Personalizing Learning Ain’t What it Used to Be!

For a few years now, I have been following Joe Bower on Twitter. He is a great thinker and advocate for responsible and positive change in education. He is a thoughtful blogger, and he got me thinking of my discussions with many during the last Cohort 21 F2F session about personalization of learning. Amongst others, Derek was emphasizing how different disciplines would be able to personalize in different ways, and Ruth was questioning where the motivation comes from, and how could you set up the classroom to facilitate personalization. It has been really interesting to see how their understandings have progressed and been implemented through the action plans.

But it got me thinking about the journey that has lead us to personalization, and Joe’s last blog post about it inspired me to question where personalization might be headed. So I’m putting on my Marshall McLuhan hat and will try to be skeptical of personalization by posing some questions.

First, what does personalizing learning enhance?
–Well, it allows the student to take greater control over their own learning, and challenge (or not!) themselves as they see fit. It also allows students to work at their own pace, and receive the guidance, support and resources as they need them. This approach could be very positive.

Second, is what could pesonalizing learning make obselete?
— Joe Bower captures this nicely when he writes:

Those who suggest teachers should be replaced by a technology that can simply

grade more efficiently

are at best revealing their primitive understanding for what education is all about and at worst are exposing their desire to bust teachers’ unions and destroy public education. These people play politics and profit from education at our children’s peril.

Thirdly, is what could personalizing cause us to retrieve?
— I think that there is a risk of personalizing too much so that the classroom experience is too fractured, and taken to the extreme, the school culture is too fractured that we lose the sense of belonging, of being part of a community. This is something that I value and am working to maintain in my own school. I view myself as a social-constructivist educator, and as such I view knowledge as a byproduct not of individual minds but of communal relationships (See this article).

Finally, what can personalization of learning reverse into (that is what happens when there is too much of it?)
— For this answer I go back to Joe Bower’s blog, and would ask that you view this youtube of BF Skinner and personalized learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jTH3ob1IRFo

So, as we move forward in education, I think that it is important to question personalization in light of what makes education great: the relationships, the construction of knowledge, and most importantly the connections students make between the learning and their own lives.

One thought on “Personalizing Learning Ain’t What it Used to Be!

  1. Food for thought! This is great, and the fracturing you’re speaking of is what happened to me. I tried to open it up as a free for all and although the students loved it, I was left scrambling to give appropriate feedback and I lost the aspect of my teaching that I enjoy the most; cooperative learning. I will be following Joe Bower and now that life on the ranch is calming down with Roxanna setting into a routine, I will be exploring personalised learning and to some degree constructivism in more detail.

    Looking forward to sharing on Saturday, and thanks for your insights.

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