The future of learning revisited


Learning is personal?

Just read this twitter message by Audry Watters and it caught my attention. It is a tread in a rant about personalized learning and tech companies.

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Not sure my friends in the tech industries agree with this one?

This week I had the pleasure of attending several presentations by teachers in my school The topics were Norwegian and math classes and teacher networks. It is amazing how well our teachers work together and how they always have the students’ best interests in mind. In Norwegian class, the teachers offer special instructions tailored to specific topics before exams and they also share students to make the classes more varied and interesting. They arrange days with different lectures on topics for the students to choose from. And they make sure all the assessments are similar, working in groups to ensure equal treatment. In math for vocational classes, teachers assess the students early on and then group them making sure the students have a chance to choose which group they want to attend. And make sure they know that they can always change groups. The aim is to have a safe environment where the teachers emphasize that learning means failing until you get it, and stressing that it is okay to ask any question. Using flipped classroom the students can watch videos explaining each topic as many times they want to and the teacher can monitor what they did and how long they spent on each task.  Very impressive!

In this article, they discuss different initiatives in personalized learning. It also mentions proficiency-based learning.” My understanding of this is that it works well some places, but every teacher needs support from all levels concerned. As mentioned in this article, makes me wonder if the teachers at that school work together and share students?

Heather Finn, a veteran math teacher at a high school in central Maine, told NPRit was “impossible … so, so frustrating.”

“It works really well, like, the first month,” Finn says. Then, students started to progress at different speeds.

“So I have the kids who are on pace, and I have the kids who are perpetually, always behind. And it got to the point where I had 20 kids in 20 spots.”

This past April, Maine lawmakers heard complaints from parents and teachers, as well as the statewide teachers union. Three months later, Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill to make “proficiency-based diplomas” optional. Some districts have already declared that they’re leaving the new system behind and will return to a more traditional education style.

Many rely on software determining the pace and the levels for each kid, rather like Spotify will suggest music for you and Netflix will recommend movies, based on your previous use. But that puts us back to Audrey Watters’ concerns.

Social learning theories help us to understand how people learn in social contexts (learn from each other) and informs us on how we, as teachers, construct active learning communities.  Lev Vygotsky (1962)

Equating personalized learning simply with pacing is “a fairly large problem,” according to Susan Patrick, the president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. She says part of the issue is that personalization has become a flimsy marketing term, with software vendors putting a sticker on a product because there’s variation in pacing.” That, she says, “does not equal a truly personalized approach.”

I kind of like what we do at our school right now, but as always there are areas to improve. Like giving the students a choice to choose between different subjects according to their strengths and weaknesses. That is something we need to work on.

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