Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Defining Personalization in Education



As the BC Education System moves towards a more technology enhanced personalized learning experience for students, I think it’s important for educators to take some time to add to the definition of what “personalized” learning actually means for students.

The Ministry of Education has started us off, but it’s up to us (including parents and students) to add depth and meaning to the slogans.
  • What will “personalized” learning look like, sound like and feel like?
  • What are current examples of personalized learning?
  • What challenges will we experience along the way?
I’ve included a little graphic (below) that I  helps me to add structure to the definition(s) of personalized learning. As I see it, “personalized” learning is closely related to “flexibility” and “choice” but may be at odds with current forms of “reporting and assessment”, “standardization practices”, “emphasis on core subjects and curriculum” and an ever burgeoning “bureaucracy”. 

I won’t go into great detail here, but I can see how a more personalized system that aims to meet the needs of individual learners may come into conflict with current systems aimed at presenting a predictable, standardized education system that is more representative of a “one-size-fits-all” program.


I’m not suggesting that we need to tear our current system to the ground and start over, but I am concerned that we will “tinker” around the edges and claim that significant changes have been made when really we’ve just made some minor adjustments so as not to create too much disruption to the current system.

Clearly, the current system meets the needs of most learners most of the time - the data bears this out year after year. What we have to ask ourselves is:
  • Will  a system that meets most students’ needs most of the time still meet their needs ten years from now?
  • Are we truly meeting the needs of learners in a 21st Century environment that is/will be steeped in critical thinking, social media and technology-enhanced collaboration?
To me, a more personalized learning environment will be one that:
  • is focused on the student;
  • is richly designed around critical thinking;
  • incorporates creativity and innovation both in its own design, but also in the design of learning outcomes;
  • is flexible enough for students at any age to move at their own pace and to explore topics that might not be formally a part of our curriculum;
  • offers students choices in how and when they learn;
  • creates and encourages collaborative learning teams.
I’m interested to hear from others what your ideas/thoughts are when it comes to Personalized Learning. What does it look like, sound like and feel like to you?

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Updates:
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Many of the learning conditions that I’ve listed above are connected to what many describe as 21st Century Learning Skills. A more complete listing can be found here.

Searching around the web, I have found some schools that might serve as examples:


And, finally, an interesting article in search of “transformational” schools.

Please send in more examples of “personalized” learning and I’ll post them here!

Al.

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