Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why Personalize

How we best learn has been a hot topic for many years. As most would agree experiences that are relevant, practical to our needs, meaningful and applicable drive learning.  The ability to acquire and construct new knowledge, then apply it in ways to solve complex problems, is at the heart of what education has been tasked with accomplishing. This lofty goal has fallen way short of expectations as our education system has changed very little over the past 100 years.  As a result of mostly the one-size-fits-all approach, students enter an environment where not only their needs are not met, but there is very little motivation to learn. With this stark reality in place, changes in schools and instruction are definitely needed to better meet the needs of all learners.

Now don’t get me wrong, significant progress has been made over the years with the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson regarding differentiated instruction. Wikipedia provides a very concise summary of this approach:
"A framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning (often in the same classroom) in terms of: acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability."
Is differentiation enough and why has it not been incorporated at scale? Time might be one issue as well as a lack of resources to implement this approach consistently.  Another factor is the apparent lack of focus on what students are really passionate about and aligning this to their learning interests. Personalized learning builds on the important foundation that differentiation provides by factoring in the individual interests and preferences aligned to specific student needs.  Wikipedia provides this synopsis:
"Personalized learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum, and learning environments by learners or for learners in order to meet their different learning needs and aspirations. Typically technology is used to facilitate personalized learning environments."
The concept of personalized learning continues to evolve.  Be sure to check out the working definition and critical questions to consider compiled by Education Week.  As the definition continues to evolve so does the potential in schools to embrace this uncommon learning strategy. When implemented with purpose and in a pedagogically sound way, technology can not only support but also greatly enhance learning for all students in appropriate situations. Personalized learning represents a movement from the “what” to the “who” as a means to facilitate student ownership of the learning process.  

This shift not only results in a refined focus but also some important benefits such as:
  • Knowledge and how it is used
  • Authentic, relevant, real-world contexts
  • Building on diverse strengths/needs of all students
  • Fostering independence and self-directed learning
  • Ownership of learning
  • Different ways to facilitate learning
  • Use of tech to support and enhance learning
A more personalized approach to learning can result in increased relevance and value for students leading to better outcomes and results.  Advances in technology now allow educators to personalize learning through both blended and virtual pathways.  For many students, these changes can definitely enhance and improve their learning experience.  However, personalized learning and technology for that matter do not represent a silver bullet to all the woes that our education system currently has. When implemented correctly and appropriately aligned to deeper learning outcomes this approach can lead to deeper engagement and demonstration of what students know and can do.

What are your thoughts on personalized learning? Is it just another catchy fad or a legitimate approach to move schools forward through?

1 comment:

  1. I feel that personalized learning is an attitude. What is your approach to your students. Do you want them to do exactly like you say or can you allow them to find out in their own specific ways and even help them in their ways!