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when learning is truly personalized, each student has a voice in the learning process.  Within theVOICE framework lies a core vision for 21st century teaching and learning: a symbiotic relationship between pedagogy, technology, and 21st century skills.

each student is unique.  When given the freedom to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways, students achieve agency by tapping into their inherent strengths, honing them, and applying them in engaging ways.  Allowing for student choice is a tenant of many personalized learning frameworks.

How do I learn best?  By this point in adulthood, you have probably answered that question for yourself.  How often do we ask this question of our students?  Learner profile surveys, many of which can be downloaded online for free, empower our students with knowledge about themselves: strengths and challenges, interests and goals.  This knowledge, coupled with instructional best practices and technology, can facilitate instruction that honors the multiple intelligences present in today’s classrooms.  Reflecting on personal learning styles is not only a powerful motivator, but a first step to becoming a self-directed, independent, and lifelong learner.

There are many curricular areas that present opportunities for students to flex their creative muscles, even in districts without formalized STEM initiatives.  Innovation labs, classroom makerspaces, and project-based learning activities provide venues for students to think and work creatively.  Simply stated, presenting opportunities for innovative thinking increases the chance that it will happen.

As classroom leaders, teachers can cultivate trust and empathy among their students by providing opportunities to collaborate.  “We can’t all be good at everything,” Simon Sinek says, “…this is partly the logic behind having a team in the first place.”  In a collaborative culture, the use of technology not only makes communication more efficient, but also provides opportunities to identify authentic, real-world connections and problems for groups to tackle together.

Whether it be a “genius hour”, project based learning opportunities, "20% time", or even personalized homework, creating outlets for our students’ passions increases engagement and solidifies real-world connections.  The cultivation of curiosity, interests, and passion ought to be at the heart of a 21st century classroom.

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