User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Speak Up Report: Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey

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I usually don’t use my blog posts to strictly report what others have done but as a forum to express my beliefs and ideas about how education can and should be more student-centric and user-generated. The report released today by Project Tomorrow, though, supports how and why technology can support personalized learning.  What follows is an Infographic and key findings of Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey – K-12 Students and Parents Connects the Dots with Digital Learning

Key findings that should be of particular interest to educators when designing learning experiences include:

Despite students’ limited ability to access social media in school, it is interesting to see how students are increasingly tapping into the plethora of social media tools and products to create community, develop skills and organize their lives outside of the classroom. Today’s generation of students are documentarians with strong interests in analyzing, cataloging and sharing their experiences, insights, opinions and feelings with a broad circle of community in a highly timely manner. They also view the documentation and sharing process as components of a larger personal learning ecosystem.

The increased access that students have to the Internet through their mobile devices is proving to be the key to greater personalization of how they learn outside of school. Access to the Internet via a mobile device appears to be an equal opportunity partner for students where location of home community is not a determinant of significantly more or less access. Just as the Internet has been called the great equalizer of opportunity, the mobile device is quickly becoming the great equalizer of access.

The “always on” presence that is facilitated by wireless or 3G/4G connectivity, the depth and variety of features and functions that support the way they live and want to learn, and the multitude of applications (including in education) makes this form and function the new desired platform for personalized learning for today’s students. Students are already connecting the dots for personalized learning outside of school through their access to mobile devices and their sophisticated use of social media and Internet resources to drive their own self-directed learning. And yet in stark contrast to the richness of their out of school experiences, most students find their in-class experiences to approximate a “one size fits all” model with too much structure and standardization, and too little accommodation of personal learning approaches or the technology tools that enable such approaches. Just as the students continue to push the envelope of technology adoption and adaptation outside of school, they are equally passionate about sharing their ideas for more socially-based, un-tethered and digitally rich learning experiences in class and the need for their schools to create new digital roadmaps for personal learning.

The student point of view on how schools could make it easier for them to use technology is very cut and dry: let me use my own tools. A majority of middle school students (56 percent) and high school students (59 percent) would like to use their own mobile devices for instructional purposes at school.

Students are already seeking out ways to personalize their learning. Looking to address what they perceive as deficiencies in classroom experiences, students are turning to online classes to study topics that pique their intellectual curiosity, to message and discussion boards to explore new ideas about their world, or to online collaboration tools to share their expertise with other students they don’t even know. Their experience with seeking out their own personalized learning experiences has changed their overall expectations for their education, and not just for the use of technology. These students have an intrinsic understanding that like so many other aspects of their lives, personalization is the key to their own greater engagement in the learning process. So, even while students have turned to personalized learning on their own time, in their own way, why is it that this revolution of technology that has enabled personalization not also penetrated our classrooms? Why is it that we are for the most part still educating our children with a model that perpetuates the fallacy of one size fits all? Why is it that technology has transformed the way we shop, bank and interact with each other and not yet had the same impact on teaching and learning, at least as education stands today?

This is not the time to be comfortable with our existing ideas but rather to challenge how we can leverage the long held potential of technology to create learning environments in school that match how our students are experiencing the world today. This is the time to learn from the rich experiences that students are having outside of school with social media, online learning and mobile devices, and to use that knowledge to inform new approaches to in school use of such emerging technologies. This is the time to map new personalized learning journeys that allow every student to self-direct their own path and to use the tools that best fit their needs. What is holding us back today?

This is just another clarion call similar to the Connected Learning initiative.  When will it be heard and acted upon?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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