What is Personalised Learning?

Personalised learning is one of those terms that everyone seems to know and agree with, but when we dig down, realise there are many differing interpretations of it. Here then is an except from Audrey Watters which captures some of the nuances:

“Personalized learning” can mean that students “move at their own pace” through lessons and assignments, for example, unlike those classrooms where everyone is expected to move through material together. (In an invented history of education, this has been the instructional arrangement for all of history.) Or “personalized learning” can mean that students have a say in what they learn – students determine topics they study and activities they undertake. “Personalized learning,” according to some definitions, is driven by students’ own interests and inquiry rather than by the demands or standards imposed by the instructor, the school, the state. “Personalized learning,” according to other definitions, is driven by students’ varied abilities or needs; it’s a way of navigating the requirements of school bureaucracies and requesting appropriate accommodations – “individualized education plans” and the like. Or “personalized learning” is the latest and greatest – some new endeavor that will be achieved, not through human attention or agency or through paperwork or policy but through computing technologies. That is, through monitoring and feedback, through automated assessment, and through the programmatic presentation of new or next materials to study. source


Doug Belshaw on Ambiguity
Gert Biesta on our obsession with learning

50000 Data Points an Hour

One of the biggest changes to education in the last few years has been the emphasis on feedback. The challenge then becomes how to be equitable with time and energy. The solution, algorithms.

“DreamBox Learning tracks a student’s every click, correct answer, hesitation and error — collecting about 50,000 data points per student per hour — and uses those details to adjust the math lessons it shows. And it uses data to help teachers pinpoint which math concepts students may be struggling with.

Mr. Hastings described DreamBox as a tool teachers could use to gain greater insights into their students, much the way that physicians use medical scans to treat individual patients. “A doctor without an X-ray machine is not as good a doctor,” Mr. Hastings said.”Source

Using various applications to provide automated feedback forces the question as to what education should involve and be about.

Biesta and the Learnification

Leadership Spectrum

Susan Cain talks about leadership as a spectrum where we often favour one end. Grant Lichtman summarises this as follows:

At one end of the spectrum, leaders direct, prod, or rule over others. They are first among non-equals. Leadership in this construct is about power and position.  This is not a value statement, but a statement of fact. Human organizations often need this kind of leadership lest they devolve into randomness or chaos.

At the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps the end that has been ignored because it is more subtle, harder to find, or easier to overlook, is the person who leads from a place of humility, or the shadows, from the bench, or out of some deep creative passion.  At this end we find those who do not seek a position of leadership, but rather a path of leadership. We find the moral leader (Ghandi); the explorer (Earhart); the knowledge leader (Einstein); the servant leader (Pope Francis), the inventive leader (Musk).source

The problem with this is that we forget about the leadership associated with being a follower.

How is your school rewarding the servant-leader, the quiet leader, the non-titled leader, the student or teacher who makes those around them rise through the power of ideas and actions outside the spotlight?  How is your college or university digging deeper into those admissions applications to widen what has traditionally been a narrow view of “leadership”?source

The Scent of Knowledge

Alan Kay gave the following advice to Bret Victor once:

I think the trick with knowledge is to “acquire it, and forget all except the perfume” — because it is noisy and sometimes drowns out one’s own “brain voices”. The perfume part is important because it will help find the knowledge again to help get to the destinations the inner urges pick. source

It would seem that the challenge with knowledge is holding on just tight enough that if you need to grip harder, you can, but if you need to change hand grips, you can also do that as well.

Distrusting Technology

Bret Victor talks about being open to new ways of doing things. A part of this is having a healthy level of distrust:

Learn tools, and use tools, but don’t accept tools. Always distrust them; always be alert for alternative ways of thinking. This is what I mean by avoiding the conviction that you “know what you’re doing” source

This in part relates to working at the margins.

Recoding the Internet of Things

Murray Goulden discusses some of the ways that technology and the internet of things is trying to recode our lives

These technologies are, largely unwittingly, attempting to recode some of the most basic patterns of our everyday lives, namely how we live alongside those we are most intimate with. As such, their placement in our homes as consumer products constitute a vast social experiment. If the experience of using them is too challenging to our existing orderings, the likelihood is we will simply come to reject them.source

This in part touches on many of the points made in The Circle.

Writing a Newsletter

Different to a blog, newsletters usually bring with them a certain regularity. In the wake of 100 newsletters, Ian O’Byrne shares some lessons learned from writing a newsletter.

If you have started writing and publishing your own newsletter, my advice is to start writing, and don’t stop publishing. In just the same way that my blogging voice has developed and changed over time…so too has my work with the newsletter. I believe that you do not really find out what you want to write until you start writing. Allow for it to blossom and change. source

It is interesting to compare writing a newsletter with a blog. There is a deliberate practice associated with it. With this comes a continuous endeavour to refine the process.