Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Personalization in Education - Part 1

It has been great to attend ISTE12 and finally begin to hear some honest buy in and acceptance to the philosophy of personalization of education for each student. I know this has been floating around in the ether for quite a while, I believe it can be tied back to Nel Noddings work on the ethic of care in the classroom (and probably before that). I was researching this in the early 2000's while working on my dissertation and am glad to see the rest of the community grab on and embrace the concept.

Here is the general idea behind personalized learning: the teacher finds a way to know about each individual student to be responsive to their needs just at the right time they need to be guided in the right direction. As Yong Zhao has pointed out, we have made the mistake in education (actually by policymakers around education) to believe that this can be accomplished by standardized testing. NCLB was quick to prove that the type of data we were gathering was not adequate to cause change quickly enough for individual students. We are not getting the right type of data back in a timely fashion. To be able to deliver what a student needs just in time we need more data that we can use. Of course, the policymakers immediately try to add in more of what is not working by testing more. I understand the response, it is quite logical, if a little doesn't work - more must.

However, we are doing more of something that is harmful to our students and teachers. As Sir Ken Robinson has said - we are mining our students talents for specific purposes and in the process destroying divergent thinking and creativity. At the same time, I believe we are taking a teachers, a group of people that got into the people business because at some level they are talented at learning and gifted at sharing that love with others, and destroying that gift by causing them to analyze the wrong set of data; a set of data that tells them very little about the students they work with.

We need to invest in a new data set. We need to rededicate ourselves to being interested in our students as people. We need to start caring again. We need to start gathering data about our students by listening to them OFTEN. They need to connect to their teachers. Students have to feel that they belong to a group of learners, they need to be empowered to have a voice in the learning experience, and they need to have the opportunity to use what they learn to create products that have meaning and value to them.

I believe that personalized learning values Caring, Belongingness, and Efficacy allowing for student to:

    • Creatively connect to ideas, resources, and people
      • Through creating, building, producing, and doing
        • Followed by reflectively synthesizing new knowledge and understanding
          • To create new questions, problems, and areas of interest.
My next blog post looks at why we can do this now and how technology can actually help us become more connected to our students and to help show how we care. I am working that piece now and hope to get it out today.