Personalizing Learning Can Start With A Story

Moia Rowsome Blog


Traditional classroom practise may not suit everyone

It’s nothing new to claim that everybody is different. We all have different talents. We all have different weaknesses. They are the result of a mixture of our genetic make up and the environments we have experienced throughout life. Ultimately, we are complex beings and we each have a different story to tell. So why not start by telling them in school?

30hands Storyteller is an app to engage learners in storytelling where each individual can explain their learning in their own way. It makes the learning experience personalized for each individual. Let’s take a look at how!

Some Background Thoughts

When it comes to learning, the complexities and differences between people should be fostered and championed. Todd Rose at Tedx Sonoma County said that students are not one-dimensional, either struggling or gifted. Students vary on many dimensions of learning.

However, the reality is that many learners are still provided with the same textbook and learning environment in spite of the different talents and abilities in the room. Learners are all expected to absorb the same information and regurgitate it in the same way to score high on summative tests. There must be a way of making learning more personal, so that each person can be reached.

Why haven’t things changed yet?

Educators have been talking about change for quite a while. Why has there been no monumental shift yet across the education sector?

It’s paramount to understand that this situation is not the fault of the teacher. The problem is that the teacher is at the hands of a school system in which they are landed with a large amount of classes and students to oversee and manage in short spaces of time. My own memory of being a secondary school student is that each class is like a sprint to ‘cover the course’. I felt the same as a teacher.


Inquiry Based Learning in Science

The root of the problem is the fact that teachers are not given time or opportunities to develop materials and lessons that take into consideration the wide variety of learners they have. The result, for a large portion of teachers, is that their only option is to roll out more-or-less the same information to everyone. Remember, after all, that the learning is ultimately being measured with standardized tests.

I must not underestimate how so many incredible teachers who, against all odds, manage to differentiate their lessons and implement new approaches to learning in their classrooms. However, the range of differences and complexity of this range among our learners means that it is extremely difficult to do justice to everyone across our current education system.

Like most complex problems, there is no easy solution. First and foremost, moving away from standardized or proficiency testing and more towards growth learning will enable teachers to take more time in planning their lessons and getting to know their students. With this in place, we can navigate closer and closer to making learning more personalized for everyone.

What is Personalized Learning?


Give Your Students a voice and choice

Personalized learning is an approach to teaching and learning that has been on the tongues of many educators for some time now. It endeavors to make learning flexible to suit each student’s needs. According to Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, “Personalization refers to instruction paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences and tailored to the specific interests of different learners.”

There are a number of key characteristics of personalized learning:

  1. The learner has a voice and a choice in what and how they are learning.
  2. The learner sets the pace.
  3. The teacher and learner build a Personal Learning Environment.
  4. Learners develop a learner profile.
  5. The teacher and learner work together to co-design their lessons.
  6. Learning is adapted to the needs of each student.

So the student is very much at the center of personalized learning. A noble endeavor and something that will take some incremental steps to achieve. But where do we start?


Digital Storytelling makes learning personal

A step in the right direction – Personalizing Learning through Digital Storytelling:

If personalization is about making learning your own, then storytelling is the perfect activity to start reaching each of your learners. As I mentioned before, we all have a story to tell, so why not start in school? With more easy access to technology, digital storytelling is the perfect way to start personalizing learning.

Here are some of my thoughts on how digital storytelling and personalized learning interconnect and compliment each other:

  • First, by creating a story, you are automatically putting the learning into your own words.
  • Using the drawing tool engages learners in visualizing their learning.
  • Perhaps you want to take some photos of your surroundings to show your learning taking place. This brings your own personal environment into the story.
  • As the image search function is generated by Pixabay, all images are public domain. This makes it easy to choose your own images to represent a concept you are talking about. This is definitely giving the learner a choice!
  • By using your own voice to narrate your story, you become the storyteller. In 30hands Pro and Web it’s so easy to make edits and improve your intonation. Great for building confidence! According to Norman (2011) when discussing digital storytelling and the use of voice, “The personal element is emphasized, and can be linked to other people, a place, an interest or to anything that will give the story a personal touch”.
  • You are improving your digital literacy, which enables you to be more independent using digital media. According to the American Library Association’s digital-literacy task force, “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills”. Digital storytelling certainly involves the students in all of these tasks!

It’s by taking small steps, such as bringing digital storytelling into our classrooms, that will guide us closer and closer to a personalized learning environment that reaches all learners. So why not try it out and see how your students feel about telling their own stories?

Try out 30hands Pro for the iPad or for the browser and see what you and your learners can create! Follow us @30hands on Twitter and Facebook. Any thoughts? We are always here to answer questions and listen to your feedback on our products.


Norman, A. (2011) , Digital Storytelling in Second Language Learning. Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. P. 125

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