Larry Berger, CEO of Amplify, offers a fantastic distillation of the promises of digital personalized learning and how they are undone by the reality of learning:
We also don’t have the assessments to place kids with any precision on the map. The existing measures are not high enough resolution to detect the thing that a kid should learn tomorrow. Our current precision would be like Google Maps trying to steer you home tonight using a GPS system that knows only that your location correlates highly with either Maryland or Virginia.
If you’re anywhere adjacent to digital personalized learning – working at an edtech company, teaching in a personalized learning school, in a romantic relationship with anyone in those two categories – you should read this piece.
Berger closes with an excellent question to guide the next generation of personalized learning:
What did your best teachers and coaches do for you—without the benefit of maps, algorithms, or data—to personalize your learning?
My best teachers knew what I knew. They understood what I understood about whatever I was learning in a way that algorithms in 2018 cannot touch. And they used their knowledge not to suggest the next “learning object” in a sequence but to challenge me in whatever I was learning then.
“Okay you think you know this pretty well. Let me ask you this.”
What’s your answer to Berger’s question?
BTW. It’s always the right time to quote Begle’s Second Law:
Mathematics education is much more complicated than you expected even though you expected it to be more complicated than you expected.
I have come to believe that all learning is personalized not because of what the teacher does but because of what’s happening inside the learner’s brain. Whatever pedagogical choices a teacher makes, it’s the student’s work that causes new neural networks to be created and pre-existing ones to be augmented or strengthened or broken or pruned.
I’ll accept the risk of stating the obvious: my best teachers cared about me, and I felt that. Teaching is an act of love. A teacher who cares about each student is much more likely to, in that instant after a student responds to a question, find the positive value in the response and communicate encouragement to the student, verbally and nonverbally. And students who feel cared for are more likely to have good things going on in their brains, as described by SueH.