Personalized learning ....

Oliver Knill, March 14, 2016 (Piday)

Personalized learning is one of the newest hypes in education. Its hardly new and has always had a place in the mix of models for education. But there are side effects which need to be considered.

A recent interview with Mark Zuckerberg on Personalized learning produced quite a bit of discussion. Other hypes in education were "Technology in the classroom", "Flipped classrooms", "Integrated curricula", an other one is "Personalized learning" It looks like a nice idea: every student learns with an individual pace and speed. Here is a prototype:

Source: Personalized learning in Startrek (2009). A good learning experience for Spock. But is it good for everybody?

But there are also problems to consider: One comment in a slashdot discussion hits the spot: Yes, all the studies showing problems with personalized learning are simply showing that we had not yet figured out how to do it well. There is simply no way that a one-size-fits all bureaucracy can educate as well as a system with tools that allow teachers to tailor activities to individual children. The problem is that personalized education is a much harder problem than many believe. It is easy to make an app that adapts the math problems assigned to a student's performance. But it is much harder to produce group learning activities that match varied skills. And if you put kids each on a single computer which is 'personalized', you can be sure they will learn less than if they are working together learning the social skills and executive function needed to succeed in the world. Eventually we'll succeed in personalizing teaching of social skills, executive function, reading, and math. But it is a hard problem. In many ways the problem is like artificial intelligence. It is a much harder problem than people thought. But that doesn't mean that it is impossible and as parts of it are solved it slowly changes everything.