Technology can personalize learning

Brookings is hosting a conference — available live online — on education technology.

Using Technology to Personalize Learning and Assess Students in Real-Time, a new Brookings study by Darrell West, looks at new ways to teach made possible by technology.

Imagine schools where students master vital skills and critical thinking in a personalized and collaborative manner, teachers assess pupils in real-time, and social media and digital libraries connect learners to a wide range of informational resources.  Teachers take on the role of coaches, students learn at their own pace, technology tracks student progress, and schools are judged based on the outcomes they produce.  Rather than be limited to six hours a day for half the year, this kind of education moves toward 24/7 engagement and learning full-time.

Technology alone won’t remake education, West writes.  Schools will need to change their organizational structure and rethink teaching and assessment.

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  1. I sure am glad I had teachers, not coaches. Much more interesting that way–the teacher has something to teach and does it in stretches, not tidbits.

    I am also glad I had courses, not “work-at-your-own-pace” opportunities. Of course, I enjoyed it most when the courses were sufficiently challenging.

    I am glad that I read books and was not stationed behind a laptop. I like the laptop, but it’s different from sitting with a book.

    Finally, I’m glad that my schools were not judged on my technology-tracked outcomes. In college I took some courses that were way too hard and don’t entirely regret it. I’d probably do it a little differently now but would still rather get a B in a tough course than an A in an easier one.

    The new models may have some benefits, but they also have great losses.

  2. ” Rather than be limited to six hours a day for half the year, this kind of education moves toward 24/7 engagement and learning full-time.”

    What a nightmare. The only way I want to be learning full-time is if it’s no one else’s business what and how fast and how well I learn.

  3. Cranberry says:

    People need to sleep. Catering to teens’ poor sleep habits does them no favors in the long term.

    I wonder who’s supposed to teach at 2 a.m.? Will they outsource teaching to India? Or will they require teachers to work the night shift?

    It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out. Given the recent report on online schools in Colorado, I’m very glad my kids won’t be the guinea pigs.

  4. So, who’s in favor of a surrey with a fringe on top?

    Any preferences as to isinglass windows? I understand they’re especially welcomed if there’s a change in the weather.

    I do like wheels that are yeller with brown upholstery but I can understand that there might be differing opinions on the matter.

    Yup, no question that the way things have always been done is definitely the way they should always be done.

    • Technology, fine. New methods, fine. 24/7, not fine.

    • Cranberry says:

      Hah, hah, Allen.

      When it works, i.e., improves performance, reliably, for all students over several years, at a lower cost, let me know. That measure of performance hasn’t been achieved yet. There are any number of people willing to push technology as the New, New, but many of those people are either directly employed by companies who stand to benefit from school technology spending, or receive grants from nonprofits & foundations funded by people connected to the technology industry.

      I’ll also state that “personalizing” learning only sounds appealing at first. Our public education system is being taken over by the feds, by fiat. Very soon, all students will be required to learn the same thing at the same time–or schools will be punished. All incentive to personalize the learning experience has left the building.

      Raising a child in an environment in which his every desire is satisfied quickly is not a recipe to raise scholars, or effective adults. Could the graduates of this sort of teaching sustain their attention long enough to pay attention to a university-level lecture on a new topic? Can they deal with information which isn’t spoon-fed to them, broken down into small concepts or tests?

      New York Times article:

      And Intel, in a Web document urging schools to buy computers for every student, acknowledges that “there are no longitudinal, randomized trials linking eLearning to positive learning outcomes.” Yet it nonetheless argues that research shows that technology can lead to more engaged and economically successful students, happier teachers and more involved parents.

      It’s easy to promise. That’s what marketers do. It’s hard to deliver.


      But an independent analysis of previously unreleased online school data by the I-News Network and Education News Colorado reveals key new findings and an achievement gap that alarmed education officials:
      • Online students are losing ground. (…)
      • Academic performance declined after students enrolled in online programs. (…)
      • Wide gaps persist. (…).

      At a guess, the early promising results for online learning reflected the student demographics–homeschoolers who needed more academic content–not the product. The results for that cohort don’t extend to students who don’t want to learn.

  5. I find the constant yammering about students working collaboratively annoying, like a squeaky wheel or a pebble in the shoe. The times I learned the least were the times I was stuck in a stupid group project.

    Not to mention it’s difficult for students to “learn at their own pace” when they have a collaborative model of education imposed on them.

    • MagisterGreen says:

      I can appreciate the value of ‘collaboration’ in abstract…there are times when it is genuinely worthwhile to work together to solve a problem.

      What I have a problem with is this inane notion that because Google, or Pixar, or whoever, works in this open-office, free-form model, then we all should do it. What never gets mentioned by those who advocate for this model is that each of the individuals at a place like Pixar, or wherever, is typically an expert himself in whatever he does. So when we look at companies like that and swoon over their “collaborative” model, what we’re really swooning over is the model of a bunch of experts all working together to make something new and great happen. But students aren’t experts…yet we expect the same result. Idiotic.

      • Indeed. What’s more, collaboration at Google, Pixar, etc. includes plenty of solitary work. Programmers complete large portions on their own and then bring them together–or someone comes up with an idea and many contribute their individual parts to it.

        The idea of collaboration is often good. The idea of collaboration as working in groups all the time is ridiculous. In-person group work can be stultifying, not only because some members do more work than others, but because it’s hard to bring up substantial ideas when the emphasis is on talk and activity.