What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’? by Katrina Schwartz

What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?

 | February 2, 2015
Naomi Chung/Flickr

Naomi Chung/Flickr

The idea of personalized learning is seductive – it implies moving away from the industrialized form of education that pumps out cookie-cutter students with the same knowledge and skills. After decades of this approach, it is clear that all children don’t learn the same way and personalization seems to honor those differences. However, that term has taken on several different meanings.

‘We often say we want creativity and innovation – personalization – but every mechanism we use to measure it is through control and compliance.’

“When you say personalization, what do you mean by that?” asked Diana Laufenberg, director of Inquiry Schools and a former teacher at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. “It’s not a word that always means the same thing.”

Personalization is often used in the ed-tech community to describe a student moving through a prescribed set of activities at his own pace. The only choice a student gets is what box to check on the screen and how quickly to move through the exercises. For many educators that’s not the true meaning of “personalized learning.”

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