Monday, April 30, 2012

Personalized Learning in Digital Format

There is growing discussion around the term "personalized learning" in British Columbia. The idea behind personalized learning is that students can have their learning experiences and instruction customized to fit their abilities and learning preferences.  I like to think of personalized learning as a buffet of several choices of items that the learner can choose from.  The intent is to ensure the learner is getting the most out of his/her learning journey.

basykeyes (Flickr)

When I think of personalized learning, what comes to mind is a student being able to listen to an audio version of a chapter in a book on her mp3 player while reading along; she can then go to Khan Academy and watch a video on adding fractions with different denominators while taking notes.  She can replay the video as many times as needed.  She can then go into a learning management platform such as Moodle or Edmodo to ask her peers a question about today's video lecture on the Economic Crisis in Social Studies and type in a question for other students.  All of this could easily take place both within and outside of the classroom.

I have been following the Flipped Classroom approach closely over the past year with great interest.  This approach allows students to view video-recorded lectures for homework and complete assignments that would typically be assigned for homework in class.  I think this is an excellent step towards personalizing students' learning experiences and ensuring more support is provided for students in class.  However, students would need to have access to the videos at home (either by internet or on a CD for example).  Students would also need a device to view the videos.  Ensuring every student has such access at home will ensure that this approach can be made a success.

With the rise of digitized educational resources online ranging from audio recordings to videos, it is becoming increasingly possible to ensure all students can personalize their learning journeys.  Students can continue to learn in different ways, especially outside of classroom if they have access to a desktop, laptop, tablet, or any mobile device with internet access.  This digital age can be a blessing for students who otherwise would have struggled to keep up with peers in class.

Eventually, it would be wonderful to see every student have access to mobile devices in class that would ensure students could continue to personalize their learning safely online throughout the day.  Using learning management platforms such as those I've mentioned can make this possible while also ensuring students remain accountable with appropriate use of these tools.  Providing the resources for personalized learning in isolation of teaching students proper online etiquette could become problematic otherwise.  I would, however, hate to see this idea dismissed on account of the potentially bad things that could happen.  I think there is a great deal of promise in this approach to education.