Guest post: Reflections on the 2017 Youth Summit

by Paige K, Institute Youth Advisory Council Member

On February 28, 2017, the Institute for Personalized Learning hosted its 6th Annual Youth Summit with the help of its Youth Advisory Council. This year’s theme was “The Power of Personalized Learning: Education Tailored to You!” The event targeted the core concepts of personalized learning, promoted flexible learning, and helped to get the word out about this new way of teaching and learning. Everyone who attended or planned this experience walked away with a new or deeper understanding of personalized learning.

Many discovered the benefits of personalized learning; flexible environments, rapid-cycle feedback, self-advocacy, self-paced classes, and student agency/independence. This summit also served as a way to get the ball rolling, as few schools truly embrace the full personalized learning model. Thus, many people, myself included, were inspired to bring about change.

Youth Summit 2017

Personally, I felt that the Youth Summit was an amazing experience because I was able to get an in-depth tour of the Institute’s honeycomb model (which is used to describe the elements of personalized learning), explore the differences between learning styles, and even see how we can take information back to our schools. In this event, we aimed to make students more comfortable with self-advocacy so they feel empowered to promote change. Ultimately, as a planner of the event, I walked away with so many valuable tools and skills that were enhanced by this experience.

Throughout the course of this year’s Youth Summit, I observed the enthusiasm of many individuals as they shared their personalized learning experiences. It did not take long to form a mini-community of personalized learning advocates where people were not afraid to share their ideas. It was evident that the friendly leaders pushed everyone out of their comfort zones, but through that, it was apparent that more bonds were created, and more people shared out their ideas.

Additionally, there were many times allotted for exchanging ideas about personalized learning, in which the successes of others challenged students to bring about change. The thing that really stood out to me was how much people were enjoying the summit. Rather than sitting through a monotonous presentation about what personalized learning is, the interactive elements really got people to get up and enjoy their time. The students were asked to recap what they had learned and how they would take it back to their current environment, and the whole room went silent. That shows that the students were taking it seriously and reflecting on their learning while still being able to enjoy themselves.

Youth Summit 2017

The prominence of taking action within a community was greatly reflected throughout the afternoon session – a session I helped to plan. Being able to get an opportunity to run a session was wonderful. Since the majority of the people that planned the 2017 Youth Summit were students, we were able to incorporate our previous experiences and shape the sessions based on what we knew was enjoyable, informative, and fit for the event. The independence and flexible structure we had allowed us to explore further and try new things. When presenting at the Youth Summit, there were no nerves associated with being in front of people because it felt like everyone was equal, and there was not anyone out to judge the presenters. Also, since learner voice was incorporated, many of those attending had an opportunity to speak.

It was extremely enjoyable to present my portion of the Youth Summit while being able to see the reactions of my peers and the effectiveness of our tactics in action. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to mix with people coming from personalized learning environments, and people who still had a traditional structure. More importantly, it gave me a new perspective on how my school works. Being a presenter and being able to hear how other schools function got me to realize how fortunate I am to be a part of a personalized learning environment, and even how to implement more concepts of the honeycomb model.

Lastly, it is imperative that all students know they have a voice and choice in their learning. Similarly, it is also necessary that everyone understands that they have a say, regardless of circumstances. The traditional method does not work for everyone, and the learner needs to be able to understand the core concepts of personalized learning, share their experiences, and bring about change, which is exactly what this year’s Youth Summit aimed to accomplish.

About Paige:
My name is Paige and I am in the 8th grade. I have joined the Youth Advisory Council in order to improve school conditions for all students. Simply stated, I believe that all students should have a say in what their education looks like. Educational styles vary from student to student, and with this program, I believe that education can be valued by all, and students can receive the education they need. My current learning environment is, physically, a very comfortable place to be. We not only have many couches and comfortable chairs, but we do not have desks in rows or any standardized seating. In our school, the administrators, among many others, believe that students should be comfortable in their learning environment in order to enjoy and better comprehend what is taught. Additionally, our school offers a lot of self-paced classes where students are able to achieve goals at different paces, and even set their own learning goals, which I believe is valuable. Aside from academics, I am a black belt, and I lead and instruct classes of all ages and belt levels (which I really enjoy). I also enjoy crafting and designing interesting and mentally stimulating projects for myself in my free time.