For too long, our education system has been a one-size-fits-all model—the same lessons to all students at the same time. It’s time for the model to transform. Personalized learning places every student in the driver’s seat, actively integrating their needs, strengths and interests into their learning. Rigorous and sustainable, it uses holistic teaching methods and forward-thinking innovations to bring the ideal learning experience to life—and it can be tailored to every classroom.
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All students have unique strengths, experiences, and interests. Some may be excellent at algebra while others struggle with basic computation. Some may be incredibly gifted in the creative arts while others thrive in understanding logic. For centuries the industrial education model has limited our ability to tailor educational experiences to the needs of each individual learner. A teachers in a classroom of 20-30 students has little choice but to teach everyone the same way at the same time. With few exceptions all students work on the same topic at the same time and do the same activities as the other students in the class. Students progress to the next learning activity based on the schedule rather than on demonstrated mastery of the concept. At the end of a unit students who are still struggling will have to move onto the next unit even if they aren’t ready. At the same time, students who already understand the concept will have to sit through the learning activity even though they are ready to move onto the next concept. In a sense, the traditional model keeps the schedule constant at the cost of allowing the learning to vary.
Generally conceptualized as tailoring learning experiences to meet individual students’ needs and interest, personalized learning moves beyond the industrial one-size-fits-all schooling to a model that recognizes that all students have different strengths and challenges. Personalized learning as a concept is not is not new. Many of the elements of personalization have been discussed for decades and even centuries. The ideas of personalization can be found in the writings of 18th century philosopher Rousseau as well as in those of early 20th century educational leaders such as Dewey and Montessori. Personalization has also been the fundamental requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) for nearly 40 years. But personalizing at scale (for all students) has until recently remained an elusive goal, largely due to the time intensiveness required to provide individual instruction to all students.
Fortunately, recent developments in educational technology have ushered in new tools to support personalized learning. Educators are looking to personalized learning as a way to address persistent learning challenges, such as achievement gaps and student disengagement, that have long plagued our education system.
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The Future Of Learning? Well, It’s Personal
If you do a Google image search for “classroom,” you’ll mostly see one familiar scene: rows or groups of desks, with a spot at the front of the room for the teacher.
One teacher, many students: It’s basically the definition of school as we know it, going back to the earliest days of the Republic. “We couldn’t afford to have an individual teacher for every student, so we developed a way of teaching large groups,” as John Pane, an education researcher at the RAND Corporation, puts it.
Pane is among a wave of education watchers getting excited by the idea that technology may finally offer a solution to the historic constraints of one-to-many teaching.
The basic concept of personalized learning (PL) — instruction that is focused on meeting students’ individual learning needs while incorporating their interests and preferences — has been a longstanding practice in U.S. K–12 education. Options for personalization have increased as personal computing devices have become increasingly affordable and available in schools and developers created software to support individual student learning. In recent years, it has become more common for schools to embrace schoolwide models of PL.
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It’s called personalized learning: What if each student had something like a private tutor, and more power over what and how they learned?
Defining Personalized Learning
Personalized learning refers to learning experiences in which the pace and the approach are adjusted to meet the needs of individual students and in which the learning is tied to students’ interests and experiences. The formal definition of personalized learning provided by the U.S. Department of Education in the 2016 National Ed Tech Plan is:
“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) all may vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.”
In other words, personalized learning includes pieces of all of the four approaches listed below, along with an element of learner agency (i.e., students are involved, in some degree, in the decision-making process related to their learning). When implemented correctly, personalized learning experiences will feel relevant to students based on their instructional needs and personal interests.
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Pane is the lead author of one of the few empirical studies to date of this idea, published late last year. It found that schools using some form of personalized learning were, on average, performing better ( there were some wrinkles we’ll talk about later on).
“In a personalized system,” he says, “students are receiving instruction exactly at the point where they need it.”
It’s a concept grounded in the psychology of motivation, learning science and growing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). And the hype around it is blowing up. Personalized learning is the No. 1 educational technology priority around the country, according to a recent survey by the Center for Digital Education, a news service that promotes ed-tech. More than nine out of 10 districts polled said they were directing devices, software and professional development resources toward personalized learning.
Personalized learning is also a major priority of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which is a supporter of NPR’s education coverage) and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The commitment by the Facebook founder’s philanthropy is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
But there’s already a backlash to the idea: it’s drawn teacher, parent and student protests–even walkouts–in several states.
So what is personalized learning, exactly? The term has buzz, for sure. But it’s also a bit — or more than a bit — baggy.
In fact, in speaking about it with more than a dozen educators, technologists, innovation experts and researchers, I’ve developed a theory: “Personalized learning” has become a Janus-faced word, with at least two meanings in tension:
- The use of software to allow each student to proceed through a pre-determined body of knowledge, most often math, at his or her own pace.
- A whole new way of doing school, not necessarily focused on technology, where students set their own goals. They work both independently and together on projects that match their interests, while adults facilitate and invest in getting to know each student one-on-one, both their strengths and their challenges.
Which vision of personalization will prevail? Pace alone, or “Personalize it all”? And what proportion of the hype will be realized?
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When you leave behind the narrow path of personalization simply as a matter of pacing, you enter a world that is broader. To some people that’s more exciting, but it’s also more difficult to sum up.
“At the beginning of a fad there’s a naming problem,”Rich Halverson says. He’s an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has spent the last few years traveling around the country to see personalized learning in action at public schools.
He’s found that, “what schools call personalized varies considerably,” and also that “a lot of schools are doing personalized learning, but don’t call it that.”
Still, he’s managed to identify some key common elements:
At the schools he’s studied, students meet regularly, one on one, with teachers. They set individual learning goals, follow up and discuss progress. All of this may be recorded using some simple software, like a shared Google Doc. It’s kind of like a schoolwide version of special education, with an IEP — an individualized education program — for every student.
This sounds simple, but face-to-face interaction is “expensive,” says Halverson. Think 28 meetings of 15 minutes each — that’s a full day of a teacher’s time, somewhere between once a week and once a month. In fact, the entire school day, week, year may need to be reconfigured to allow for it.
Some schools Halverson has studied, especially charter schools with more freedom, have remade the curriculum to emphasize group projects and presentations, where students can prove the necessary knowledge and skills while pursuing topics that interest them. Students are grouped by ability and interest, not age, and may change groups from subject to subject or day to day. Scheduling and staffing is necessarily fluid; even the building may need to be reconfigured for maximum flexibility.
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4 Ways AI is Changing the Education Industry
The world of academia is becoming more personalized and convenient for students thanks to recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). The technology has numerous applications that are changing the way we learn, making education more accessible to students with computers or smart devices if they’re unable to make it to class. Students aren’t the only ones who benefit as AI is also helping to automate and speed up administrative tasks, helping organizations reduce the time spent on tedious tasks and increasing the amount of time spent on each individual student.
A recent study from eSchool News discovered that the use of AI in the education industry will grow by 47.5% through 2021 as we move towards a more connected world. The technology’s impact will exist anywhere from Kindergarten through higher education, offering the opportunity to create adaptive learning features with personalized tools to improve the student experience. The technology may be able to better inform students what their job prospects may look like based on their particular narrative as well, helping them beyond their academic life. WorkFusion is helping organizations with smart automation platforms that can improve the grading and filing process in the classroom.
Here are four ways AI is changing the education industry.
- The Automation of Administrative Tasks
- The Addition of Smart Content
- Smart Tutors and Personalization
- Virtual Lecturers and Learning Environment
Connecting the World of Academia
We are already in the future of education as institutions all around the U.S. and the rest of the globe have added AI to the classroom, hoping that it will make the students’ work easier. The technology is also slated to improve administrative tasks and improve the way lecturers run their classrooms. Plus, the technology will save billions in administrative costs for institutions across the nation, reducing overhead costs and paving the way for a smaller staff to operate effectively.
How to use Superintelligence2525 for Smarter Personal Learning
Will be continued 🙂