I've written about "personalized learning" before and I will continue as this becomes an ever-growing story. There is absolutely every reason to consider new and better ways to use technology to increase academic outcomes and hopefully that drills down to each and every student's learning style. But there are many factors to consider like:
I just read a tweet from WA State Teacher of the Year, Nate Bowling
from Tacoma, who asked for fully-funded schools so that student
computers aren't "more than a decade old." Technology is moving a lot
faster than school budgets. All the great technology in the world is
only as good as the computer and wifi at your child's school. You then
have to ask what the ROI is for all that investment in technology.
- developmental appropriateness.
I get mighty nervous over the amount of time students are spending with
screens, both in and out of class. While schools cannot control what
happens outside of class, they do need to consider that many students
already are using screen devices for many hours in the day.
- who benefits?
As I said, the ROI to schools must be there. It certainly is going to
be there for the companies that develop all this software and hardware.
According to Ed Week, the Chan Zuckerbert Initiative will build "a world-class engineering team" to support advances in personalized learning, according to a post on the group's Facebook page.
you read that Facebook page, you'll see they are working with a charter
school group, Summit, to expand a tool called the Summit Learning
Platform. This may be a great tool but I am disturbed by yet another
philanthropist who will come into public schools and say, "Here, use
this" and experiment on more public school students. And some schools
will say, "Gee, if Mark Zuckerberg thinks it's good, then it must be."
If charters want to pilot this in a big way, have at it.
- the role (or lack thereof) of teachers -
more on this to come but consider the Rocketship charter school model
where, during personalized learning time, the teacher is replaced with a
facilitator (cheaper when no actual teaching is happening)
There's a lot of good reading out there. I urge you to read some of it and consider what it may mean for YOUR child.
Forbes - 4 Fundamental Problems With Everything You Hear About The Future Of Education
This is a GREAT article and I hope you read the entire thing.
1) Kids are bored and technology will provide better ways to engage students. It
sounds convincing. But don’t believe it. Engagement is NOT an issue—at
least it is not an issue for everyone. Some great teachers use new
technologies and some don’t. But at the end
of the day it has little to do with tech in itself. It is all about the
2) More data-based adaptive technologies will lead to child-centered curricula.
I think adaptive technologies are great. I’ve seen some early prototype
adaptive software engines that are going to be game-changers for
teachers—enabling us to our jobs with more precision, equity, and
efficiency. But none of these technologies are going to solve the
socio-economic injustices that lead to inequitable distribution of
faculty support. If we believe that precise data tied to adaptive
textbooks will fix everything, we will inevitably end up with poor kids
staring at screens while rich kids continue to build robots with mentors
(dedicated mentors equipped with awe inspiring amounts of detailed
Of course, if our goal is to continue tracking certain populations
into prison cells and fast-food jobs, it is working just fine. Adaptive
technologies, without teachers, will allow us to do it cheaper and more
3) Video games will finally contextualize academic content.
Yes, games do put content in context, but in video game contexts. Video
game contexts are great for retention and comprehension, but don’t
necessarily teach students anything about real-world applicability. We
need good teachers to do that. Anyone who says games, by themselves, can
provide context is implicitly arguing either for replacing bad teachers
with robots, or for making school “teacher proof” in a way that would
be more industrial—the factory model of education would become more
ubiquitous rather than less.
The promise of video games in the classroom, therefore, really has to do
with the potential to address yet another socio-economic injustice: the
privilege of autonomy. This would be a big change from our current
system, in which affluent students—especially private school
students—enjoy the ability to “find themselves” during their school
years, and underprivileged students are tested and tracked into career
trajectories. In some cases, poor kids “win the lottery” and get the
opportunity to learn the kinds of militarized “character skills” that
help them fall in line and fit into molds.
4) Learning should be more fun.
Anybody who plays video games knows that they are not FUN. They are
always engaging, but they are also often anxiety provoking, sometimes
frustrating, occasionally anger-inducing. Secondly, the conclusion is
absurd: learning is not, nor should it always be FUN. Learning is hard
and learning can sometimes be excruciatingly painful. It forces you to
sever ties to existing ways of understanding the world and replace them
more articulate ones.
The truth is that games
and digital interactive learning platforms can help students become as
passionate about learning traditional academic content as they are about
learning to play Assasin’s Creed. What we absolutely don’t want, however, is to strengthen our culture of
complacency by implicitly sending the message to our children that when
things are easier and more fun, they are therefore better.
From Education Dive: 5 K-12 trends to watch in 2016
The sparsely-populated state of Vermont is leading the way
with the push towards personalized learning plans (PLPs) for students.
It recently mandated the creation of PLPs for all public school students
in grades 7-12. The Flexible Pathways Initiative
was signed into law in June 2013, and will be phased in over the course
of the next four years. “The intention is to put students at the center
of the construction of their own learning experience, which evidence
indicates will result in greater relevance and engagement, and therefore
better outcomes,” Tom Alderman, of the Vermont Education Agency, told Education Dive in a recent interview.
Beyond the Green Mountain State, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have been promoting the use of PLPs. This year, the Gates Foundation partnered with the RAND Corporation to produce a new report, “Continued Progress,” to measure the efficacy of personalized learning.
From Save Maine Schools: Baltimore County Public Schools Used in 270 Million Dollar Tech Experiment
“In order to personalize learning for young people, we should be able
to assess students at any moment to figure out what level they’re on,
what standards they’ve mastered, so they can move along the continuum,”
Dance’s STAT program has established 17 “lighthouse” schools that will “lead the way” for STAT. According to the district’s website,
“The Lighthouse Schools will be the first in the system to receive
individual digital learning devices for students; implement
one-to-one personalized and blended learning; and create an innovative,
comprehensive digital learning culture.”
“This is taking place in a school district that is in desperate need
of improvements to infrastructure, transportation, class size reduction,
and social programs, issues that have been financially pushed to the
side in favor of STAT,” a teacher wrote.
“The way children use screens makes them particularly vulnerable to complication,” Cindy Eckard wrote in an editorial.
“They stare at them for long periods without taking significant breaks;
computer work stations often don’t fit them well; and they don’t
complain about blurry vision because they don’t realize it’s a problem
that will just get worse.”
From Education Next: Beware the Iconography Trap of Personalized Learning: Rigor Matters
But we’re also seeing that it’s easy for schools caught up in these
sweeping changes to lose sight of what will really push student learning
forward: high-quality, challenging, rich content.
Can districts and external partners support both rigor and
personalization? This may be the most critical and least attended-to
question for the successful implementation of personalized learning.
From Ed Week Market Brief: Bill Gates: Ed Tech Has Underachieved, But Better Days Are Ahead
“Our foundation’s going to do everything we can to help facilitate the
creation of great technology,” he said, with a focus on three areas:
effective personalized learning solutions, an evidence base that works,
and adoption of proven technologies. “Our goal is to help innovators.”
Within the next five years, Gates expects most schools to be
using personalized learning in at least one way, but it’s a shift that
will require more than just technology. Even the layout of the classroom
will look different, he said.
One approach that would accelerate the promise of personalized learning,
he said, “would be deeper engagement” between teachers and
entrepreneurs. “Far too many of these digital products aren’t really
getting used,” and he encouraged entrepreneurs to continually improve
upon and optimize the products that do find success in the classroom.
The market for digital instruction materials will likely grow by $1.1
billion between 2015 and 2020 in the U.S. alone, Gates predicted.
Interest in education outside the U.S. is very strong, too. Last year,
funding for ed-tech companies in China doubled, for instance.
Still, “it’s a tough market,” he said. “From a pure profit potential…it might not be the most immediate market to come to mind.”
Boston CityBizList: Massachusetts Accelerates Adoption of Personalized Learning Through New Public-Private Partnership
The LearnLaunch Institute and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today announced the creation of a public-private consortium to catalyze personalized learning: the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech (MAPLE) Consortium.
Supported by The Barr Foundation and Nellie Mae Education Foundation,
MAPLE will leverage the work being done by the Commonwealth's most
innovative schools to enable all districts to incorporate personalized
learning approaches and cutting-edge pedagogies, ensuring all students
are prepared to be productive and successful citizens in the 21st
MAPLE will connect districts with necessary resources -- a strong peer
learning community, professional learning, digital tools, funding
strategies, and a rich evidence base -- to create thoughtful and
innovative new models of teaching and learning that improve student
engagement and achievement.
From Diane Ravitch: District Adopts Federally-Endorsed Tech Product, and it Bores the Kids to Tears
A blogger described what happened when his school district adopted Edgenuity.
Students have expressed quiet and loud frustration; parents have
also complained. To find compromise and rest the restless, a Digital
Learning Committee was formed consisting of teachers, students, and
concerned parents. Complaints center around concerns surrounding the
implementation, the quality of education, student/computer over-use, and
lack of teacher/student interaction. Some students are not only unhappy
with the system but they are feeling as though their education is being
hindered and many parents are feeling uncomfortable with the system, as
Some students have been concerned about the quality of education
they are achieving through the Edgenuity system. Hazel voices this
concern when she says, “I’m not a strong supporter of online learning in
general, but I realize that it is useful for elective and language
classes. However, it is only useful if the classes are of high quality,
which Edgenuity has more than proved itself not to be. The lectures are
not lectures at all; rather, bland Powerpoint style screens read by a
talking head who clearly knows very little, if anything, on the
subject…Do I think that Edgenuity is improving my education at Kenny
Lake? Overall, no. It is a constant, daily source of frustration for me
and my peers. I am not graded fairly. How can anyone’s intelligence be
judged by multiple choice questions and virtual teachers?… Some courses,
like government/economics, are completely unnecessary to have online
since we have great, real teachers already willing to teach them. Many
are wrought with factual errors, so what is the point of having them at
With the addition of Edgenuity and other online learning courses is
the sudden end to most student-teacher interaction. As Hazel said, the
days were once filled with “…banters with teachers…” and “…thought
provoking group discussion…” which are now replaced by long silences
with nothing but the clacking of fingers on keyboards, while the teacher
stands and paces in the classroom without much input or excitement. In
fact, there is no excitement in the learning and no passion in the