Teaching with Technology: Navigating Personalized Learning to Enhance Student Outcomes

Who Benefits from Personalized Instruction?

Meet Dallas, a seventh-grade student facing reading challenges in Ms. Madeline Babcock’s classroom. Every day, he steps into her reading class, unsure of what lies ahead but hopeful for progress. Ms. Babcock has laid out a clear vision: this year is devoted to enhancing reading skills through a three-step roadmap to success: Improving Reading Fluency, Enhancing Reading Comprehension, and Strengthening Phonics and Word Recognition. These pillars underscore Babcock’s commitment to both class and student progress, forming the cornerstone of literacy development.

Yet, Dallas’s journey through reading groups and library books has been marked by frustration. He grapples with reading slowly and he hesitates to participate in group discussions. Like many peers, Dallas wrestles with confidence and motivation in his reading pursuits. Recognizing these shared struggles, Ms. Babcock is determined to enact change. This year, she’s embracing personalized, individualized, and differentiated learning strategies to reignite motivation and reduce distractions in her classroom. This shift promises a tangible impact, offering hope and empowerment for students like Dallas.

Join us in this blog series as we explore the journey of personalized learning in reading instruction. From the challenges students face to the innovative strategies employed by educators, each post will spotlight the transformative power of personalized, individualized, and differentiated instruction in unlocking students’ full potential. At MindPlay, we believe every step brings us closer to fostering a love for reading and empowering students for lifelong success.

What is Personalized Learning?

To gain a better understanding of the impact of personalized learning on students like Dallas, let’s define what personalized learning is and how it impacts a classroom. Personalized learning, in its simplest form, is student preference, involves students in creating learning activities, and relies heavily on a student’s interests and curiosity.

This article featured in EdWeek expands on the notion that younger learners are taught to incorporate technology into their learning. With the right tools, you create an environment where students are truly engaged and taught how to effectively learn. As we move towards embracing digital learning, it is imperative that we build intrinsic motivation for students by providing equitable access to resources that build on reading skills independently and engage with the material in a personalized manner. In doing so, we can foster a deeper understanding and synthesis of the curriculum (Lockwood, 2018).

How does technology enhance personalized learning experiences compared to traditional teaching methods?

In a recent interview with MindPlay’s Director of Curriculum & Instructional Design, Dr. Meredyth Kealey, we sat down to analyze the role of technology in personalized learning.

Question: How does technology enhance personalized learning experiences compared to traditional teaching methods?

MK: By investing time with their students, educators can empower them to take control and ownership of their learning instead of relying on pre-selected materials chosen by the teacher.

Given the reality that teacher shortages remain, technology can continue to aid educators by providing access to varied content that meets the needs of their students and upholds state standards.

Question: How does MindPlay adapt to accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences within personalized instruction frameworks? 

MK: At MindPlay, we encourage and support adaptive learning. We recognize each student’s uniqueness and believe the technology we use for teaching should be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of learning styles. It begins by ensuring all students have access to the support they need to overcome reading challenges. Keeping their unique interests and abilities in mind, educators and educational technology providers can provide access to more exciting resources than ever before. When students acquire foundational reading skills in MindPlay Reading Coach or apply those skills in LightSail, student choice is at the forefront of their learning. We provide access to short stories and long-form content, such as whole books, to students not only within their Zone of Proximal development but also that are popular amongst their peers. When students practice fluency and comprehension, having access to varied, high-interest, and, in many instances, cross-curricular books allows them to immerse themselves in shared experiences. Additionally, when students work on independent reading in LightSail, they can create a reading environment that best suits their reading needs for optimal learning. Students can support text size, layout, format, and fonts within differentiated content with auditory, behavioral, and visual accommodations. Again, this best advocates and accommodates the student’s learning environment. It allows students to foster independence and build intrinsic motivation to read, helping to create confident readers.

Question: What role does accessibility play in personalized learning?

MK: The U.S. Department of Education is refining its view of accessibility and incorporating technology to further enhance students’ learning outcomes. Since the pandemic, the educational landscape has shifted, and more awareness has been raised surrounding equitable access. 

In a recent statement, Lindsay Jones shares, “We have an opportunity with technology embedded appropriately, in education systems, to create dynamic, flexible learning environments for students because they don’t all learn the same. It’s not just kids with disabilities that learn differently. It’s not just English learners. The reality for the teacher is that every brain in their classroom is as different as a fingerprint” (Klein, 2024). 

We must learn how to solve the critical digital divide, use, and design challenge educators’ experience, and solving for equitable access plays a pivotal role in doing so. From an educational perspective, an inclusive approach accommodates students regardless of their initial reading abilities or any challenges they may encounter, ensuring that every learner can achieve reading proficiency. 

It is a cyclical process, ensuring that students are working on these four instructional strategies: 

  • Mastery of prerequisite skills: reduces processing complexity so that students focus on the relevant information to learn the new skill. 
  • Clear explanations and modeling: reduces working memory processing demands, allowing students to focus on the learning objective. 
  • Practice and repetition: help focus students’ attention on the instructional goal of mastery. 
  • Corrective feedback: helps deliberately encode only accurate information into long-term memory for later use.


Empowering educators to incorporate more technology-driven approaches into their classrooms

In closing, we asked Dr. Kealey to share advice for educators to include more technology-driven, personalized instructional strategies to aid in students feeling more empowered and motivated to learn.

Question: What role do students play in leveraging technology for their personalized learning journeys, and how can educators empower them in this process?

MK: Teacher empowerment is key. When teachers allow students to understand how technology creates ownership of learning, they work collaboratively to find the right solution to meet their learning needs.

As teachers embrace and model the use of technology, students will, in turn, embrace pro-technology behavior and lean toward acceptance. Together, this creates an environment of self-advocacy where students can identify what works well for them, ask for help when needed, and build confidence in literacy skills. Through effective communication, students will assert their ideas effectively.

Educators can celebrate diversity, such as unique interests and strengths, and encourage students to embrace individuality. This creates an atmosphere of self-directed learning, critical thinking, and learning to evaluate resources to make accurate, well-informed decisions.

Question: What advice would you give to educators who are interested in incorporating more technology-driven personalized learning approaches into their teaching practice?

MK: I’ve created this quick guide of tips & tricks for educators to reference when embracing personalized learning pathways and practices.


Empowering Collaboration: A Shared Responsibility for All

As we circle back to Dallas and Ms. Babcock, their journey exemplifies the transformative power of shared ownership in personalized learning. For instance, Dallas has a keen interest in reading about his sports heroes like LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Ms. Babcock has shown him how to navigate LightSail’s high-interest library, finding books that resonate with his passions beyond the classroom. With customized visual accommodations within the library to support his reading, such as guided syllabification and adjustable font sizes, Dallas can engage with the material comfortably, taking each word in at his own pace through a focused reader. These accommodations, along with several others available in the platform, aided in Dallas’ literary growth, empowering him to explore the world of reading with confidence and enjoyment.

Gain invaluable insights into supporting educators and enhancing literacy instruction in your schools with MindPlay, a pioneer in reading intervention strategies. Register now to secure your spot for the webinar on May 2, 2024, Achieving Mastery: Orton-Gillingham & the Science of Reading, hosted by Dr. Kealey and special guest, Technology Coordinator at Vail School District, Amanda Calkins!