A User Guide to Me

Learning, Learning Design, PreK-12

Some Google employees maintain an electronic form called A User Guide to Me. It includes information about strengths, preferences, and tips for working together. Here’s an outline of one guide:

About Me:

What I think I’m good at:

  • A few things you’re good at and working on

I’m told that I’m good at:

  • Recognized leadership and skills

My least favorite things:

  • The stuff I’d rather not do

Good ways to work with me:

  • How I like to communicate and work together
  • How much information I need to make a decision
  • How I work on deadlines

I can always help with:

  • How and where I can help

You know me well:

  • Anonymous feedback form

In a project-based world where teams are forming and storming every few weeks, the User’s Guide appears to be a great tool organizations can encourage teams to use to improve communication and collaboration. It also appears to be a useful addition to a high school individual learning plan.  

Individual Learning Plans. recent study indicates that 29 states and the District of Columbia mandate Individual Learning Plans (ILP) and 44% of surveyed high school counselors in states that do not require using ILP report using them in their schools.

ILPs are usually initiated in 8th or 9th grade. While almost every state requires schools to help students develop an academic plan only a third help students consider on strengths and weaknesses or build a resume. Only 10 states ask students to reflect on how they learn and refer them to support resources.

Learning differences. An individual learning plan starts with reflections on learning. This is particularly important for youth with learning differences.

The Parents Education Network in San Francisco supports Student Advisors for Education (SAFE), “a student community that strives to educate, mentor, and support students, parents and teachers regarding the challenges and strengths of students with learning and attention differences.”

SAFE is a group of teenagers passionate about learning differences and developing their own agency to advocate for themselves as learners. When the SAFE group spoke at Google in 2015, several students said they had letters about themselves they give to teachers when they start a new school year. That sounds like a great application of the User Guide concept and a useful addition to Individual Learning Plans.

How this should all work. Here’s how the User Guide and ILP fit into a system of personalized learning:

  1. Every student should have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) or what NGLC calls a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP).
  2. An ILP should include a reflection on collaboration preferences and learning differences (like the “About Me” of User Guide). There are plenty of student resources available. For example, the Naviance college and career readiness platform offers a series of student self-discovery assessments such as Do What You Are (similar to Myers Briggs), StrengthsExplorer (Gallup student version of StrengthsFinder), and learning styles inventories.
  3. Every secondary (grade 6-12) student should have an advisor that is the co-owner of the ILP that they meet with several times each week.  
  4. Nobody is average, everybody deserves personalized learning. Learners should have some control over pace, path, and the product of learning.
  5. States should expand fields tracked in electronic student records (i.e., Data Backpacks) that follow students grade to grade and school to school.
  6. Schools should capture a comprehensive Learner Profile that incorporates the ILP, the Data Backpack, and a lot more formative feedback. Parents should have the ability to share portions of the profile with multiple providers.
  7. Students should build a digital portfolio of personal bests–work product and reflections on their ILP.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.

1 Comments

Tom Vander Ark /

More from Laura Maloney, Parents Education Network:
There is not really a format to what the kids present and it can be presented in different mediums (for example a letter a PPT, etc.)
I would say that this is done as early as late elementary school for some of our kids, most don’t wait until HS. I would also say that these presentations/letters always start with strengths and then go on to describe challenges, outlining the best ways the students have found to support their challenges or way they think might work for them. Sometimes these letters define the diagnosed LD and how that particular LD might be reflected in the students work. (as you know not all LD’s present the same or to the same degree). I would say for our kids, these letters most likely talk about the fact that all of us learn differently and that it is their strengths that will carry them through in life. We do have some additional videos of the kids on our You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuCGdk6Ry_lJ3ipfQHBcFZQ