March 27th, 2013

What Personalized Learning Can’t Do

Sarah Garland:

The personalized learning that ed-tech pioneers are talking about now involves using data points like test scores, attendance and, perhaps someday, information about students gathered from games or their internet searches, to home [sic] in what students need academically. Maybe more high-tech systems and detailed data would have helped teachers recognize how far behind many students were on the path to graduation.

But would it have helped teachers figure out how to help a student deal with her rage issues so she could get over her frustrations in science class? Or how to keep a young student who was mocked for being gay at school and at home from losing hope and help him stay focused on his strengths? Or how to salvage the academic career of a student whose prospects once looked promising and who suddenly stopped caring about his future?

I still think more and more this is the value that we have to begin to articulate first. I’m becoming convinced that adaptive learning systems will flourish in this “let’s do better on the tests” moment. And while there is a great deal that troubles me about that, I think they have a role to play in learning. But not at the expense of people and places that focus on the more important mindsets that students need to develop to be real lifelong learners, and the challenges that kids need help overcoming to be ready to learn in the first place. 

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