Personalized Learning

All Roads Lead Here

It is clear to me from emerging educational trends observed and especially the continued move to a more mobile and connected life that personalized learning is one of the more significant [relevant] trends for education.  In my previous trends report I identified 8 education trends [there are others] distilled from hundreds of articles, blog postings and websites.  Included in the 8 was personalized learning.  Of the remaining 7 trends presented mobile learning, cloud computing, ubiquitous learning, BYOD, digital content and the flipped classroom all fully support personalized learning.  Each of these trends is important in its own right but they all in one way or another point to personalized learning as  an outcome or possibility.  Perhaps ubiquitous learning [ubiquity] stands as more significant but without the freedom granted by our increasing level of mobility, our increased utilization of cloud-based services, the ability to use our learning appliances at school and access to digital content ubiquity would not be possible.  So…for me at least, personalized learning stands alone at a higher level of importance.  It is probably true that personalized learning might not be possible without those very things required for ubiquity but in the end it is the notion of personalized learning that is profound. Personalized Learning centers on the individual and captures so much of what we now know makes a great learning experience.

The idea of personalized learning is not new.  What is new is the collective advancements in technology that now provide even more opportunity for personalization of the learning experience.  The BC Ministry of Education went so far as to create an online interactive guide to personalized learning as part of their learning focus.  A guide that looks particularly at what learning might look like from the learners perspective supported fully with technology.

Even the late Issac Asimov [play video from the 2:30 mark] in an interview with Bill Moyer and provided on AllThigsD predicted the impact that technology would have on education.  He may not have fully described the details but he certainly hit on the the important points…connection, digital content, interest, differentiation, pacing….just in time and just for me learning.  Alberta Learning describes this change fully on the ministry website.  The short intro on the site also points to pacing instruction to learner need as a key factor in true personalization.  According to the World Future Society technological advances will make learning both more personal and more social.  A trend they say harkens back to a time when oral histories, formal and informal apprenticeships and one-to-one tutoring were common. Being a well connected learner in 2011 makes these and other learning opportunities not only possible but probable in an educational system changing as a result of continued reform and economic pressure.  George Siemens and Stephen Downes describe this connected possibility within their theory of Connectivism and speak clearly to the power of connected learning. In a presentation to Empire State University Siemens outlined the educational process as a reflective, social, multi-faceted and situated approach that includes self-guided, guided and cohort driven learning opportunities. This seems to me to be a very personalized approach or outcome.

Often described in the same breath with differentiated learning and individualized learning it is important to understand the differences.  Wikipedia very quickly identifies the major attributes to consider as pedagogy, curriculum, environment, individual aspirations and technology.  The article goes one step further to point out the specific differences between Individualization and Personalization in order to reinforce the idea that they are two distinct terms.

Difference List:

Individualization Personalization
Same objectives for all learners Different objectives for each learner
Applying of differenced didactic strategies to achieve the key competences Applying of differenced didactic strategies to promote the personal potentiality
The educational curriculum is defined by the educational staff The learner actively participates in the construction of his own curriculum
Valorisation of the cognitive dimension of the learner Valorisation of all dimensions of learner, not only the cognitive (emotional, social, life experience, etc.)
Valorisation of previous knowledge and competencies, formal and non formal Valorisation of previous knowledge, competence, life and work skill, also informal
Learner’s self-direction as an accessory skill Learner’s self direction as a fundamental skill
Teacher has a key role Tutor has a key role

According to Carol Ann Tomlinson differentiated instruction [ learning] in contrast speaks to determining what is best for each learner but within the context of expected learning outcomes.  Students still do not necessarily determine these outcomes for themselves. Personalized learning, on the other hand, provides for the possibility that individual learners will meet different and unique outcomes.

A deeper definition is provided by the Personalized Learning Foundation.  The foundation also provides the answers to some key questions:  Why is the model important?  What makes it a distinct educational model?   Where is it being used?   The BC Ministry of Education has adopted personalized learning as a focus and promotes the increased degree to which the learner exerts control over his or her own learning as central to the model.  In a special report entitled “A Vision for 21st Century Education” the Premier’s Technology Council describes this as a flexible path to education.  A path that requires a  gradual release of responsibility for learning to the student.

Access to the technological tools necessary to support personalized learning is seen as essential.  According to the report the new use of technology has the potential of:

boosting basic skills such as the recall of math principles and procedures, vocabular development in language, and internalization of science terms and principles. Learning technologies are also freeing up time to focus on the 21st century skills that require more interaction among learners while providing tools to further their skill-building online-collaboration, communication, leadership, and social and cross-cultural skills.

The idea of just in time, just for me and just enough learning occurs regularly in discussions around personalized learning.  This is also true for mobile learning, ubiquitous learning, cloud computing, BYOD and other emerging educational trends.  Indeed, the fact that discussions involving any of these topics invariably leads back to discussions about centering learning on the learner and the unique needs of that learner speaks to how connected these emerging trends are.  A more personalized learning experience comes as the result [planned or otherwise] of becoming a more connected learner. One that has access to their learning tools, content and support [teachers/experts] 24/7/365.

So…..is this about personalized learning? Yes!   But it is also about mobile learning, ubiquitous learning, learning appliances, cloud computing, BYOD and any other educational trend that empowers people to become an active participant in their own learning.

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One Response to Personalized Learning

  1. Pingback: Personalized Learning | TeachThought

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