The Real Risk of Customized Learning
The excitement is almost palpable.
Administrators purchase the latest and greatest educational technology, hoping that this next program will be the perfect tool that improves scores and helps the campus meet accountability goals. Educators want this program to assist in helping their learners who learn differently. Parents look for feedback on their kids’ progress.
These objectives take second place to the real issue: are learners getting what they need to become productive citizens?
The real risk of education technology-based customized learning exists in relying on it too heavily.
Customized Learning = Privileged Learning
Education works best when every learner has equitable access to education. Denying learners opportunities for study deepens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Customized learning may come at a high price, one that most parents cannot afford. If learners do not have access to the devices needed for accessing education technology programs, they are virtually excluded from educational opportunities. This exclusion is apparent in schools with BOYD policies.
Bring Your Own Device policies may help stretch the tech budget, but it also assures that those kids privileged enough to have their own tech devices will have access that less fortunate learners will not have.
Substitution isn’t Sufficient
Some people think implementing a customized learning program is as simple as making a purchase, creating a login and password, and sitting learners in front of the computer screen for a set number of minutes every day. Even if the program is adaptive, it might not provide learners with what they need.
According to the Hechinger Report, tech alone does not improve learning. Students learn how to use the program better. Any improvement in scores might be the result of familiarity interacting with the software.
Education technology programs cannot replace good teaching. When they supplement, they become invaluable teaching tools.
It’s Still Drill and Kill
At its best, customized learning engages learners on a personal level with lessons selected for them. Customized learning ought to be about the relationships between the learner, the subject, and the educator. It’s an experience centered around discussion and feedback. Including education technology in that process is optional.
At its worst, customized learning via education technology is an electronic worksheet driven by algorithms. The worksheet content hasn’t changed. Only the format and delivery are different.
Many kids despise filling out worksheets with their most blank boxes and lines. The one thing worse than a worksheet is a pack of worksheets. Whether on paper on a computer screen, learners recognize them for what they are: mind-numbing busy work.
What Education Technology-Based Customized Learning Should Be
Education technology-based customized learning has the chance to change how we do school at every level, but only if we’re willing to set high standards for what we will allow in our classrooms.
If we enable BYOD policies that exclude kids from access to the programs everyone else has, we fail to use education technology for improvement. By adopting education technology software solution that offers more of what we have but in a different format, we miss an opportunity for true personalization.
If we use education technology to the exclusion of everything else, we have minimized our potential.
Perhaps the real risk of education technology-based customized learning lies in not using it the way it was intended.