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Students as Curators: Moving Towards Personalized Learning

April 21, 2013
By Ronald J. Bonnstetter: Available

By Ronald J. Bonnstetter: Available


When I first started exploring inquiry-based learning several years ago, I found this chart to be extremely helpful in identifying different levels of inquiry. It was a way to look at a process to get students to think deeper and use problem solving and critical thinking skills in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In traditional and structured inquiry, and even in guided inquiry, the teacher maintains control of the learning by providing the topic, question, materials, and procedures to assure students are learning what they need to learn to meet the requirements of the course, yet students are still exploring big, essential questions.  It was a good starting point for teachers who were uncertain about this model of teaching.

Recently, as I have been exploring the topics of personalized learning and curating, I have come to the conclusion that the two converge in the last column of this chart, labeled “student research.”   This column represents to me what personal learning is or can be.  Moving from the left to the right side of the chart, as the author Ronald Bonnstetter describes, is a paradigm shift –from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.  He states, “This is the inquiry ultimate goal. At this point the student simply needs support and guidance from the teacher.”

Also, as we move from the left to the right side of the chart, students are taking more and more ownership of the learning.

The recent think tank organized by Discovery Education, “Beyond the Textbook” produced some great ideas and reflections from the participants as they brainstormed and shared ideas on what the future of textbooks should be.  Two comments in particular caught my attention:

Mary Beth Hertz wrote:

I imagine a techbook looking like a science notebook or journal. It would be a place where students can take notes, pin articles and videos, record experiments and discussions or lectures, organize data tied to these experiences sketch out ideas in words and pictures, and send and receive emails or other messages.

Frank Noschese wrote:

For me, going beyond the textbook means giving students a toolbox rather than an instruction manual…So what would a student see when they first opened such a book? It’s blank.

I agree with them.  And I think these are both descriptions of the last column of the table. If students can engage more in inquiry of their own making: questioning, curating, designing, and real-world problem solving, then students will own the learning.  This, to me, is what personalized learning should look like.

December 9, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Can I get more information about this? Thanks!

    Nancy White
    March 7, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Hi Karen, I highly recommend Educon for anyone passionate about public education and learning! The conference is held in January – always the weekend before Superbowl! Here is a link: -You can access many of the resoures from the website.

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