Personalized Learning News & Updates

  • Teacher Perspective

    Posted by Rebecca Hurbi on 5/26/2017

    Karen Millington, 4th grade teacher at Joy Elementary, shares her perspective on using personalized learning instructional strategies in the classroom.


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  • The "Why" of Personalized Learning

    Posted by Rebecca Hurbi on 5/26/2017

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  • New FAQ: What is the role of Education Elements?

    Posted by Scott Johns, Education Elements Team Designer on 4/14/2017

    Education Elements works with districts across the country to build and support dynamic methods of teaching to meet the needs of every learner. We are a team of seasoned educators, designers, technologists, and change management experts. Our work with school districts across the country means we have a deep well of knowledge to draw from, with ample case studies from other school districts illustrating challenges and successes in the journey to personalized learning. We take the time to understand the unique challenges school leaders face and then customize training and support for each district.


    While we can share what has worked elsewhere, we also seek to understand the culture and context of each district and school. We began our work with Fairbanks by spending time visiting and listening to teachers, administrators, and staff members in order to understand the unique challenges of your district. We have since begun working with teams of teachers and principals from every elementary schools to help them gain a foundational knowledge of personalized learning and to design classroom models that will best meet the needs of students.


    At the same time, we have been working with a cross-functional district team, called the Personalized Learning Council, to ensure alignment exists at both the district and school levels. We have found this work with districts to be essential; districts need to understand personalized learning in order to adequately support the changing needs of schools. We are also working with the PL Council to create a vision of success for what they seek to accomplish through personalized learning, and we will continue to work with the district to make that vision a reality.


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  • Personalized Learning Presentation Video

    Posted by Rebecca Hurbi on 4/3/2017

    Video of the personalized learning presentation on March 29 at Ryan Middle is now available. You can also view Core Four for Parents, which breaks down each core four and gives examples in the classroom.

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  • An Update on Personalized Learning

    Posted by Rebecca Hurbi on 4/2/2017

    This update was also published in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:


    The week of March 27 saw the second training rollout of personalized learning to district and elementary leadership groups. The personalized learning council, which includes teachers, principals, support staff, and union representatives, met to discuss aligning curriculum, supporting teachers, and finalizing the official “Why” statement that will help guide decision making.


    Elementary school teams met for a day-long training exploring classroom structure and design options available to teachers. The teams will then go back to their schools and help guide the training and decision-making process with the rest of their school educators.


    “One thing I’m excited for is the flex model,” shared Arctic Light Elementary teacher Marcy McCall about a strategy for organizing student learning time. “Not only is it going to provide my students with more choices, it will allow for more one-on-one instruction.”


    Members of the district leadership team and Education Elements, the district’s partner in the shift to district-wide personalized learning, also held a public event for parents on March 29. Parents listened to a presentation from both Superintendent Gaborik and Scott Johns, Education Elements design team lead, and had a chance to ask questions.


    “One thing I’m passionate about is that every single student be a successful learner,” said Superintendent Gaborik during her presentation. “I think that’s a goal we should never let go of and that we need to accomplish.”


    A few early adopter teachers have already begun more comprehensively shifting their teaching model to personalized learning. Mr. Rush at Ticasuk Brown Elementary is one teacher who has changed things up this year. Parent Jason Griswold has a son in Mr. Rush’s class.


    "At first I was skeptical of personalized learning because I do not like change," said Griswold. "But personalized learning seems to work better for my son and now he is actually motivated to learn. He thinks learning is fun, loves school, and his grades have improved significantly. My son has taken ownership of his learning."


    Video of the presentations, handouts from the meeting, and responses to frequently asked questions can be found at

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  • Parent Perspective

    Posted by Jason Griswold on 3/24/2017

    The following is from parent Jason Griswold:


    Griswald family "At first I was skeptical of personalized learning because I do not like change, I am not used to technology, my son's classroom looked like a free for all, and I thought my son's writing skills would not improve because he would not be using pencil and paper anymore to complete his assignments.


    But personalized learning seems to work better for my son and now he is actually motivated to learn. He thinks learning is fun, loves school, and his grades have improved significantly. My son has taken ownership of his learning and taught me how to use the iPad so we can track his progress together.


    At my job, I want my employees to take ownership of their work, so I don't micromanage them. For my son, school has become more about learning and less about doing what the teacher told him to do. Before I used to pick up my son from school carrying stacks of worksheets for homework. It was stressful for our family because my wife and I would fight with him over homework every night. Now homework is not required but my son chooses to do it anyway and our family evenings are much less stressful.


    I hope that Declan will continue to benefit from personalized learning in 4th grade and Madi will as a kindergartner."


    Pictured left to right: son Declan, Jason Griswold, wife Julie, and daughter Madalyn.



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  • Recommended Video: "Changing Education Paradigms"

    Posted by Dave Dershin, PL Council & Middle School Principal on 3/14/2017

    In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools' dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.


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  • Recommended Video: "Bring on the Revolution!"

    Posted by Heather Rauenhorst, PL Council on 2/24/2017

    In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.


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  • High School Personalized Learning Video

    Posted by Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent on 2/22/2017

    From an email to all staff:


    iNACOL recently released the report What’s Possible with Personalized Learning: An overview of personalized learning for schools, families and communities.


    Included in the report is video of a TED Talk by Sal Khan from September 2016 titled  Let’s teach for mastery—not for test scores.  Khan focuses on math and uses high school examples of how we traditionally group students, teach content, assess, and move students forward through curriculum. I thought you might find it insightful.


    (Middle school and elementary staff, you may appreciate the video as well!)

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  • Pace of Change

    Posted by Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent on 2/15/2017

    From an email to all staff:


    At the last regular school board meeting, we heard testimony from a support staff member who I’ve always appreciated and respected. She shared her concerns about the pace of change and asked the school board to slow down.  I’ve been reflecting on her heartfelt comments and thought it was important to share with our entire district staff my thoughts about this as well as more details about some of our timelines.


    First, I want to acknowledge the stress I’m seeing and feeling throughout the district and really throughout our state, both in the K-12 arena and in other sectors. This is a challenging time in our state with budget cuts upon budget cuts, and it’s taking a toll on us all.  For those of us in education, added to the state budget crisis are new and changing mandates at both the state and federal level. These are tough times, and I’m proud of how we’ve been pulling together to serve students whose needs seem to be ever-increasing as some families are struggling with job losses and other economic stressors.


    Many of the changes we’ve been undergoing these last few years are the result of difficult external circumstances. Then there are other changes I’m asking all of us to embrace so that we can fulfill our district’s mission and vision to be a place where “all students will succeed and contribute to a diverse and changing society.” These changes I’m asking all of you to make can’t wait until the economy improves or the landscape of the future becomes more clear, because our students can’t afford for us to wait any longer. In our current system, not all students are succeeding.


    My vision for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is for EVERY child to be a successful learner, and for EVERY educator to feel like they are a successful teacher with every single one of their students.  If we can become a school district where every single one of us "tailors learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests—including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery at the highest possible standards,” then far fewer parents and students in our community will feel the need to choose school options outside the amazing public schools we have in Fairbanks.  As Dr. Michael Johnson, Alaska Commissioner of Education, recently stated, “Our students, their families, and teachers deserve a focused effort to support the public education system through reform. Though many students in our state are getting a very good education, a large and tragic achievement gap exists.”


    The Pace of Change

    For change to sink down deeply into the culture of an entire organization, it can require 3 to 10 years of sustained, focused effort (Kotter, 2012).  You often hear people say things like “change takes 3 to 5 years” or “you have to go slow to go fast.”  All wise words.  The key is:  You have to start.  And we have to acknowledge it’s the starting that creates anxiety for some people, especially in times of so much external pressure.


    The Strategic Plan

    The work we are starting in the school district is rooted in the Strategic Plan. In the 2014-15 school year, the school board collected community-wide input through surveys and conversations with parents, staff, students, and community members throughout the district.  That input led to the development of the current Strategic Plan in February 2015, which outlined the goals for the years 2015-2017. The Strategic Plan was officially adopted by the school board in June 2015. The vision of the Strategic Plan is the driver of school district reform. 

    We envision learning without boundaries, where every student achieves his/her path to academic and career success. Learning will be driven by student need, through flexible and adaptive options. Supporting the district's educational system are highly engaged families; proven technology infrastructure; staff that are continually raising the bar in their profession; and a community that is committed to growing our future.



    Family input on the need for choice initiated dialogue around K-8 options, and we started this work in August 2015 with continued discussions and progress over the past 1.5 years.  The school board will consider school-specific K-8 plans late this spring, almost two years after beginning that specific initiative.  Schools that move forward with their K-8 plans will spend the 2017-18 school year preparing for implementation.  It is anticipated the first K-8 transition will begin in Fall 2018, 3.5 years after the board penned the original strategic K-8 objective.


    Personalized Learning 3-Year Implementation Plan:   A year and a half into the strategic plan, the keynote at the August 2016 opening district-wide in-service in Hering centered on the concept of personalized learning.  That same day, school board members and secondary principals participated in breakout sessions exploring personalized learning.  In October 2016, I presented my district student achievement plan to the school board, designed to implement the vision of the Strategic Plan.  Just a few weeks ago (two years after the board developed the strategic plan), we began the 3-year district-wide personalized learning rollout with elementary schools and began to set the foundations for this work.  Later this spring, after another session with the elementary PL Teams, elementary teachers across the district will each try one personalized learning strategy in their classrooms.  In August of 2017, middle schools will begin to set the foundation, and in spring 2018 high schools will begin their work.  By the time the introduction of personalized learning is in its final phase, five years will have passed since the school board set the original goal in the Strategic Plan.


    Another aspect of personalized learning, eLearning, began in the spring semester of 2016 when an eLearning lab and several eLearning courses were piloted at West Valley High School.  This past fall, eLearning labs launched in all five of our high schools.  So far this school year (two years after development of the strategic plan) we have had 1,197 eLearning course enrollments across the district. Students and parents have asked for more choices, and we are making progress in meeting their needs.  


    Thank You

    Thank you for your hard work every single day.  And thank you for starting a journey in this school district that I believe can take us to a place where the hard work of every single educator results in the success of every single one of our students.

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Last Modified on March 22, 2018