My car adjusts the seat, mirror and steering wheel to my identified preferences. iTunes Genius knows the music I like. facebook knows the personal connections that are important to me. Education has always been very personal, but new tools and new schools make it easier to personalize learning.
There’s lots of talk about personalized learning these days. It shows up in a lot of school plans, i3 grants, and individual development plans. Wikipedia even has a definition: “Personalized Learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning support to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners.”
That’s a good start, but I’d like to add a couple layers to the definition. Educators often talk about personalization at the lessons level where “accommodations” are made for reading level and English language learners. Projects have long been a great way to differentiate and leverage student interest.
In a digital learning environment, personalization at the lesson level can be a choice between small group instruction, online tutoring, a simulation or a learning game. School of One is a good example of targeting lessons by level, interest, and modality.
Adaptive content makes it possible to personalize not just to the lesson but down to the learning object. Adaptive math products like Dreambox, ReasoningMind and MangaHigh* string together learning objects based on student performance and provide instant feedback.
Digital learning increasingly allows personalization at the course level. Students can choose an online course when it’s not offered at their school or want a different alternative. Dropout recovery academies like AdvancePath* or Performance Learning Centers allow students to pick the courses they want to work and work at their own pace.
Good schools all personalize the learning by making sure every student feels known and respected. An advisory structure provides frequent points of contact and support. With the steady growth of schools of choice, students often have the choice of personalized schools with themes matching personal and career interests.
Layers of personalization that work together are likely to build engagement, confidence, persistence, and achievement. A new generation of tools is making it possible to make learning more personal and more productive.
* Revolution portfolio company