What Personalized Learning Is Not

I seem to have become an advocate for personalized learning, it wasn’t intentional, nor do I think I am good one for the cause.  I believe in creating passionate learning environments where all students have a voice.  So the more discussions I have the more I understand where the hesitance to personalized learning, or any seemingly new initiative that crops up, is stemming from.  Because much like any great educational idea, this idea of personalized learning seems to have become twisted into something it is not.

I believe in personalizing learning for every child.  That doesn’t mean a system,  a plan that can be found in a book, or even mapped out for the world to replicate.  They don’t teach the kids I teach so they have no way of knowing what they need.  That is my job as a teacher to figure out by asking the students.

Personalized learning does not mean to let go, give up control of everything, and hope for the best.  It doesn’t mean that every kid has to make something, invent something, or be creative for every assignment.  It doesn’t mean we have to integrate more technology so that we can reach every kid.  It doesn’t mean that teachers should just facilitate or guide and otherwise get out of the way.  There will never be just one role for all of us to fit all of the time.  Because personalized learning means to personalize which means to teach the kids we have right here, right now.

Those kids we have may want to invent.

Those kids we have may want to create.

Those kids we have may want no structure, to be able to show mastery whichever way they choose, as they tinker, play, and dream.

Those kids we have may want to integrate their own device whenever they can to show off their own genius.

Yet those kid we have may also need support.

Those kids we have may also need guidelines.

Those kids we have may also need a piece of paper with an assignment explained and a path to get from point A to point B.

Those kids we have may also need structure, an end goal that is shared with others, and a teacher that leads the way.

Personalized learning seems to have become confused with yet another rigid system where we assume that all kids want to make.  And that is a shame because the minute we assume that ALL kids want anything then we are doing the opposite of what personalizing learning is.  So don’t believe all of the guidelines, don’t believe that there is just one path to do it right for it means to reach all kids, to find a way to teach all kids, giving them what they need and being in tune with them when that need changes,

As a child, I would have hated being told to create on my own at all times and to somehow figure it all out.  That was not what I needed then, nor is it what I want as an adult.  Make sure in our quest to reach all kids that we don’t think there is only way to reach them.  Make it about teaching them all, reaching all, and realizing that there is not one system for doing that because we do not just teach one child.  Don’t buy the latest idea just because someone sai dthat this is finally the right way to teach, even if it sounds magical.

9 thoughts on “What Personalized Learning Is Not

  1. I need to learn more about personalized learning. I think it will fit me which in turn will help my students. I am seeing a summer learning project in my future. Thanks for the new insight.

  2. Hello Pernille,
    I enjoyed reading this post. Like you, I see tremendous value in learner autonomy. However, I have become wary of buzz words claiming to “ize” anything for me or our students. If you believe in U.S. Department of Education statistics, 80% or more of what we learn in our lifetime takes place in informal settings (yep, outside of school). Who owns that learning? How can educators invite informal types of learning into their “formal” learning spaces? I have grown to appreciate the idea of the entrepreneurial learner (Yong Zhao). Instead of schools “izing” the learning, students are encouraged and challenged to develop their unique talents, and let inquiry, passion, and creativity form the basis of their education.
    My elaboration can be found here; http://goo.gl/iTUfKw
    In the entrepreneurial learning space, the role of instructor and student becomes less distinct as a community of learners share their stories transparently. Thank you for sharing your insight and for creating this learning forum. Bob

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  4. Pingback: What Personalized Learning Is Not | Re-Ingenier...

  5. In other words you are 100% behind homeschooling and the defunding of the government schools and returning of education to private education. And if you are not, why not???

    • Not really, not every family can homeschool nor do they want to and the other tow things I don’t believe in, I fear you have missed the point; I am for teachers finding ways to teach all of the kids they have, not just following one specific system.

  6. Hey Pal,

    This is a brilliant statement:

    “And that is a shame because the minute we assume that ALL kids want anything then we are doing the opposite of what personalizing learning is”

    I also like to push against the notion that “personalized” means “to do everything alone.” The word “personal” actually makes me cringe when it comes to learning because in many cases, the BEST learning is social and interactive and done together.

    Thanks for making me think tonight….
    Bill

  7. Pingback: The Impersonal Future of Schools? – maelstrom

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