"Autumn is the second spring when every leaf is a flower." —Albert Camus


Dear Colleagues,

Throughout our long and storied history in school improvement, one of the practices that we've found critical to sustaining the hard, intensive work of changing culture and performance is the celebration of success and good news. And here at the Center on Innovations in Learning (CIL) we have some good news to share with you this month. Our longtime friend and colleague, Sam Redding, Senior Learning Specialist at CIL, was recently honored for his 50 YEARS of service in the field of education. If you have the pleasure of knowing Sam, you know that his roots in education run as deep as his passion and his reach, having worked as a special educator in the classroom, the Dean of Lincoln College in Illinois, and the founder of the Academic Development Institute, which has left its imprint around the world in transforming classroom, district, and state practices—where the needs and interests of children always come first. Congratulations, Sam. 

A Fresh, New Look

We are really proud of the work that we have accomplished as a Center over the past six years and we are so excited to share our new website (developed by the talented Emily Sheley) that showcases that work in a vibrant and easy-to-navigate way. If you haven't already, be sure to spend a little bit of time finding your next favorite resource!

Featured Resources 

CIL Topic Briefs

Research and strategies to guide your thinking and improve your practice

These topic briefs are getting great reviews from the field—and it's probably because they are the perfect blend of research and practice. Each month, we spotlight two new briefs in this newsletter, but you can find them all on our new website here: Conversation Papers. This month's features include a paper on Variation and another on Learning Habits. 

Variation: Ways and Means to Personalize Learning

Janet Twyman

Overview: We know learners are individuals. Each learner comes to school with his or her own unique background, as well as diverse experiences, attitudes, repertoires, interests, and aspirations; all will go on to lead different lives after their school careers. There is no such thing as the average student. As noted by Rose (2016) in The End of Average, “Our modern conception of the average person is not a mathematical truth but a human invention” (p. 11). Rose notes that it’s impossible to use statistical averages to draw meaningful conclusions about a particular human being, yet our educational system is designed around the notion of the average learner, a mythical notion that dictates instructional pacing, curriculum, grade-level standards and related textbooks, and even the size of desks and chairs in a classroom. As educators, to truly personalize learning, we need to move away from the concept of the average learner.

Learning Habits
Sam Redding and Janet Twyman

Overview: Learning habits receive particular emphasis in the CIL model as the behavioral expression of the four personal competencies in the statement: “The teacher personalizes learning to ensure mastery of knowledge and skills by developing students’ personal competencies.” The teacher builds the student’s personal competencies so that the student’s learning habits are strong, which is especially important in a learning environment that grants students extraordinary autonomy in choosing their routes to mastery and, in some cases, their destinations.


There is no shortage of technology but we frequently discover that educators greatest challenge is knowing when and/or how to use it well. While we believe that technology cannot replace a teacher, we do believe that technology can expand a teacher's reach. Our EdShelf selection provides a very carefully curated selection of more than 100 educational apps in 17 categories—"shelves"— that will help a teacher do JUST THAT. Each selection includes information about the app, each selected for their demonstrated promise of effectiveness or efficiency and ease of use. All are free or offer a low-cost purchase option. This month, we are spotlighting two additions to our Active Responding—Quiz Poll Creators shelf, but each is a little bit different than your typical quiz creator. Enjoy!

GooseChase Free/Paid; iOS, Android, Web:
Teachers can create scavenger hunts for students using Goose Chase on their mobile devices. The scavenger hunts are made up of missions filled with clues to problems, which students solve by uploading photos, video, text, or going to a specific location. Teachers can create teams, a starting/ending time for the scavenger hunt, and assign each mission a point value, which is automatically tallied as teams submit their answers. All submissions can be monitored and removed to try again. Goose Chase also provides a library of missions on their website, examples include: a vocabulary scavenger hunt (ex: for the word "encumbered," students could snap a picture of someone carrying too many things), a math hunt (ex:, students submit photos of different geometric shapes). Students could even create scavenger hunt missions for their peers to play.

Live Worksheets
- Free; Web

Live Worksheets are interactive worksheets that save paper, ink, and time, and are fun to complete. Teachers create an account and go to the website to upload a worksheet pdf, then drag text boxes with their questions on top of the worksheet. Student enter the answers online. Questions can be fill in the blank, multiple choice, matching, drag and drop, join with arrows, recording audio, word search, and more, with new activities frequently added. Teachers enter in the correct answers when they create the questions, which the program uses to give students instant feedback (correct answers in green and incorrect answers in red) with total score for the worksheet visible for each student. Find it at
Helping educators 
transform teaching and

In the Field

A little snapshot of how our work comes alive in states, districts, and schools throughout the country and with our colleagues and partners in the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. 
The Center on Innovations in Learning has created practical tools and descriptions of effective teaching methods, mostly as part of CIL’s work with personalized learning and competency-based education. CIL uses these materials in its training for SEAs, districts, and schools. CIL’s extensive personalized learning project in all the schools in the U. S. Virgin Islands is an example of CIL putting the concepts and materials it creates into service in the field. 

The same concepts and materials developed by CIL are included by other centers in their projects. The Center on School Turnaround incorporated CIL’s examples of lesson templates and descriptions of instructional modes in its Transformation Academy, a training for principals piloted earlier this year in Illinois and Alabama. The Center on School Turnaround has also made use of CIL ideas and templates in its work alongside the Florida & Islands Regional Comprehensive Center (FLICC) in a school improvement process in Puerto Rico.

On October 9-12, CIL representatives Janet Twyman, Mark Williams, and Stephanie Bisson and FLICC team members Alice Lindsay, April Phillips, and Susan Travilla visited St. Thomas and St. John School District where they presented a two-day workshop on Personalized Learning (PL) and Lesson Design to leadership teams from 12 schools. Additionally, CIL and FLICC staff visited with leadership teams at three project schools—Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Joseph Sibilly Elementary School, and Julius Sprauve School—to dig deeper into PL implementation. The CIL and FLICC teams plan to return in January and April as the districts push toward their goal of full implementation of Personalized Learning in schools across the district. To watch a short video that describes the evolution of this project, visit this link: Personalized Learning in STTJ
On October 15, Mark Williams presented to participants of the Kansas Department of Education's Annual Conference on School Re-design. Mark introduced CIL's Personalized Learning framework and provided a vision for how schools can begin to  incorporate PL into their teaching and learning.
Don't forget to check out this month’s spotlighted e-sources, drawn from CIL’s searchable Resources Database: Resources for Leaders of Change. This collection is continually updated, containing more than 2,500 freely accessible resources that have been vetted by staff as providing useful and reliable information on topics related to the center's work.

Marilyn Murphy

Technology of Teaching – Cognitive and Metacognitive Competencies
The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School Is Letting Them Down—and How to Fix It

This interactive research report (also available as a free pdf) reveals five major findings, including: students have big, clear plans for themselves; most students do what they’re asked in school—but still aren’t prepared to meet their goals; and students are often without access to 4 key resources in school: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers who hold high expectations. 
Published: 2018

Personal Competency – Metacognitive Competency
Metacognition and Mindfulness Meet the Power of Not Yet!
Dr. Margy Jones-Carey for Getting Smart
This post offers suggestions for teaching metacognition by incorporating it into existing practices and modeling it for students, as well as combining it with mindfulness strategies. Links to further resources are included.
Published: 2018

Competency-Based Education – Seat Time and Credit Flexibility
Show What You Know: A Landscape Analysis of Competency-Based Education
Getting Smart for XQ Institute
This resource "features an overview of the current status of competency-based education (CBE) in the U.S." with their research finding enthusiastic educators and "new resources and tools, including blockchain technology and machine learning," which could make the path to quality CBE easier, but also uncovering challenges that could slow the widespread implementation of CBE.
Published: 2018
Personal Competencies – Social/Emotional
Supporting Social, Emotional, & Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators
Allensworth, E. M. et al. for UChicago Consortium on School Research
This research synthesis "suggests ways teachers, administrators, and school support personnel can use insights from research to create Pre-K-12 schools and classrooms that advance educational equity.…It draws attention to the critical role of engagement and mindsets in student success; how teachers and administrators can create strong school climates that support students and engage families as partners; and how responsive classrooms can enable all students to have strong academic engagement."
Published: 2018
Copyright © 2018 Center on Innovations in Learning, All rights reserved.

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