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Personalized learning helps rural students

For K-12 students receiving their education in rural areas of America, it can be a challenge to fully prepare for the 21st century careers centered around science, math and technology. But personalized learning is beginning to change all that.

Thanks to Race to the Top, which places a heavy emphasis on personalized learning when determining where to distribute federal grants, many rural school districts have been given the opportunity to completely revamp their approach to education.

The shift is noticeable. Rather than defining successful learning by time spent in class each day, educators are instead focusing on mastery of certain subjects or concepts as indicators of time-well-spent at school. This can be a particularly useful approach for rural school districts that may have children of several different grades sharing a classroom. In each case, technology plays a central role.

The Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, for example, is using its Race to the Top funding to buy iPads to help its middle and elementary school students achieve their academic goals.

The DeKalb County Central United School District, located in rural Indiana, has shifted its entire mathematics program to the digital realm in order to better prepare students for 21st century careers that will require them to have mastered both technology and math.

Justin Rentschler, a math teacher at DeKalb Middle School, said this approach to math education has made it possible to customize the learning of each student, which, in turn, is giving them the confidence they need to succeed.

“They’re just more willing to try different concepts they haven’t previously understood, and they’re going beyond just finding the right answer,” Rentschler said in a statement. “They’re learning to rationalize how they came to it.”

In general, it appears that many of America’s rural school districts are embracing personalized learning because of the opportunity it presents for greater flexibility. When students are able to learn at their own pace, they are less likely to become discouraged or frustrated with school.

Personalized learning also works particularly well in rural school districts because community relationships are closer, according to Education Insider. It can make a huge impact by truly engaging students in the learning process, helping them apply what they know to the real world, and encouraging them to attend school.

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