Personalized Learning Is Not Personal

Photo credit: Brad Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

Paul Emerich France wrote an op/ed for EdSurge about personalized learning that I thought had some good points. It’s entitled “Why Are We Still Personalizing Learning If It’s Not Personal?

Here’s the good stuff:

Because “personalization” emphasizes focusing on the needs of each individual, we sometimes assume that to mean that a child’s education should then be individualized. It is this assumption that has given us the many web-based, adaptive technologies that individualize curriculum on our kids’ behalf. That can result in teachers putting tablets in front of kids, letting the technology do the work, and meanwhile calling it “personalized learning” when it’s anything but that.

What we fail to realize is that individualization actually has diminishing returns. As individualization increases, so does the potential for isolation. In classrooms where the primary mode of personalization is hyper-individualized, technology-driven curriculum, we find our children siphoned off into silos, taking away valuable points of convergence.

Here the wheels fall off:

When we take away points of convergence, we take away opportunities for our children to learn from, through, and with each other. We rob them of opportunities for social-emotional learning through serendipitous and spontaneous interactions. We limit the amount of time children can learn through meaningful dialogue and discourse. In essence, we take away the very things that make the human condition of learning utterly personal in the first place.

Gosh, what do you do when two to three education trends are at conflict with one another?

He uses a litmus test for education tech so that he can find his happy balance between personalized learning and social-emotional learning, here are questions he asks:

  1. Does the technology help to minimize complexity?
  2. Does the technology help to maximize the individual power and potential of all learners in the room?
  3. Will the technology help us to do something previously unimaginable?
  4. Will the technology preserve or enhance human connection in the classroom?

I appreciate that he recognizes the flaws with personalized learning and its use of education tech, but it just seems to me that he’s caught between two competing education trends.

Read the whole piece.