Personalize learning this summer

20 Ways to Personalize Your Learning This Summer

We educators need to rest and recover this summer. So many of us are exhausted. But the reality is also that we’re going to have to prepare for a fall that – whatever it looks like – will include an online learning component. Even if we go back to face-to-face learning, we will all have to be prepared to teach online, and the best way to do this is to first educate ourselves with research and pedagogy.

Learning online will also help us become better teachers and now is the perfect time to take an online course. So, in this blog post, I’m going to share 20 teaching areas that are relevant to distance learning and why these topics might be one you choose to take a professional development course to learn this summer.

This is sponsored by Advancement Courses. Use the code COOL20 to receive 20% off your course from Advancement Courses. All opinions are my own.

1. Blended Learning

In my opinion, the best 21st-century classrooms are “bricks” and “clicks,” blending together the best of face-to-face and online. Blended learning is not new.

Research around the pedagogy of effective blended learning will help you understand how to effectively combine your physical classroom and your online classroom. So, in order to prepare for the inevitable blended learning for this fall, the first professional development goal for all of us should be to make sure we have mastered blended learning. 

Course: Designing Blended Learning for Student Engagement and Achievement

“By the end of the course, you will be able to design and implement meaningful blended learning experiences with objective-aligned assessments and activities that foster core 21st-century skills.”
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Blended Learning

Classrooms are made of “bricks' and “clicks” and every teacher should be ready.

2. Racial Sensitivity and Culturally Responsive Teaching

As teachers, we have a lot to learn to improve our world toward better acceptance and equitable inclusion in society. This needs to be an area of understanding for every teacher. Some of you may use your professional development this summer to focus on culturally responsive teaching.

Course: Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies

“In this course, you will explore the importance of culture; how it impacts thinking, learning, and behavior; and how to embrace cultural differences and become a culturally responsive teacher.”

3. Student Engagement

I’m in social media groups where frustrated teachers recently commented that their grade books looked like “Swiss Cheese” and that many students were just missing during online learning sessions. While the stress of the pandemic, lack of reliable Internet access, and a thousand understandable reasons could be part of students not showing up, students weren’t motivated to want to attend.

So, this summer many of us teachers are looking to understand what it takes to create engaging, exciting lesson plans. If this is your goal, this course may be for you.

Creating a Highly Engaging Lesson Plan

“In this course, you will examine how to develop and execute highly engaging lesson plans regardless of what grade or subject you teach. You’ll learn how to identify the signs of student engagement and analyze highly engaging lessons so you can replicate effective strategies in your own instruction. In addition, you’ll create differentiated activities and assessments tailored to diverse learning styles and achievement levels so you can keep all students engaged based on their unique interests and abilities.”

4. Student Anxiety

Anxiety is an issue for both students and teachers during the pandemic. As teachers, often we have to know and help students understand coping mechanisms for the anxiety in their lives. This course can help us understand these principles and how to create a safe space for our students to learn.

Course: Strategies for Addressing Student Anxiety

“With the strategies and interventions you learn in this course, you will be able to create a classroom environment where students can successfully cope with stressors and instead focus on learning.”

5. Teacher Self-Care and Balance

Teacher satisfaction is a challenge. Certainly, appreciation from administrators, job fulfillment and so many other things are part of that. However, we know we have to care for ourselves so we can care for others. Self-care is key so that you can be best equipped to care for yourself. The truth is if we don’t care for ourselves, who will? This course will help us understand how to focus on our own well-being.

Course: Becoming a Calm, Happy Teacher

“The techniques will help you create more life balance so that you can cultivate more well-being for yourself and your classroom. The strategies will not only help you be more engaged, present, and fulfilled as a teacher, but you’ll also apply your learning to your classroom and your students.”

6. Trauma-Informed Teaching

Trauma-informed teaching has moved to everyone’s classroom and school, especially from the impact of COVID-19. As a recent podcast guest said recently, “we don’t have to know what someone’s problem is to know they have problems.”

In navigating today’s world, trauma-informed teaching is vital to our success as teachers. If you aren’t familiar with the current research and educational practices in this area, you might want to add this topic to your personal learning plan for the summer.

Course: Helping Students Overcome Trauma

“In this course, you will explore the different types of trauma and how they affect students’ behavior and academic performance. You’ll learn how to identify conditions such as PTSD and how to help students through natural and healthy grieving processes. In addition, you’ll explore strategies for proactively coping with trauma, including creating student-led support groups and peer counseling programs, getting students involved with community outreach programs, and partnering with local and national organizations focused on processing trauma.”

7. Parent-Teacher Communication

Partnering with parents has always been important. Now that students are learning from home, building these solid relationships is even more important. Knowing the methods to communicate with parents is vital, especially now when many parents are involved in their child’s work on a daily basis through distance learning.

Now is a great time to look at the research and learn how to improve this vital partnership through effective communication that promotes parent engagement. 

Course: Building Parent Engagement

“By the end of this course, you will be equipped with a comprehensive set of tools for engaging and empowering all students’ parents to become active partners in their children’s school success.”

8. Classroom Technology

Just because we have technology tools doesn’t mean it is being used effectively or in a pedagogically-sound way. Standards have emerged to help us use technology in ways that improve learning and shape students in positive ways for future careers and knowledge they need to have to be successful.

As we move forward in our knowledge of classroom technology, we also need to learn how to align with ISTE (and possibly CCSS) standards.

Course: Essential Classroom Technology for Teachers

“This course arms you with concrete strategies for how to choose, use, and monitor technology in the classroom. You will learn to use technology as a teaching and planning tool, design meaningful learning experiences, incorporate technical terminology in your speech, and accommodate underserved populations such as special education and English language learners.”

9. Classroom Management

If you believe that you can improve your routines and workflow, then you might want to take a course on classroom management. Being able to empower students to be part of classroom procedures will help your classroom run more smoothly. This also includes addressing disruptive behavior. There are many ways you can start implementing preventative techniques to keep your class on track. Start learning strategies to help you take back control of your classroom.

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Curbing Disruptive Behavior

“In this course, you will take a hard look at the effectiveness of your current classroom management plan and explore strategies for improving any weak spots. You’ll develop preventative techniques for stopping behavior issues before they start, such as establishing positive communication with your students’ families. In addition, you’ll create intervention strategies for when disruptive behavior does occur so that you can respond calmly and effectively to keep your class on track.” 

Course: Effective Classroom Management for the 21st Century

“You’ll explore 21st-century research-based approaches to classroom management. Using these strategies, you’ll be able to create a classroom that enhances students’ emotional intelligence and academic achievement, boosts their confidence, and equips them with skills that will help them succeed in your class and beyond. You will build routines and expectations that empower students to choose positive behaviors and take ownership of their actions, thus cutting down on interruptions and power struggles while you are teaching.”

10. Teacher Collaboration

Building and being part of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) is an important strategy for leveling up your teaching. You can create a community of learners in your school, your department, and through social media. This course will help you explore the benefits of partnering with other teachers to improve your own practice (and to take it further, you could get a cohort of teachers to work through this course and create your own PLC).

Course: Fostering Teacher Collaboration within Small Groups

“Using the strategies from this course, you will be able not only to find the time for building a strong learning community, but also to maximize your collaboration for the benefit of yourself and others.”

11. Differentiating Instruction

Differentiating instruction is a vital aspect of my teaching, but it starts as you design your lessons and class work. If you go into lesson planning with an understanding of differentiating instruction, your assignments can engage learners and meet a variety of their needs. This approach will take learning to a new level in your classroom.

If you have several ability levels and preferred methods of learning in your class and you’re wanting to reach all of them, this course may be the best option for your summer personal learning plan.

Course: Differentiated Instruction

“In this course, you will master the skills necessary to effectively differentiate instruction for optimal achievement by all students. You will learn how to identify individual students’ needs and learning styles, and create activities and tiered lessons that will meet those needs. You will cultivate different strategies for grouping students, arranging your classroom, and using cognitive approaches that help students take ownership of their learning.”

12. Special Education

As we blend learning, we need to remember to include all of our learners! Perhaps one of the primary issues with distance learning has been concerns that students with special needs are not having their needs met. Teachers who work with students who have learning differences need to know how to reach those students.

Choose your coursework based upon your need to either support students or to help special needs students in an inclusive classroom. 

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Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs

“Using the techniques from this course, you’ll be equipped to select and implement technology into your curriculum for a wide variety of subjects in order to meet the needs of all students in your classroom.”

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The Role of Technology in the Inclusive Classroom

“With the strategies from this course, you’ll be able to use technology to foster a sense of independence and empowerment among all your students to encourage them to grow and succeed.”


13. Physical Education

Physical education is one of many subject areas that have been impacted from moving online. While not often used in physical education activities, equipping our students with technology to measure, motivate, and improve student physical performance can help them learn to be healthy no matter where they are during the school day. If you’re a PE teacher looking for strategies to bring your class online, this course may be for you.

Course: Integrating Technology into the PE Classroom

“In this course, you will learn how to use technology to enhance the planning, instruction, activities, and assessments in your PE class. You will develop strategies for using video to demonstrate physical techniques and offer feedback on students’ performance; using apps and games to measure and motivate student achievement; and using digital organization tools to create and store powerful lesson plans that you can use for years to come. As part of your coursework, you will explore several examples of apps and tools you can start using in your classroom today to help you improve your own and your students’ experience.”

14. Play-Based Learning

Play can be incorporated into learning at any age. In my opinion, play is part of making, inventing, and spurring creativity. It can also create a more engaging classroom. There are many ways you can pair play with learning to help your students develop while still having fun. If play-based learning is part of your summer learning plan, check out this course.

Course: The Importance of Play and Developing the Child

“In this course, you will learn practical strategies for incorporating play into classroom activities. In addition to reviewing the benefits of play, you will cultivate resources for finding or creating play activities that suit various play types, subject areas, and grade levels. Free play is also an important aspect of children’s development. You’ll examine why free play has been declining and how you can encourage this type of play as well as self-directed learning.”

15. Building Relationships

Effective relationships with our students is part of creating an effective learning environment. A strong teacher-student relationship is crucial for their self-esteem and academic achievement. However, building a positive relationship with students is not as easy for some teachers as others. If this isn’t something that comes natural for you, these courses can help (including one for free).

Course: Creating Meaningful Relationships and Setting Boundaries with Your Students

“In this course, you will examine the fundamental strategies involved in building meaningful relationships and setting boundaries with your students. You’ll learn foundational concepts of interpersonal relationships, learner-centered instruction, the role of the teacher as a facilitator and advisor, the impact of the learning environment on the development of meaningful relationships, authentic learning, and inquiry-based teaching. In addition, you’ll cultivate techniques for establishing good rapport while maintaining healthy boundaries, even with hard-to-reach students.”

16. Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom allows students to learn from pre-recorded videos and then to complete homework and other activities during class. With video instruction on the rise, flipped classroom techniques can help any teacher. You could take a course on flipping your general classroom or one specific to your area of focus, including art, music, and physical education.

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Course: Flipping Your Classroom: Redefining Homework and Instruction

“In this course, you will examine different flipped learning models and select one that works for your students’ diverse interests and needs. Next, you will develop strategies for overcoming the potential challenges of switching to this model, and also set up a learning management system to help you streamline your course content. Finally, you will plan differentiated learning activities and assessments that will help your students master the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”

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Course: Flipping the Special Education Classroom

“In this course for art, music, PE, health, and other special area teachers, you’ll learn best practices for flipping your classroom in a way that’s tailored to your subject area. You’ll explore different media you can use to engage your students, and create lesson plans that will challenge them to think at a higher level. In addition, you’ll discover how to make your lessons differentiated and inclusive, to ensure equitable outcomes for students regardless of learning style or access to technology at home.”

17. Digital Assessments

How can we effectively assess learning in a digital classroom? This is the question of many educators who have been thrust into online teaching. Digital assessments aren’t new, but it’s important to have a knowledge of best practices in place.

As schools work to make digital assessments more effective, now is a great time to learn about how to create and plan your own for the fall. Whether you’re looking for a simple way to get started or want to deep dive into designing your own online assessments, these courses are great options to evaluate your online classrooms.

Course: Designing Online Assessments for Students

“In this course, you will learn how to leverage the resources and tools currently available to you to develop effective formative and summative assessments. You will explore ways to create authentic and engaging assessments online and how to provide meaningful and instructive feedback in an efficient and timely manner. In addition, you’ll develop strategies for implementing collaborative group projects to help your students learn how to work together in an online space.”

Course: Jumpstarting Online Assessments

“In this course, you’ll examine how to effectively map out, design, and leverage a range of assessment types to maximize student learning over the course of a unit. Using educational technology tools, you can develop authentic formative and summative assessments, while tracking students’ progress to inform future instruction. Additionally, you’ll gain strategies for offering timely, meaningful feedback that fits the format and medium you’re working in. Finally, you’ll learn how to design online assessments that follow the best practices of accessibility to provide an equitable experience for all learners.”

18. Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a topic we often discuss on my podcast. Some educators think a project is what you do at the end of a course with students just for fun. However, meaningful PBL lets you teach students throughout their work on a project. Learn how to level up with the Gold Standard methods for creating PBL in your classroom.

Course: The 4 C’s of Project-Based Learning

“In this course, you will take an in-depth look at Gold Standard PBL practices and how they compare to the projects you currently use in your classroom. You’ll practice creating PBL questions and units that address the Four Cs, and review a number of ideas and examples of projects and rubrics you might be able to use in your classroom. In addition, you’ll consider the challenges you might face when instituting PBL and create plans for addressing those challenges.”

19. Game-Based Learning

Game-Based Learning (GBL) isn’t only about having an activity based on points. Many learning theories are associated with effective gaming and teachers are applying these principles to their classrooms to engage learners. There are even game badges you can add to Google Classroom. Learn about GBL and bring it to your blended classroom.

Course: Level Up! Student Achievement Through Gamification and Game-Based Learning

“In this course, you will take an in-depth look at games, gaming culture, and game design to identify the characteristics of gameplay that make it such a powerful learning tool. Regardless of whether or not you use technology, you can incorporate best practices to gamify your instruction to leverage the benefits of gameplay, and develop strategies to move the classroom from teacher centered to student centered. In addition, you’ll learn methods for transforming lessons into multiplayer games that engage all types of learners, including gifted learners and students with special needs.”

20. Social Media

Social media can be used to safely engage learners. Many of us (including myself) have been using social media effectively with our students for more than a decade. While some schools restrict this practice, as schools have moved online, the necessity of engaging students where they are has come to the forefront. Learn how to use social media in your classroom to be a more effective teacher. This course will show you how.

Course: Social Media Tools for Teaching and Learning

“In this course, you will receive an in-depth guide to successfully planning and implementing authentic, integrated social media tools regardless of what grade you teach. You’ll cultivate strategies for how to integrate a variety of social media applications into core curriculum content areas, prepare students to participate safely through digital citizenship practices, and support the needs of diverse learners through social media platforms. In addition, you will examine how you might use social media for formative and summative assessment, and how to create rubrics for these assessments.”
We can level up the anytime, anyplace learning with Advancement Courses.

Online Learning with Advancement Courses

In conclusion, we all need to have personal learning plans this summer as we work to level up our learning. Advancement Courses is a great way to do that. Remember to use the code COOL20 to receive 20% off their professional development courses as you take your teaching and your student learning to the next level in ways that are unique to the time in which we live now.

Disclosure: When a blog post is marked as a “sponsored post,” it means that the company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Karli N Bohall October 19, 2020 - 2:24 pm

This is such a great blog with lots of great information. I am not a teacher yet but this blog has really inspired me when I become one to understand online learning components and incorporate all these things in not only my student’s learning but in my learning as well. This is a field where our learning never ceases and this blog truly helps me see the things I need to continue to learn right along with my students.

Vicki Davis October 25, 2020 - 8:03 pm

Good luck, Karli. Teaching is such an important profession. Thanks for stopping by! If you are learning from Dr. z at UNI – tell him I said hello!


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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