Strategies for Personalization: Learner Variability Tool Can Help

by | October 9, 2019

By Margaret High, October 9, 2019

Public Impact® held its Opportunity Culture® Fellows Convening in September; this series of blog posts highlights some of the convening topics and sessions.

“If you’re designing for the average, you’re designing for no one.”

Digital Promise’s Jessica Jackson (left) and Wendy Xiao (right) explain the Learner Variability Navigator at the Opportunity Culture® Convening.

Educators know they can’t design their instructional approach for one “average” student—but finding the right resources to make true personalization possible can be a time-consuming struggle.

At their 2019 convening, Opportunity Culture® Fellows tested one free tool that can help. Digital Promise, an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit, created its Learner Variability Project to translate the growing body of research on learning for educators and parents. Digital Promise created a whole-child framework that feeds into its free tool, the Learner Variability Navigator, which guides users through the factors they need to address for each student and strategies to match.

Users first choose their model—grade level and math or reading/literacy—and then factors within the model, broken down by content area, cognition, social-emotional learning, and student background.

In the example pictured below for PK-2 math, the “attention” factor falls under “cognition.” Hovering over “attention” highlights connected factors; click on it to learn more and find strategies, including videos and resources, to address it.


As they experimented with the navigator, fellows noted how useful it would be for multi-classroom leaders (MCLs), who lead small teaching teams, to use with both new and veteran teachers. Among their thoughts:

  •  The strategies work in conjunction with any curricula
  •  MCLs will need to guide lateral-entry teachers and new teachers to use the navigator well
  •  MCLs should guide team teachers in narrowing the strategy options
  • Teachers can work with parents to understand and use strategies together
  • The navigator helps teachers check themselves and their instruction to see if they are using correct interventions with students

The navigator is entirely free; users need to create an account for it only if they want to save strategies to a personal “workspace.” (Digital Promise says upgrades to the workspace are coming later this month.)

We extend sincere thanks to Digital Promise’s Wendy Xiao, senior program manager, and Jessica Jackson, practitioner partnerships director, for presenting this session at the convening.

Opportunity Culture® multi-classroom leaders: Have you used the navigator? You may want to join the private Facebook group for MCLs and share your experiences with this and other means of leading your team on personalization.

Update, October 21, 2019:

Digital Promise has now gone live with its new Adolescent Literacy Learner model, enabling the site to provide literacy learner models from PreK–12.

The site also includes more workspace customization options, including the ability to annotate and drag and drop strategies. The links below show some examples of customized workspaces (which users can copy to their own workspaces and customize), which could be used to support ongoing PD or school initiatives, :

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