Is the key to improving our education system providing more personalized education to our children? Perhaps? Definitely? Or somewhere in between?
Personalized education is almost always a good thing – each child gets the level of instruction they need for their level of learning. This type of personalization is usually seen in the Special Education context with IEPs (Individualized Education Program). But it can also be employed in the larger education context of every day learning without having to resort to home-schooling.
Stacey Childress of the Next Generation Learning group at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is studying just this topic. She wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review this month (March 2012) that calls out several projects and studies showing the improvements technology can bring education along with the ability to give more personalized instruction. The programs she calls out as a mix of using technology (in new ways, not just as desktop editing software) and personalized learning are:
- DreamBox Learning - provides K-3 math programs that can be tracked and delivered to children at a level that match their individual needs. Their progress is tracked and teachers can provide individualized feedback and focus to each child.
- Reasoning Mind – provides similar personalized instruction for grade 3-7.
- Kahn Academy – is an online library of free resources, which consists of thousands of online video snippets explaining various math and science lessons. Students are assigned these videos to be done as homework so that classroom time can be used for more of a deep dive into the material. Classroom time doesn’t have to be taken up with the lectures – it can be taken up with providing answers to questions that students come up with after watching the videos.
- Rocketship Education – a San Jose organization operating 5 Charter schools in San Jose California focusing on using software and teachers to provide more individualized instruction in math and reading.
- School of One – in New York City, their program provides each student with a daily plan (or as they call it, a playlist) which is tailored to what they need. Using this method these students learned 60% more than their peers. Over time that is a huge learning advantage.
I attended a school in Indiana for K-6th grade (which has since become a traditional pre-K-3 school) and it was called open concept learning at the time. It was individualized instruction (plus group instruction) and students could work at their own pace, going to the teachers for help if they got stuck. It made a difference for both level learners and low level learners. Both got what they needed as they needed it.
The San Carlos Charter Learning Center is a school that focuses on individualized learning in a group setting (and one they my kids attend). The learners do a Personalized Learning Plan (or Project, as it has morphed into being called) where the kids get to pick what they want to work on and explore before presenting on that topic for their class. They are also exploring video learning with scientists at universities (in Colorado and Arizona), using Vidyo technology for a virtual field trip. We have had two of these “Ask a Scientist” lessons this year and are slated to try out more.
I like that schools are trying out different programs trying to get the students what they need. Hopefully more schools and school districts will deploy these types of learning systems and philosophies going forward because US education certainly needs a shot in the arm!
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