards, strategies, and self.

Chapter 2 guides readers through the Honeycomb Model.



As someone who has worked with the model in my design process, this chapter does a wonderful job of walking us through the components and levels.  It unleashes the power of the design that at first might seem overwhelming.  I learned so much here. In my opinion, this is the heart of the book.  It is required reading for every educator!

Chapter 3 gives us the student perspective on personalized learning.  By that I mean, it frames the learning process not from the educator’s perspective.  It reminds us that the most important lens to look at the process through is that of the learner.  In addressing these components, the book includes the voice of students and their stories.

Chapter 4 walks leaders through the 5 key shifts that occur when moving to a personalized learning framework.  Those shifts include
  1. Focus of instruction on learning
  2. On demand instruction
  3. Purpose driving learning
  4. Building learning capacity
  5. Ensuring student success

These are not just bullet points in the book.  The leader is guided through a reflective questioning process to dig deep into what these shifts mean at the learner level.

When we get to chapters 5 and 6, that is when the book begins to look at the personalized learning model from a school leader perspective.  Chapter 5 focuses professional development required to help guide and support educators into these new waters.  As a teacher who has embraced the framework, it highlights the idea that it is not a one size fits all model.  It is a process which requires educators the room to make mistakes and fail forward.


Chapter 6 focuses on scaling the model and sustaining it over time.  I loved how this chapter identified different types of educators and categorized them as scouts, pioneers, settlers, and saboteurs.  As the idea of personalized learning has been brought to our district, I have been able to see all these classes.  But, effective PD has helped saboteurs find their own in to the personalized learning framework.  The may never adopted the entire framework, but perhaps we can negate their negative momentum.

The book doesn’t stop there.  There are 3 essential appendices as well.
  • Appendix A provides an 8 point action plan for implementation.
  • Appendix B states and fleshes out the 9 design principles of the personalized learning framework
  • Appendix C fleshes out 10 personalized learning skill sets for educators


So, I was able to check out this book from our staff library this spring break.  Going through it this week has made it clear that I will need my own copy.

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