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Personalized Learning: The New Robot

The claim to Personalized Learning is one of the recent buzzwords in education just as the claim to offering 'robotics' was in the late 70's and early 80's. Robots were showing up on the manufacturing floor in big numbers. Unfortunately, most of these new 'robots' turned out to be dumb pick and place systems. Almost anything was called a robot. Industry was so hyped over the problems automation could solve in manufacturing, there were few standards to define what constituted a robotic system. Change was rapid, and with the onslaught of new products, industry was caught by surprise. The confusion of it all sent a lot of expensive hardware to the boneyard. It took years before industry standards were well enough established, together with the advancement of technology, to end the confusion. There is no uncertainty about what constitutes a robot anymore.

The same idea is happening today to Personalized Learning in education. Most educators recognize the enormous changes that have taken place in the way information is transmitted. Newsflash: Almost no one reads printed newspapers anymore! Oddly though, most students are continuing to to be educated inside the same system we've used for the past 400 years. Fortunately, many are beginning to recognize that if we are to see advancement in the educational process, that process must change. Unfortunately, most are not recognizing that the entire mindset to education must first change because the entire mindset of how and why students learn has changed. So, the hype over personalized learning is growing. But as a result of a lack of mindset change, when most claim personalized learning, it results merely in the same process being tweaked, terminology adjusted, and voila, Personalized Learning! If it was only that easy.

Personalized Learning requires an entire overhaul of traditional education. It cannot be a 'pick and place' system, which was just inputs and outputs from a programmable controller controlling the same mechanical device. Personalized Learning is not a student sitting at a computer, working with an online curriculum, plunking away at whatever pace they can muster. In that process, they are still trying to gather enough information and memorize enough facts so they can score high enough on state standardized testing to make the organization appear to be educating your child. This is the natural bi-product of our current system because a school's entire value is rooted in standardized testing results. Schools design curriculum to pass state standardized tests - not necessarily for what the future will require of our children. A+ rated schools have become schools who know a little better how to get students to do a little better on the state standardized test. One A+ school we researched boasted that 43% of their graduates were prepared for college. Really?!

An educational system designed around personalized learning is not easy. And it isn't cheap. But it is the future. Clear standards must be defined so that the need for change is recognized, accepted, and actualized. When we are able to do that, it will be easy to identify what is truly a personalized learning process and what is merely tweaking an old system and renaming it.

Once the mindset toward automating manufacturing processes changed, workers were reeducated to meet the future they were facing. Education is at that juncture. Everything has changed. Education must undergo a massive overhaul. That will necessitate changes to both our mindset toward education and the process of education. The system must change because our children's needs have changed. Their future depends on us recognizing that. Knowing our children cannot be educated the way our grandparents were educated is the first step.

Paradigm Learning Microschools has implemented 5 elements of a personalized learning system and 5 learning zones to provide a massive paradigm shift in how we educate our students. It is designed to meet the future they are facing. It isn't the easy way. But it is the future of education. In coming posts I will define each element and zone in order to clarify the standards of Personalized Learning.

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