The key to engaging students can be found by teachers who are willing to bridge the gap between what students are too often still doing in school—working silently alongside one another on worksheets, staring at teachers as they talk, and writing the same tests—and what students do outside school: connecting and sharing online.
Personalised learning is the key to engaging students, as teachers are leading the way toward making learning as relevant, rigorous, and meaningful inside school as outside.
Personalised learning is an invitation for teachers to create opportunities for learning that takes advantage of the digital skills most of our students already possess. Personalised learning is specifically tailored to each student’s strengths, needs, and interests while ensuring the highest standards possible. This approach is a major paradigm shift from the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. Personalisation encourages teachers to be more open and flexible so that students can become more invested in designing their own personal learning paths while still meeting the necessary standards required by the curriculum.
The idea of personalised learning is seductive – it implies moving away from the industrialised form of education that pumps out cookie-cutter students with the same knowledge and skills. After decades of this approach, it is clear that all children don’t learn the same way and personalisation seems to honour those differences. However, that term has taken on several different meanings.
We often say we want creativity and innovation – personalisation – but the mechanisms we use to measure it is often through control and compliance.
Personalisation is often used in the ed-tech community to describe a student moving through a prescribed set of activities at his own pace. The only choice a student gets is what box to check on the screen and how quickly to move through the exercises. This not the true goal of personalised learning even when differentiation is catered for by scaffolding the learning.
All this really does is meet the needs of an individual student in a very standardised way, but it doesn’t take into account that particular student. It may well be an improvement and well-structured it is an excellent move in the right direction but it is not true personalisation.
Personalisation only comes when students have genuine choice over how to tackle a problem. A personalised environment gives students the freedom to follow a meaningful line of inquiry while building the skills to connect, synthesize and analyse information into original productions.
As we move towards this challenging model it is comforting to know that the technology provision in our school will play a key role in achieving authentic personalisation.