About Those Empty Cells…

by Jim Rickabaugh

Those of you who are familiar with the Institute for Personalized Learning’s now iconic Honeycomb probably have noticed that in each expanding ring of the model as you move from elements of learning and teaching to relationships and roles and to structures and policies, there are a few empty cells. What you may not know is that each of these empty cells represents an opportunity for practitioners to personalize the model to fit their unique situation. In fact, in our work with educators, we encourage them to customize the content to reflect their context and the work they are doing with learners, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the core components and other elements of the model.

We have at times referred to these empty cells as waiting to be filled in as experience grows and we come to know even more about the dimensions of personalized learning. Certainly, this perspective remains valid. The elements contained in each of the cells articulate a research based, experience proven aspect of a comprehensive personalized learning approach, but they do not include every element that could be presented. Without question, there are more elements that could be noted than there are cells available.

Herein lies the opportunity to use the model to represent the work you are doing with your learners, within the context of the framework and elements already present. For example, in the inner ring of learning and teaching, you might add elements such as project based learning, inquiry learning, learner driven progress monitoring, or other strategies that you are utilizing. There are many potential options, as long as what you add is learner-centered and is consistent with the core elements of a learner profile, proficiency-based progress and customized learning paths.

Moving to the next ring of the Honeycomb, relationships and roles, you might be focusing on students developing deep expertise in an area of learning. If so, you might insert “learner as expert” in one of the vacant cells. Or, you might consider “educator as learner,” “learners as collaborators,” “learners as makers/inventors,” or some other dimension of your work, depending on your unique context. Again, what is important is that it is consistent with the core elements of the Honeycomb and reflects a learner-centered approach.

Finally, considering the outer ring, structures and policies, you might add shifts in the use of time such as calendar and schedule modifications. Or you might include opportunities for learners to earn college credit while still in high school, community based internships or a host of other opportunities that reflect changes in structures and policies to enable and accelerate the work on which you are focused in the inner rings of the Honeycomb.

The bottom line is that there are many ways you can personalize the Honeycomb to reflect your unique context and focus while continuing to benefit from the change strategy and the core elements of a truly learner-centered approach. Have fun!

How have you personalized the Honeycomb for your unique situation? Let us know in the comments or tweet it with #MyPLHoneycomb!