There is a lot of talk going around about “personalization” and “personalized learning” harming kids. We need to clarify this NOW. It’s time to put the “person” in “personalization” and stop the conversations going in directions that take us off course.
Elliot Washor (@elliot_washor) shared about this concept of putting the “Person” in “Personalization” in his post and webinar in April 2014.
“There is a great deal of discussion and a strong ramp up of what is called “personalized learning” in schools both with and without technology.” Where is the person in personalization? What are the expectations that students have for deep productive learning?”
This idea that Elliot shared still needs to be expanded. We need to focus on our learners and learning and take semantics out of the conversations.
Right now it’s so easy to be pulled in different directions and thinks you have to take one side or another about the terminology. Consider yourself as a learner and what you need. Yes – technology makes it easier to access information, engage with the content and express what you know. Mobile devices make everything available at your fingertips just when you need it. It’s not about technology. It’s not about the test or improving test scores. It’s really not about school. It’s all about the learner, how they learn best, and that what they learn is meaningful and for a purpose. It is all about the relationships that learners make and need to support their learning. It is also about the teacher – a valuable person in the relationship. Teachers and learners can work together to develop learning goals and design activities that are authentic and relevant for the learner so they are engaged in learning. Learning has to have a context that learners can grasp and understand. And, of course, an important person in the relationship is the parent who wants the best for their child but may not know how to support their learning.
Here’s the catch: today’s kids’ brains are wired digitally, so they will figure out how to use the tools by experimenting or teaching each other. What they need is to acquire the skills to choose the appropriate tools for the task. They also need to understand who they are, how they learn best, and how to be global digital citizens. They probably don’t realize that their digital footprint is actually a “digital tattoo” that can never be removed. They need to become self-aware of who they are, how they learn best, and be aware of what they do online can affect them and impact others.
When we put the focus on each learner and how they can own and drive their learning, then we see engaged, self-directed learners with agency. They become the ones responsible for the learning. Isn’t that what we want?
Our traditional education system was designed to create compliant workers who follow orders. That’s why it looks like a factory model. This isn’t working anymore for today’s kids, but that’s all we know and how most of us were taught. Teachers also think they have to teach like a champion because they are the ones responsible for the learning. Don’t you think that this is backward? Teachers are an integral piece of the puzzle, but the focus has been on curriculum, teaching to the test, and teaching subjects instead of kids. When we focus on learning and not on the curriculum, teachers’ roles change. We still can teach to standards but let’s involve learners in the process and give them a voice so they own the learning.
The system is changing now because it has to change. Our future depends on it. Consider this quote from John Dewey:
“If we teach as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”
It is our children’s future, not our past. So what that means is that what we know about school will have to change and change is scary. That’s why we understand the discourse about the terms. There are companies that frame “personalized learning” as adaptive learning systems using algorithms to choose the right path for learning. So let’s end this blog emphasizing that learners need to be the ones who choose their path with their teacher guiding the process. It is about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice in their learning. It’s happening now all over the world.
There will be more stories of learners being empowered and teachers who are excited about how engagement and motivation have changed the landscape of learning. This is just the beginning of a new world of learning and it’s time to put the “Person” back in “Personalization.”
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For more information about Barbara’s book, Define Your WHY, go to this page or click on the image of the book for resources, questions, and links.