The Problem with “Personalized Learning”
People who never confront challenge and frustration, who never acquire new styles of learning, and who never face failure squarely may in the end become impoverished humans. They may become forever stuck with who they are now, never growing and transforming, because they never face new experiences that have not been customized to their current needs and desires…
Success in the 21st century at work and in life requires collaboration, collective intelligence, and smart teams using smart tools. In our fast-changing world, a world that faces many serious crises, being able to cope with challenge, to persist past failure, to learn in new ways, and to adapt one’s skills and style to other team members are all 21st-century skills. Yet new technologies and the Internet allow us to enter our own customized echo chambers and identity niches where we can comfort ourselves with what we are and do not have to confront ourselves with what we can be and, indeed, must become as fellow citizens in a diverse and complex global world. This is particularly dangerous for students.
What happens when people with different “sweet spots” have to learn, solve problems, and collaborate with others who have different “sweet spots,” as people so often have to do in modern workplaces? I wonder what would happen should, God forbid, children run into learning situations in the world that cannot be optimized for them individually. What if the world changes and the problems that arise just do not afford solutions that fit their sweet spot? What if their sweet spot is just no good for certain types of learning and problem solving?
This is the problem with adaptive platforms that attempt to “personalize” learning to each individual’s inherent strengths. We don’t live in a world where only our inherent strengths make a difference. By eliminating struggle and failure, we risk more than we realize.