The Role of Technology in Personalized Learning

Izmestiev, D (2012) Personalized learning: a new ICT-enabled education approach. UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education Policy Brief March 2012. Available at http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/ en/files/3214716.pdf

In reflecting on the future of education, the Izmestiev’s policy brief for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) offered that learning will become more personalized. Lamenting the “the ‘one size fits all’, full-time classroom-based model” (Izmestiev, 2012, p 1) Izmestiev (2012) presented that the future of education requires “a new education paradigm characterized by greater flexibility and choice options for each individual student” (p.1) whereby the educator matches “what is taught and how it is taught with the needs of each individual learner” (p. 1). As Izmestiev (2012) denoted, such an idea is not new, but its implementation had been hampered by issues facing educators in implementing such approaches. These include managing workload but still meeting the needs of a diverse body of learners.  However the growth of information technology, digital educational resources and digital content delivery systems now offers educators greater opportunity in reaching this ideal of personalized learning.

But what exactly is personalized learning and what role can technology play? Reflecting on policies within the U.K., California, Calgary and British Columbia, Izmestiev (2012) offered, that “personalized learning is a methodology, according to which teaching and learning are focused on the needs and abilities of individual learners within classroom groups supervised by the teacher” (p. 3). There are five components to personalized learning as outlined by David Miliband, former United Kingdom Minister of State for School Standards. These include:

  • An emphasis on assessing individual learner strengths and weaknesses as well as their interests and needs through ” a range of assessment techniques, with an emphasis on formative assessment that engages the learner” (Izmestiev, 2012, p.4)
  • Use of effective teaching and learning which allow and emphasis the self-directed learner.
  • Offer the learner the ability to engage in “the selection of curriculum content as well as in the development of individually tailored learning program” but “with clear pathways through the system” (Izmestiev, 2012, p. 4)
  • Class organization is focused towards student progress such that school resources and design are redirected towards meeting that focus
  • Connection of learning outside the classroom through community partnership and  socially engaging activities

In reflecting on these components, Izmestiev (2012) offered that “information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digital content development tools” have made personalized learning more available. (p. 5).   The authors offered that learning management systems now are used to collect assessment data  in a managed work flow through a variety of assessment forms. Newer technologies mean the learner is now offered the ability to move at their own pace along a guided pathway, using system using based recommendations or adjustments in learning strategies and contents to meet individual student needs, while still being encouraged to progress towards specified learning goals. As Izmestiev (2012) commented “using Web 2.0 tools and social networks, learners can interact with each other beyond the classroom,” to broaden where, when and with whom the learners can engaged in meaningful learning goal directed activities. Within the personalized learning paradigm, the author offered that the teacher’s role shifts “from instruction to mentoring, advising and consulting” which necessities refocusing professional development and teacher training (Izmestiev, 2012, p. 7) However he also cautioned that there are risks to personalized learning when poorly implemented.  These include the potential to decrease in teacher-student and student-student interactions as well as a view of decreasing teacher engagement within the learning process in favor of more technology-augmented learning.  Well-intentioned implementation coupled with teacher professional development can address these risks in the author’s view.

In reflecting on this, one of my interests within educational technology is exploring personalized learning and the key affordances within its design could make for effective and engaged learning for the individual learner, the issues of design and implementation which impact both student, learner and institutions moving towards persoalized learning, as well as exploring if personalized learning is an effective means for increasing collaborative learning experiences for groups of learners.  Digital platforms specifically designed for personalized active and adaptive learning experiences are already being utilized in schools to assist student learning of key concepts as well as hands-on skill training and many textbook publishers are implementing these with their books. However, as Pane et al (2017) noted, while preliminary data show some potential for personalized learning to positively impact the learner in terms of performance and motivation, “the field lacks evidence on which practices are most effective or what policies must be in place to maximize the benefits” and more research was needed (Pane, et. al., 2017, p 7).

Additional readings for Week #15

Chen, C. M. (2008). Intelligent Web-Based Learning System with Personalized Learning Path Guidance. Computers & Education, 51(2), 787-814.

Huang, Y.-M., Liang, T.-H., Su, Y.-N., & Chen, N.-S.. (2012). Empowering Personalized Learning with an Interactive E-Book Learning System for Elementary School Students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(4), 703-722.

Hwang, G.-J., Sung, H.-Y., Hung, C.-M., Huang, I., & Tsai, C.-C.. (2012). Development of a Personalized Educational Computer Game Based on Students’ Learning Styles. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(4), 623-638.

Kerr, P. (2016) ; Adaptive learning, ELT Journal, .70 (1): 88–93

Pane, J. F., Steiner, E.D., Baird, M.D,  Hamilton, L.S. and Pane, J.D. (2017) How Does Personalized Learning Affect Student Achievement?. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation

Shaw, C., Larson, R., & Sibdari, S. (2014). An Asynchronous, Personalized Learning Platform― Guided Learning Pathways (GLP). Creative Education, 5, 1189-1204.

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