predictive algorithms to better target students’ individual learning needs.
Personalized learning is a lofty aim, however you define it. To truly meet each student where they are, we would have to know their most intimate details, or discover it through their interactions with our digital tools. We would need to track their moods and preferences, their fears and beliefs…perhaps even their memories.
There’s something unsettling about capturing users’ most intimate details. Any prediction model based off historical records risks typecasting the very people it is intended to serve. Even if models can overcome the threat of discrimination, there is still an ethical question to confront – just how much are we entitled to know about students?
Todd Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has emerged as a central intellectual figure behind the movement. In particular, his 2016 book, “The End of Average,” is seen as an important justification for and guide to the personalization of learning.
what Rose argues against. He holds that our culture is obsessed with measuring and finding averages—averages of human ability and averages of the human body. Sometimes the average is held to be the ideal.
The jaggedness principle means that many of the attributes we care about are multi-faceted, not of a whole. For example, human ability is not one thing, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about someone as “smart” or “dumb.” That’s unidimensional. Someone might be very good with numbers, very bad with words, about average in using space, and gifted in using of visual imagery.
Since the 1930s, psychologists have debated whether intelligence is best characterized as one thing or many.
But most psychologists stopped playing this game in the 1990s. The resolution came through the work of John Carroll, who developed a third model in which abilities form a hierarchy. We can think of abilities as separate, but nested in higher-order abilities. Hence, there is a general, all-purpose intelligence, and it influences other abilities, so they are correlated. But the abilities nested within general intelligence are independent, so the correlations are modest. Thus, Rose’s jaggedness principle is certainly not new to psychology, and it’s incomplete.
The second (Context Principle) of Rose’s principles holds that personality traits don’t exist, and there’s a similar problem with this claim: Rose describes a concept with limited predictive power as having none at all. The most commonly accepted theory holds that personality can be described by variation on five dimensions
Rose’s third principle (pathways principle) suggests that there are multiple ways to reach a goal like walking or reading, and that there is not a fixed set of stages through which each of us passes.
Rose thinks students should earn credentials, not diplomas. In other words, a school would not certify that you’re “educated in computer science” but that you have specific knowledge and skills—that you can program games on handheld devices, for example. He think grades should be replaced by testaments of competency (my note: badges); the school affirms that you’ve mastered the skills and knowledge, period. Finally, Rose argues that students should have more flexibility in choosing their educational pathways.
a career counsellor told them to work through an “instrument” – decidedly not a “test” – called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is the world’s dominant personality questionnaire: more than 50 million people around the globe are estimated to have taken it. It has been administered since the 1940s (though its origins date to 1917) and now consists of 93 questions to which you answer A or B. At the end, you are assigned one of 16 different types. Many consider this “score” to be meaningless, no more scientifically valid than your star sign. But others – including companies such as Bain, the BBC and many universities – clearly do not.
No one type is better than another. The creators of the MBTI – two American women, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers – imagined it as primarily a tool for self-discovery. But that doesn’t mean all types are equal.
Comments under the article:
It is not, as some commenters have suggested, that psychology and psychological testing is “half baked.” It is that everyone is an expert at functional psychology at some level already — one has to be to live in a social world — just not an expert at the science of psychology; and it seems, to the lay-person, that psychological testing tools are pretty obvious and should be usable by anyone.
(1) the circumstances under which personalized learning can help students and
(2) the best way to evaluate the real educational value for products that are marketed under the personalized learning banner.
The most descriptive label we could come up with for the practices that the two of us have observed in our school visits might be undepersonalized teaching.
The most stereotypical depersonalized teaching experience is the large lecture class, but there are many other situations in which teachers do not connect with individual students and/or meet the students’ specific needs. For example, even a small class might contain students with a wide-enough range of skills, aptitudes, and needs that the teacher cannot possibly serve them all equally well. Or a student may have needs (or aptitudes) that the teacher simply doesn’t get an opportunity to see within the amount of contact time that the class allows. The truth is that students fall through the cracks all the time, even in the best classes taught by the best teachers. Failing a course is the most visible evidence, but more often students drift through the class and earn a passing grade—maybe even a good grade—without getting any lasting educational benefit.
personalized learning as a practice rather than a product
Technology then becomes an enabler for increasing meaningful personal contact. In our observations, we have seen three main technology-enabled strategies for lowering classroom barriers to one-on-one teacher/student (and student/student) interactions:
Moving content broadcast out of the classroom: Even in relatively small classes, a lot of class time can be taken up with content broadcast such as lectures and announcements. Personalized learning strategies often try to move as much broadcast out of class time as possible in order to make room for more conversation. This strategy is sometimes called “flipping” because it is commonly accomplished by having the teacher record the lectures they would normally give in class and assign the lecture videos as homework,
Turning homework time into contact time: In a traditional class, much of the work that the students do is invisible to the teacher. For some aspects, such as homework problems, teachers can observe the results but are often severely limited by time constraints.Personalized learning approaches often allow the teacher to observe the students’ work in digital products, so that there is more opportunity to coach students.
Providing tutoring: Sometimes students get stuck in problem areas that don’t require help from a skilled human instructor. Although software isn’t good at teaching everything, it can be good at teaching some things. Personalized learning approaches can offload the tutoring for those topics to adaptive learning software that gives students interactive feedback while also turning the students’ work into contact time by making it observable to the teacher at a glance through analytics.
In the business world, an analogous initiative might be called “business process redesign.” Emphasis is on process. The primary question being asked is, “What is the most effective way to accomplish the goal?” The redesigned process may well need software, but it is the process itself that matters. In personalized learning, the process we are redesigning is that of teaching individual students what they need to learn from a class as effectively as possible (though we can easily imagine applying the same kind of exercise to improving advising, course registration, or any other important function).
Students in the course spend part of their class time in a computer lab, working at their own pace through an adaptive learning math program. Students who already know much of the content can move through it quickly, giving them more time to master the concepts that they have yet to learn. Students who have more to learn can take their time and get tutoring and reinforcement from the software. Teachers, now freed from the task of lecturing, roam the room and give individual attention to those students who need it. They can also see how students are doing, individually and as a class, through the software’s analytics. But the course has another critical component that takes place outside the computer lab, separate from the technology. Every week, the teachers meet with the students to discuss learning goals and strategies. Students review the goals they set the previous week, discuss their progress toward those goals, evaluate whether the strategies they used helped them, and develop new goals for the next week.
U.S. Education Secretary spared no words in her critique of education reform efforts during the Bush and Obama administrations. “I don’t think there is much we can hold onto, from a federal level, that we can say was a real success,”
Her vision of personalized learning has plenty of detractors. Educators and administrators have already begun to voice their reservations about personalized learning in schools. At a gathering of educators in Oakland last October speakers decried what they described as the privatization of public education through the introduction of technology initiatives such as personalized learning. More recently, former AltSchool educator Paul Emerich wrote a blog post titled, “Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and ‘Personalized’ Learning,” where he offered critiques of the personalized learning movement in his school. The post touched on concerns about his workload and interactions with students.
Parents are raising pressure too. In at least two states, their concerns over screen-time and digital content used in online educational platform has forced districts to suspend the implementation of technology-enabled personalized learning programs such as Summit Learning.
De Vos pointed to previous federal-led education funding programs as a “carrot” that made little or no impact. Her critique is not unfounded: A report published last year by the Education Department’s research division found that the $7 billion School Improvement Grants program made “no significant impacts” on test scores, high school graduation rates or college enrollment.
One of the largest online charter schools in the country closed this week amid a financial and legal dispute with the state of Ohio.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a keynote address this week to the American Enterprise Institute.
She also cited a survey by the American Federation of Teachers that 60 percent of its teachers reported having moderate to no influence over the content and skills taught in their own classrooms. That same survey also noted that 86 percent of teachers said they do not feel respected by DeVos.
a learning management system (LMS) is never the solution to every problem in education. Edtech is just one part of the whole learning ecosystem and student experience.
Therefore, the next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE), as envisioned by EDUCAUSE in 2015 … Looking at the NGDLE requirements from an LMS perspective, I view the NGDLE as being about five areas: interoperability; personalization; analytics, advising, and learning assessment; collaboration; accessibility and universal design.
Content can easily be exchanged between systems.
Users are able to leverage the tools they love, including discipline-specific apps.
Learning data is available to trusted systems and people who need it.
The learning environment is “future proof” so that it can adapt and extend as the ecosystem evolves.
The learning environment reflects individual preferences.
Departments, divisions, and institutions can be autonomous.
Instructors teach the way they want and are not constrained by the software design.
There are clear, individual learning paths.
Students have choice in activity, expression, and engagement.
Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment
Learning analytics helps to identify at-risk students, course progress, and adaptive learning pathways.
The learning environment enables integrated planning and assessment of student performance.
More data is made available, with greater context around the data.
The learning environment supports platform and data standards.
Individual spaces persist after courses and after graduation.
Learners are encouraged as creators and consumers.
Courses include public and private spaces.
Accessibility and Universal Design
Accessibility is part of the design of the learning experience.
The learning environment enables adaptive learning and supports different types of materials.
Learning design includes measurement rubrics and quality control.
The core analogy used in the NGDLE paper is that each component of the learning environment is a Lego brick:
The days of the LMS as a “walled garden” app that does everything is over.
Today many kinds of amazing learning and collaboration tools (Lego bricks) should be accessible to educators.
We have standards that let these tools (including an LMS) talk to each other. That is, all bricks share some properties that let them fit together.
Students and teachers sign in once to this “ecosystem of bricks.”
The bricks share results and data.
These bricks fit together; they can be interchanged and swapped at will, with confidence that the learning experience will continue uninterrupted.
Any “next-gen” attempt to completely rework the pedagogical model and introduce a “mash-up of whatever” to fulfil this model would fall victim to the same criticisms levied at the LMS today: there is too little time and training to expect faculty to figure out the nuances of implementation on their own.
The Lego metaphor works only if we’re talking about “old school” Lego design — bricks of two, three, and four-post pieces that neatly fit together. Modern edtech is a lot more like the modern Lego. There are wheels and rocket launchers and belts and all kinds of amazing pieces that work well with each other, but only when they are configured properly. A user cannot simply stick together different pieces and assume they will work harmoniously in creating an environment through which each student can be successful.
As the NGDLE paper states: “Despite the high percentages of LMS adoption, relatively few instructors use its more advanced features — just 41% of faculty surveyed report using the LMS ‘to promote interaction outside the classroom.'”
But this is what the next generation LMS is good at: being a central nervous system — or learning hub — through which a variety of learning activities and tools are used. This is also where the LMS needs to go: bringing together and making sense of all the amazing innovations happening around it. This is much harder to do, perhaps even impossible, if all the pieces involved are just bricks without anything to orchestrate them or to weave them together into a meaningful, personal experience for achieving well-defined learning outcomes.
Making a commitment to build easy, flexible, and smart technology
Working with colleges and universities to remove barriers to adopting new tools in the ecosystem
Standardizing the vetting of accessibility compliance (the Strategic Nonvisual Access Partner Program from the National Federation of the Blind is a great start)
Advancing standards for data exchange while protecting individual privacy
Building integrated components that work with the institutions using them — learning quickly about what is and is not working well and applying those lessons to the next generation of interoperability standards
Letting people use the tools they love [SIC] and providing more ways for nontechnical individuals (including students) to easily integrate new features into learning activities
My note: something just refused to be accepted at SCSU
Technologists are often very focused on the technology, but the reality is that the more deeply and closely we understand the pedagogy and the people in the institutions — students, faculty, instructional support staff, administrators — the better suited we are to actually making the tech work for them.
Under the Hood of a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment in Progress
The challenge is that although 85 percent of faculty use a campus learning management system (LMS),1 a recent Blackboard report found that, out of 70,000 courses across 927 North American institutions, 53 percent of LMS usage was classified as supplemental(content-heavy, low interaction) and 24 percent as complementary (one-way communication via content/announcements/gradebook).2 Only 11 percent were characterized as social, 10 percent as evaluative (heavy use of assessment), and 2 percent as holistic (balanced use of all previous). Our FYE course required innovating beyond the supplemental course-level LMS to create a more holistic cohort-wide NGDLE in order to fully support the teaching, learning, and student success missions of the program.The key design goals for our NGDLE were to:
Create a common platform that could deliver a standard curriculum and achieve parity in all course sections using existing systems and tools and readily available content
Capture, store, and analyze any generated learner data to support learning assessment, continuous program improvement, and research
Develop reports and actionable analytics for administrators, advisors, instructors, and students