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Posts Tagged ‘continuum

One of the best reads of 2017 so far is this blog entry simply titled Evaluating Personalization.

Personalised learning is a continuum between non-learner-provided choices and learner-directed agency.

I distill the long read to this takeaway: Personalised learning is a continuum between non-learner-provided choices and learner-directed agency. The non-learner could be the teacher, vendor, or edtech platform.

Or, in the words of the author:

…one end of the continuum is personalization for the learner; the other end is personalization by the learner

Instead of trying to outline the main points of the article, I will try to add value to it by making an observation.

In the era before current technologies like computers and phones, the focus was on providing choice. Today, edtech vendors still tout choice: pacing, content, modes, etc. The personalisation by agency — goals, expectations, strategies, evaluation — is still sorely lacking.

We cannot keep making the excuse that learners do not know what they want. If we teach them to wait to be fed, they will be lazy consumers. If we nurture them to think, they will not just critically consume, they will also skilfully catch and create.

There is another major problem with personalisation-as-choice. The options a vendor or designer provides might not actually be choices. I use an example I have cited before.

StarHub app

My current telco, StarHub, has an app that claims to provide “choices” for some cards that you can display or hide. However, if you deselect them, the app reverts to the selected state upon restart. So you cannot remove the content that is not relevant to you from the app.

While the example is from a commercial entity, edtech vendors and designers of curricula often do the same thing — they provide choices in theory that are not actually choices in practice. So even the provision of choice is not necessarily indicative of personalisation.

Learners need not wait for vendors, designers, or teachers to give them choices. With current open and/or collaborative tools like Google Apps and YouTube, learners can take matters into their own hands and find or make their own choices. In doing so, they move from one end of the spectrum to the other by creating their own agency.

A tweeted question to #edsg prompted this reflection.

This question has been asked since Facebook appeared on our collective radars. Such a question is not unusual because adventurous educators always seem to ask it of any new technology.

I recall tackling this question with preservice teachers almost nine years ago. Back then the responses included 1) leveraging on the popularity of Facebook, 2) wanting to keep one’s different lives separate, and 3) maintaining different profiles for different purposes.

Quite a bit has changed since then and some things have not.

What has not is that most people do not like having multiple accounts because it takes effort. Just try asking a group of learners to create another account on a platform they are already in or a new one on a platform they are not familiar with. A few might react like you are demanding their first born child.

What has changed is the popularity of Facebook among the younger set. Facebook is where their parents and even their grandparents hang out, so it is less cool. Facebook is not yet a teen or young adult wasteland. A quick Google search on Facebook usage statistics will reveal that (examples [1] [2] [3]) . But there have been migrations to Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.

Another thing that might have changed is the need to “separate lives”. Teachers might assume that their students have the same mindset or concerns as they do, but learner notions of privacy could be different. That is not the same as saying that kids are not concerned about privacy. They are and about different aspects of privacy.

But back to the question.

The tweeted question is a reflection of dated thinking. Such thinking is based on at least two wobbly foundations: 1) false dichotomies, and 2) limited learning opportunities.

Dichotomies (two-way categorizations) occur because of the human need to classify complex phenomena. Male or female. Good or bad. Married or not. Your side or my side. But giving in to this need to simplify ignores the grey nuances that are more representative of life and learning.

A problem with categorical thinking is that people feel that they must separate where they live, love, or learn. We might be conditioned to think this way because schools put academic subjects in separate silos, students in separate classes, and lessons that happen at one pace and place.

Whether a teacher, school leader, or policy maker thinks Facebook is GOOD or NOT for e-learning is not important. That is an attempt at categorizing the platform as suitable or not.

What is important is how students and teachers have already started using it as a learning tool or not. For example, students might use Facebook as an informal communication platform for homework help. Teachers might use it for persona-based lessons (e.g., Fakebook). Edmodo created the Facebook equivalent in education to leverage on social learning.

Learning does not just happen in the classroom or when the teacher says start. It can happen at any time and in any place as long as the learner has access and a question that needs answering.

Asking if Facebook (or any other tool for that matter) is suitable for teaching and learning is too late and the wrong question to ask. It has already been used by learners and educators who do not ask for permission, and in ways that might not be expected of the creators of the tool.


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