Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why Not Personalization? Why not blend?

As technology creates opportunities for us to be more aware of the cracks that individual students are falling through, the question remains...why aren't we personalizing the education of our students more? Why aren't we using blended learning to better meet the needs of our students?

In a world where intuitive software is becoming smarter and smarter and less expensive, we have the ability to allow students to "practice" problem solving without feeling overwhelmed. What does that mean? When I was in school I remember melting down when I didn't understand a math concept at home but my homework was "do the odd problems on page 82." Everyone knew the answers to the even problems were in the back of the book so even if I had to show my work, I knew I could at least see if I got the right answer when I was done. But what about those nights when I didn't have a clue where to start? I would go to school the next day having done 20 problems all wrong. I would get a zero on my homework and I had done enough problems that I had created a "habit" of how to do it in my head, albeit the wrong way. Intuitive software changes that. It gives students a practice question and if they get it wrong it often shows them the correct way and also gives them an easier question to get back to what they do know and work forward again.

In some classes this is easier than others- math, sciences, anything that can be learned one way can be learned with this method. We all know that there is more to real teaching than this though. The beauty of technology today is this type of environment allows more time for the teachers to dig deeper with their students and help them to think more critically about the subject matter.

Personalized learning starts putting the onus on the student. Students begin to learn how they learn. They see that they can't just skim through things and take a quiz. They start learning how much time it typically takes for them to get a concept. And if students are learning from different modalities (differentiated modes of instruction), they also start to understand which forms of instruction best meet their learning styles. Owning this isn't easy for a student. We have conditioned students to "sit and get." "Tell me what I need to know so I can regurgitate it back to you." But what value it is to show a student how to learn! 

According to NEA, by 1930 multiple-choice tests were firmly entrenched in the education world. The reason being there needed to be efficiency and objectivity ( And I agree that both are highly valued in the education arena. But as we see a way to have those efficiencies and yet still meet the needs of the individual student, why are we not moving towards this more rapidly? One reason is the time and prep it takes on the teacher's side for this to be effectively managed from their viewpoint. Another reason is no major shift in education happens overnight.

For three years I have been watching personalization on some level start to happen at our school. I hear students learning more about themselves, seeing themselves as having potential when they didn't in the past. I see teachers seeing the value of personalization because they would have never have noticed the gaps in individual student's learning in a traditional classroom setting.

It is my desire to work to find solutions to make this process more mainstream for the educator. It is my desire to create efficiencies using innovation to better meet the needs of the teacher and the student so that personalization can be more of a realtime advantage for our students. I literally lay in bed at night trying to think of ways to do this. Call it passion if you want to but once you see the benefits in action, it's hard to ignore the fact that all students don't learn on the same timeline nor in the same way. Technology has the ability for us to work inside new boundaries...broader ways we have never been able to do before.