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States need to find common ground on personalized learning, SETDA's Tracy Weeks says

Looking ahead, state leaders will focus on interoperability as well as digital instructional materials and broadband leadership.

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States need to develop a common definition for personalized learning if they hope to pursue it as a common goal — that was one of the biggest takeaways from the recent gathering of state edtech leaders, according to Tracy Weeks, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

The SETDA Leadership Summit drew state and affiliate attendees from 47 states and territories, as well as speakers from Code.org and Future Ready Schools, among others. This year’s meeting gave special attention to the topic of personalized learning and how state leaders can leverage technology to make it work for students.

After exploring the technical, instructional and policy sides of personalized learning, educators and state leaders developed different understandings of personalized learning, Weeks says in an interview for EdScoop TV. Some take it to mean blended learning, others self-paced learning and still others online learning, she says.

“What’s clear to me is that states are trying to chip away at this problem, but that we are still struggling as a field, I think, to come up with that common definition, common goal,” she says.

As they come away from the summit, state leaders will begin to focus on the role of interoperability, Weeks says. Specifically, they want to examine how to use the interconnectedness of technology so that it transforms teaching and learning, rather than doing “the same things we’ve always done in education, just maybe better and online.”

SETDA members will continue the work they’ve been doing with instructional materials and state broadband leadership in the coming months, Weeks says. They’ll also monitor state ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) consolidated plans, state funding and potential changes to E-rate at the Federal Communications Commission.

“These are all things we’re keeping a very close on because changes in those could definitely change the way states implement,” Weeks says.

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