Technology and Personalized Learning: An Ideal Teaching Strategy?

Technology and Personalized Learning: An Ideal Teaching Strategy?

Technology and Personalized Learning: An Ideal Teaching Strategy?Wouldn’t it be great if you could give each child exactly what they need? With personalized learning, educators have the opportunity to tailor material to each student – at least in theory. While this new individualized approach has become a hot new trend in education, it’s important not to jump on the bandwagon before you understand all of the ramifications. Personalized learning through technology may be just the revolution our education system needs, or it might just be another passing fad. 

So what is personalized learning? According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, personalized learning is “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible”. In other words, it means teachers have to facilitate an individual program tailored to each student’s unique needs and interests. In this approach, students are allowed to control what they learn, how they learn it and how quickly they progress. 

One of the most popular tools for implementing this approach is technology. It takes an unbelievable amount of work for one teacher to personalize a lesson for 30 students. However, if there is a program that can adjust its level based on each child, or allow children to choose between various applications and topics, then educators can allow each student to move at his or her own pace, according to individual interests. And all without spending endless hours preparing a unique lesson for each student. For true personalized learning, it is not enough to just cater to students on different levels, the students also must be able to choose how they learn and what the subject matter is. What could be better than students learning what they want, how they want and at the pace they choose? 

Using technology to facilitate personalized learning is a great idea, but it is not without drawbacks. While technology can be a great tool, nothing can replace the personal connection between a teacher and student. An algorithm might know exactly which equation should come next in order to help a student grasp a concept, but it won’t know just the right way to apply that concept to a particular student’s life. There is also the question of what will motivate students to challenge themselves when they are dictating the pace. What if a student is learning from a differentiated program and happens to get a couple of good guesses but doesn’t really grasp the concept? The teacher still has to be very involved in each students’ individual progress and learning, even when relying on technology to facilitate personalized learning.  

Allowing and encouraging students to work at their own pace and pursue subjects that interest them can definitely increase motivation, but at what expense? If every student is learning something different, it is difficult to have students work together on something that will be applicable to all members of the class. There is also the matter of logistics. Any school that wants to use technology for personalized learning needs to have enough devices for every student, and a way to ensure that all of the devices are charged up and working properly. There is also the matter of class discussions. They aren’t just a gimmick to make students feel special. Discussions are a genuine tool which helps students learn from the teacher and each other. This tool is quite a challenge to use when each child is focused on something different and working within their own time frame.

How have you used technology to support personalized learning in your school? Have you been able to integrate personalized learning with more traditional teaching methods? We would love to hear about your experiences.

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