Personalizing the Learning Experience: New Insights from Future Ready Schools

Google Cardboard Expeditions” by Laurie Sullivan licensed under CC BY 2.0

When done well, personalized learning has the potential to radically transform how we teach and learn and how we create more equitable opportunities for students. In the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP), our flagship policy document for educational technology, the U.S. Department Education defines personalized learning:

Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.

On Monday, September 12, we are supporting the White House Next Generation High Schools Summit in bringing together six states and more than 20 school districts to commit to redesigning their high schools. Along with other innovative practices, many of them are redesigning their learning approach to create opportunities to personalize learning, often with the support of educational technologies that allow them to multiply the impact of their educators.

Also, as part of the Education Secretary’s 2016 Opportunity Across America Bus tour, on Tuesday, September 13, we are hosting ConnectED Day to celebrate the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative and the two-year anniversary of Future Ready. In addition to visits by senior White House and Department leaders to Bristol Tennessee City Schools and Brooklyn Lab Charter School, many of our Future Ready Coalition partners are also hosting webinars, moderating Twitter chats, and writing blog posts to celebrate ConnectED Day.

In support of these events, we are releasing the first set of blogs from our personalized learning series, Personalizing the Learning Experience.

We share new insights from Future Ready schools with a particular focus on 1) the importance of district leadership teams implementing evidence-based practices, 2) the shifting role of the learner, 3) developing understanding of necessary changes in how we allocate human capital, 4) the need for new resources and tools, including openly licensed educational resources, and 5) the power of personalized learning to provide transformative learning opportunities for all students.

Several districts featured at the White House Summit are highlighted in the blog series including Highline Public Schools, winner of Race-to-the-Top funding to personalize learning.

Personalized student learning also anchors the Future Ready Framework, and is one of the four key Future Ready Focus areas highlighted in our Future Ready Leaders research synthesis.

In the coming weeks, we will also release additional blogs exploring the state of personalized learning definitions across the field, the development of personalized learning systems within the larger ecosystem, and the role of teacher preparation programs in preparing educators to implement personalized learning.

Note that throughout this blog series, we’ve embedded short videos from our Future Ready Leaders project and spotlight stories from our Stories of Ed Tech Innovation site to highlight personalized learning in action.


Katrina Stevens is the Deputy Director in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. She leads the work of innovative R&D in educational technology, rapid cycle evaluations, Future Ready, education innovation clusters, and developer outreach. Katrina has experience as a classroom teacher, administrator, professional developer, startup cofounder, consultant, angel investor, journalist and community organizer. She works to bring people together from across the ecosystem to make better tools for our students.