The Real Risk of Edtech-Based Personalized Learning
The excitement is almost palpable.
Administrators purchase the latest and greatest edtech, hoping that this next program will be the panacea, the silver bullet that improves scores and helps the campus meet accountability goals. Teachers want this program to assist in helping their students who learn differently. Parents look for immediate feedback on their children’s progress.
All of these goals take second place to the real issue: are students getting what they need to become productive citizens?
The real risk of edtech-based personalized learning exists in relying on it to the exclusion of everything else.
Personalized learning = privileged learning
Education works best when every student has equitable access to learning. Denying learners to opportunities for study widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Personalized learning may come at a high price – one that many parents cannot afford. If students do not have access to the devices needed for accessing edtech programs, they are virtually excluded from educational opportunity. This exclusion is more apparent in schools with BOYD policies.
Bring Your Own Device policies may stretch the tech budget, but it also may also create a sense of privilege. Schools must guard against policies that that exclude students who do not own their own mobile devices.
Substitution isn’t sufficient
Some people think implementing a personalized learning program is as simple as making a purchase, creating a login and password, and sitting students in front of the computer screen for a set number of minutes each day. Even if the program is adaptive based on user response, it might not provide students with what they need.
According to the Hechinger Report, technology alone does not improve learning. Students merely learn how to become better at using the program. Any improvement in scores may be the result of greater facility in interacting with the software.
Edtech programs cannot replace quality teaching. When they supplement it, however, they become invaluable teaching tools.
It’s still drill and kill
At its best, personalized learning engages students on a personal level with lessons selected for them. Personalized learning ought to be about the relationships between the learner, the subject, and the teacher. It’s an experience centered around discussion, feedback, and reflection. Including edtech in that process is optional.
At its worst, personalized learning via edtech is an electronic worksheet driven by algorithms. The worksheet content hasn’t changed. Only the format and delivery are different.
Most kids despise filling out worksheets, with their many blank boxes and lines. The only thing worse than a worksheet is a packet of worksheets. Whether on paper on a computer screen, students recognize them for what they are: mind-numbing busy work.
What edtech-based personalized learning should be
Edtech-based personalized learning has the potential to alter 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 allow BYOD policies that exclude children from access to the programs everyone else has, then we fail to use edtech for improvement. By adopting edtech software solutions that offer more of what we already have, only in a different format, we miss an opportunity for authentic personalization.
If we use edtech to the exclusion of everything else, we have minimized our profession.
Perhaps the real risk of edtech-based personalized learning lies in not using it the way it was intended.