Personalized Learning: The Future of Education

My non-educator friends sometimes ask me what is the future of education. I’ve been thinking about this question the past couple of months. Living at the start of the information age has really changed everything that we do. I think back to 1983 when I was in grade 10 in high school. I was part of the first computer class in our school’s history. We were working with Apple IIE computers. I remember the floppy disks and the lack of any software. I spent much of the semester writing code to have my name flash on the screen. I also made some nice cassette case covers for music mixes I made with an early word processing program.

 

apple_iie
Apple IIe (courtesy of Wikipedia)

I am now mid-career in my 50s and carry an iPhone, that has 3 GB of RAM compared to the Apple IIe with almost reaching 64 KB. The notion of touching the screen to access files, video conferencing, uploading and viewing videos to someone who was a teenager in the early 80s, is like science fiction. How could my high school prepare me for a future that is so different 30 years later?

 

Access to almost infinite amounts of information in the forms of video, texts and images changes the role of school. Teaching and learning has moves from instructor-driven to instructor-guided and the learner becomes a creator of their curriculum along with the teacher. Students today can set their own goals and monitor their own learning with the support of an adult.

This trend towards personalized learning will only become more pronounced in the years to come. I listened to an ASCD podcast interview with James Rickabaugh talking about his book, Tapping Into Personalized Learning: A Roadmap for Leaders. He outlined what personalized learning should look like in schools.

  1. The role of the teacher the majority of the time should be Mentor In The Middle with Sage on the Stage and Guide on the Side taking less time as before.
  2. Students focus on skill sets, not just learning how to behave. “commitment more than compliance”
  3. Teachers focus on the progress of their students, not on exposure to instruction.
  4. Learners should be convinced they can learn anything.

#4 is a key point. I see more lifelong learning and “micro-credentials” will be needed for professionals and so when our students leave school, there will be no lesson plans in the work place and they will have to design their own learning. Customized learning paths with students co-planning and goal setting with the teacher is where education is heading. The idea of disciplines will also begin to fade away with a focus more on skills, ideas and solutions-based/project-based education.

 

 

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