Imagine a school where every student was learning based on their own personal needs, skills, knowledge, and interests.  Westside Community Schools are working to make that vision a reality through an Innovation Grant aimed at their Personalized 21st Century Learning Initiative.  The idea is simple: let the students have a hand in their learning and allow them to move at their own pace.

“With personalized learning you are able to empower students and talk with them through the choices they potentially will make to customize the learning experience with their ideal environment, process, pace, and things of that nature.  That customization allows for a sense of ownership and desire for mastery that I think otherwise isn’t quite as prevalent on a widespread scale,” says Westside Community Schools Personal Learning Collaborator and educator Andrew Easton. He says he has seen a change in the student body and the entire school. “I think our student expectations have changed.”

Each student has a different personalized learning plan.  Right now students are given the opportunity to test out of certain subjects.  When the class spends time on those items the students who tested out get to move forward at their own pace or work on a different project of their choosing.

“I like to move at my own pace so I don’t have to sit and learn what I already know,” says sixth grader Sammy Marvin.  “I think it’s better because students don’t feel like they are being slowed down. By working at your own pace you can learn more.”

Easton says that is the whole point of personalized learning.
“Personalized Learning lets you truly know your students and provide opportunities to invest in  relationships.  As students take ownership of their learning there is something that is rewarding for educators to see that.  It’s what we show up for everyday.  To be able to see them do it on their own.”

The Westside Community Schools Personalized 21st Century Learning Initiative is just one of the projects funded by the Nebraska Innovation Grants. For more information, check out the Innovation Grant Website.