The truth is....they're almost always wrong.
The same is true with Facebook. Most of the promotions they send my way are often items I've already purchased, merchandise I'd never consider, or links of little interest (don't get me started on virtual school posts that make their way into my feed). Let me step off my soapbox to get to my point: the only person that can truly personalize for YOU is YOU.
So....is "personalized" learning what we want for our children?
I continually read posts from people who are adamantly against personalized learning. Their argument is that big business wants to personalize for students. Like these advocates, I share their concern. When I see Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg want to help personalize learning, I get a bit apprehensive. As an educator, I've seen programs where students sit down and the app "personalizes" for them. I've watched them robotically work through menus with new levels pushed their way. I've sat through sales pitches in which companies hope to sell content that is collected and given to the learner. When I think about the way we live, the jobs that will be available, and the possibilities that abound, I don't consider this enough for our children.
Personalized learning, to me, isn't about programs that try to use algorithms to determine next steps for children. Personalized learning, to me, is personal. It's learning that allows learners to assess their own understanding, determine their own goals, and design their own learning. Personalized learning changes my role as a teacher. It doesn't make me one stop in a rotation of "personalized programming products," but instead shifts my role to a co-learner in our classroom, albeit one with experience who can sit beside students as they design their next steps. As I like to say, I'm now "coach on approach" for the learners in our community.
Here are a few of the characteristics I see as essential in personal learning:
- It's Learner Driven: Learners truly know what is next, set their own goals, and design their own path.
- It's Collaborative: True learning never happens in isolation, but is part of a larger conversation. Learners know the experts in the room (and outside of the room), reach out to peers for feedback, and have opportunities to learn alongside others. Learning is part of a bigger conversation that is taking place in the community.
- It's Authentic: Learners have the opportunity to solve real problems, ask genuine questions, and seek new understandings. They are able to select their own books, choose their own topics, and follow their own interests.
- It's Connected: Thanks to the internet, learning no longer happens in isolation. Students now have a platform to share their work, reach outside of their classroom, and connect with other learners, authors, and experts.
- It Allows for Creativity: While paper, pencil, markers and paints are certainly still important tools in creating, digital opportunities now allow for new ways to share our thinking with others.
Is personalized learning what we want for our children? I guess it depends on how you define it. If it is spending our day handing students devices with programs that feed information to them, then I wonder as well, but if instead, it is creating learning environments in which children truly own their learning then it is absolutely what I hope we will continue to work toward.