I wasn’t too keen on the idea of personalized learning going into this, but after reading the article and then those presented on the North Star Borough website, it actually does make sense to me. One of the biggest culture shocks to overcome has been seeing kids walking around high school with earbuds plugged in, phones in hand, tablets propped up beside books, and yet they still manage to stay on task during lectures. Obviously, some classrooms are more disciplined than others regarding technology, but whereas I saw gadgets as unnecessary distractions a few weeks ago, I now recognize that these devices are something our new generation of students has grown up with and possesses (potentially) more discipline than the average 40-year old… present company included. But it started me thinking: what is the big attraction to phones and tablets and laptops? The answer is personalization. A person can fix up their desktop icons, screen saver, etc. to fit their personal habits. Even our word processing programs are now designed to figure out what we are trying to type and fix our mistakes for us.
I see many benefits to offering personalized options in school. This is a chance for students to sculpt their curriculum to their preferred learning style. And we now have the personalized technology to support such with minimal cost.
The down side is that by allowing students to personalize too much in order to be successful, they are inadvertently learning they can choose their own options toward learning and problem solving when difficulties arise versus taking care of issues within the parameters offered. When they join the adult workforce, regardless of position in society, they will not always have options to personalize for convenience. By relying too heavily on personalization, we will weaken our future generations’ resiliency at problem solving, coping, and integrating/synthesizing.
One of the sites I found most interesting was the K12 NorthStar Borough page. The school district here in Fairbanks is very much embracing personalized learning, but they also are not blind to the challenges.