Personalized learning (PL) is something that has slowly opened to me. What I mean by this is that the concept has evolved in my mind. I used to view it as just differentiating my lesson to meet different student needs. I still struggle to see how to make it work in a large-scale situation where every student works on their own project or their own interest, at their own pace as they master the standards we as teachers are expected to teach them. However, now under the circumstances of COVID-19, I can see some points that may be useful, especially with the technology functions that are discussed in the article.
We recently received our log-in information to our new virtual learning platform, which we are required to use anytime our class must go into quarantine or if the whole school shuts down, and I’m not super impressed. I had come up with a Google classroom system that worked well for my kindergarteners last year, while not perfect, I felt it allowed for some individualization to a point. Especially given that we had 2 days to get set up. I was able to allow students to create video responses, participate in a variety projects that were moderately self-directed (with some guidelines) and was working on ways to personalize it for this year “just in case.” This new LMS is completely scripted, and the same for all students. They listen to the lesson and answer the questions. I’m hoping for the best, but I am honestly concerned it is going to be too hard for some and way too easy for others. This is where my slight turn around in PL comes in. I still don’t see it as functional in a large-scale model of twenty students but there is something to be said for it. Especially the technological possibilities. The part of this article that appeals to me the most is the conclusion and where it addresses the possibilities of using artificial intelligence (AI) in PL. If we had that AI component integrated into our virtual platform, I can see it being amazing. The starting lesson could be the same, but having the ability to have it adjust to help catch what students aren’t understanding would be amazing! Especially when we aren’t there to help like we are in the classroom.
Dabae Lee, Yeol Huh, Chun-Li Lin, and Charles M. Reigeluth (2018) explore the role technology plays in personalized learning in their article Technology functions for personalized learning in learner- centered schools. The idea of personalized learning isn’t a new idea and there are multiple definitions around it. They range from students being allowing to move through content at their own pace to student drive curriculum. Lee et al. (2018) explain personalized learning as
“allowing student to meet their maximum potential by customizing instruction, including what is taught, how it is taught, and the pace at which it is learned, to meet individual needs, such as diverse student characteristics and interests.”
The idea behind the research conducted was to examine how technology is used in conjunction to supporting and implementing PL, with the “ultimate purpose of informing and the design and development of an integrated technology system” (Lee et al., 2028, p. 1270).
The Lee et al. (2018) article begins by exploring the theoretical basis of personalized learning (PL). From this, we can learn there are multiple theories in which PL is grounded. These include Bloom’s mastery learning (ML), Keller’s Personalized systems of instruction (PSI), and the learner-centered paradigm of education. Through PL students could master a topic at their own pace before moving on to the next topic, this connects to both Bloom’s Mastery learning and PSI. The learner-centered is reflective of the constructivist theory of learning in that it believes that people construct their own knowledge.
In their study Lee et al. (2018) used five components of PL, these included: (1) a personalized learning plan (PLP), (2)Competency-based student progress (CBSP), (3) criterion-referenced assessment (CRA) 4) project- or problem-based learning (PBL), and (5) multi-year mentoring (MYM) of students by a teacher or a mentor.
Once the components of the PL were address Lee et al. (2018) looked the system requirements need to establish and maintain PL. These four areas included: (1)record keeping to collect and keep academic and non- academic data on students, (2)planning in order to assist teachers in the overall planning of student PLP, (3 &4) instruction, and assessment which worked together to allow student to work on and complete project and receive appropriate feedback.
Lee et al. (2018) report that most literature indicates that most technology usage for PL falls into two categories. The first being the feasibility efficacy of creating the PL environment through innovative use of technology and second the uses of technology in the educational practices of PL (i.e. software program or integrated technology program)
The majority of literature revolves around the innovative use of technology and included the idea of creating a personalize e-learning system which included a system which created learning paths for students y considering content difficulty by response theory and looking at how a student’s creativity can be developed through using a personalized learning path and data mining. Other research included game-based learning and an e-book learning system. (Lee et al., 2018, p. 1274).
Studies in the second area of the uses of technology covered the topics of: (1) integrated technology systems in alignment with Personalized Integrated Education System (PIES), (2) specific programs for certain subject areas, (3) other hardware such as an interactive Whiteboard, and (4) extending learning to the home (Lee et al., 2018, p. 1274).
Multiple studies addressing the topic of using personalized Integrated Education Systems demonstrated that the immediate feedback was beneficial to students in numerous ways including that they were able to track progress and set goals. From a teachers perspective it helped to monitor student progress, which then allowed them to meet individual needs more efficiently.
Studies looking at software used at by Lee et al. (2018) covered a variety of processes. In one study it looked at student data and others looked at the programs made available to students. Like the previous study of PIES the immediate feedback was beneficial in allowing students to monitor their own progress and set goals. The other software open up new opportunities for students to create projects and gain skills, such as creating newsletters, making films or even in one case creating their own orchestra.
Information pertaining to interactive whiteboards showed that this allowed teachers to share a student’s screen directly and help them problem solve. Technology also helped to connect learning with home in multiple ways including linking assignments or materials to be worked on at home or sharing information with parents.
Lee et al. (2018) wanted to understand what technology functions teachers use to support PL and what technology functions do they need. Results were gathered using surveys sent to multiple schools, and divided by the functions as outlined by PIES (record keeping, planning, instructions, and assessment).
Under record keeping the mostly common application was maintaining data on mastery with 79% of respondents indicating use. With only a small portion keeping data on such things as student interests or career goals, although 54% would like to have that function available. In the area of planning, resource planning was the main purpose of technology function (81%), closely followed by setting learning goals (70%). Instruction was the function that had the most usage by the respondents. They used it for finding resources (89%), creating projects (80%), using CBI (77%), sharing resources (73%), and receiving information about projects (72%). For assessments purposes most used technology in order to provide students feedback (58%), test different content to differentiate (53%), gather data for adjusting instruction (51%), and checking for mastery (50%) (Lee et al. 2018).
Lee et al. (2018) concluded that there is a need to streamline technology to work within all four functions, even though it is most widely used in the areas of instruction and planning. They also point out that with all the advancements in earning analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence there are opportunities for large advancements in technology and applications. Lee et al. (2018) explain that it is possible for artificial intelligence (AI) to receive data and determine the next learning step for students. These steps may include corrective instruction or just some extra support. However, in order for this to work efficiently, all functions must work together as a smooth operation.
Lee, D., Huh, Y., Lin, C.-Y., & Reigeluth, C. M. (2018). Technology functions for personalized learning in learner-centered schools. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(5), 1269–1302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-018-9615-9