Personalized Learning is Like Ice Cream


Yes, personalized learning is truly like ice cream, or at least like fro-yo. You know, the place where you get to make it yourself and you pay by the weight. (A little side note, my girls took full advantage of me the first time we went. Before I knew what was happening, I was looking at the teenage cashier who told me their two cups of fro-yo were $18. She did not seem too concerned about the look of shock on my face.)

John Spencer, the author of Empower, first introduced me to this idea. Ice cream? How does ice cream and learning go hand in hand. Don’t get me wrong, trying new flavors can be a learning experience in and of itself, but believe it or not his analogy finally hit home in a way that personalized learning finally made sense to me.

You see, just like ice cream, learning has evolved in to a multi-faceted experience.

When I was a kid, let’s say elementary, we had Baskin-Robbins. Thirty-one flavors. I had choice: flavor, one scoop or two, cup or cone. By the time I hit high school it was Marble Slab and Coldstone Creamery. I got to pick my flavor and my mixings. Now, I got to “design” my ice cream with the flavors I wanted. More choice, but I did none of the work. Fro-yo, however, I got to choose the size of my cup, the flavors I wanted (as many and as much) AND ALL of the mixings.

I owned ALL of the process. I had choice throughout the process.

Everyone who enters the doors of any fro-yo shop all want the same thing. Fro-yo. Their way. Fro-yo is like your content. Your essential standards. The things you MUST learn. Each flavor a different standard. (If you don’t have fro-yo, you only have fluff. The fun stuff with no foundation.) BUT how you learn it or consume it is all up to the learner. It can be cheesecake with graham cracker crumbles and fresh strawberries OR birthday cake, double chocolate, mango sherbert with gummies, fresh fruit, chocolate sprinkles, marshmallows, and hot fudge. As simple or as complex as you want it. I owned the entire process.

So yes, personalized learning is like ice cream.

When my daughters owned the process of making their own fro-yo they created and consumed more, just like students who own their learning. So as you embark on this journey into some unfamiliar territory, think back to fro-yo. Who owns the learning? You or your students?

~Written by Amy Miller