If you have not yet had the opportunity to read the Ramona Pierson article, Mass Customisation and Personalisation of Learning, I urge you to do so. I believe that you will find it a fascinating and stimulating read.
The transition from the way we have approached teaching and learning in a standardized system to an approach that places the student at the center and builds a customized learning path forward raises substantive questions. However, Dr. Pierson presents a picture of learners supported by technology that brings the work of customization realistically within reach. The teaching and learning system she describes promises to reduce the time and effort necessary to truly personalize learning, while providing real time feedback and guidance regarding next steps to support a student’s learning and our efforts to move the learner forward.
Pierson describes the use of algorithms and real time data to chart a unique learning path for each student featuring customized text and other learning resources, activities and supports timed and calibrated in response to student learning readiness and needs. Assessments are embedded in the content and learning activities so that instruction and learning does not have to be interrupted to determine areas of progress and continuing challenge. Meanwhile, the algorithms and learning progressions embedded in the system adjust in response to learning related activities of the student to stay in sync with where the student is and needs to go next. This information is also provided to the educator with options and additional resources in real time that the educator can use to support the student and his or her learning.
Yes, a learning support system such as the one described by Dr. Pierson holds the promise to move our work to personalize learning ahead by generations. Equally important, it is tightly aligned with the foundation we are building and the projects we are nurturing. As this new technology begins to take shape, we are well positioned to implement and tap its potential for our learners.
Still, this system will not replace the educator’s professional judgment, personal guidance, relationship building skills and knowledge of student motivation that has and will continue to be key to the human dimensions of learning and education. If anything, this advancement in technology offers the potential for teachers to do more of what drew them to this work: support the learning and development of students, be a key influence in their lives and provide the constant coaching and advocacy necessary for their learning success. Meanwhile, it supports educators to be constant learners and full members of a learning community and ecosystem.