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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Year, New Talk on Personalized Education

The start of another academic year is prompting new discussion on personalized education and the role of technology in it.

An Associated Press article noted that “some form of personalized learning” has been incorporated into the curriculum at up to 10% of K-12 public schools in the U.S., a growing trend. However, the same article pointed out that a Rand Corp. study discovered personalized programs only improved students’ math scores by three percentage points, while reading skills showed no change.

At the same time, the article offered examples where personalized programs have made a difference. In one, students took computerized tests to assess their reading skills; poor readers were then assigned to use digital materials providing extra help with vocabulary. In another, teachers developed customized, self-paced learning plans to aid students with low math abilities.

An article in eSchool News explained how personalization is not the same as differentiation (teaching a group of similar students) or individualization (teaching geared to one student’s needs), although they’re related.

“Personalization is an incredibly powerful model because it creates a continual feedback loop between the teacher and student and empowers students to take charge of their education,” wrote Amanda Stedke. She emphasized that technology tools aren’t necessary for personalized learning but “recent advances in ed-tech have made these approaches significantly more scalable.”

Kenneth Klau, director of digital learning at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, shared similar views in an opinion piece onEdSurge, but stressed personalized learning should “address well-defined needs and achieve unambiguous goals.”

“When we hear about schools that are making the shift to personalized learning, we should not hesitate to ask why and what it will look like,” he wrote. “Otherwise, personalized learning becomes the answer in search of a question.”

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