Personalized learning has long seemed like a pipe dream for educators—but after the COVID-19 pandemic forced learning largely online, educators began making greater use of the available tools that can help deliver a targeted education to each and every student. Recently, Dr. Michael Conner discussed a few of the ways that teachers can utilize modern technology to personalize learning for students.
What is Personalized Learning?
Personalized learning can mean different things to different people. Generally, it describes a purposeful design of multiple instruction types to help mix face-to-face teaching, student-to-student collaboration, and technology-assisted instruction.
Personalized instruction can take a variety of forms, whether you’re using software to help design a curriculum or creating your own activities. Online learning systems can help instructors track students’ learning needs and work to create targeted programs to improve the educational process.
Using Technology for Personalized Learning
There are a wide variety of technology tools that can make personalized learning easier—and many of them were developed only recently, during the pandemic. But for any personalized learning plan to be successful, it will need to contain a few key elements.
Assess Prior Knowledge
Before a unit begins, it’s important for students to share everything they know about the lesson topic. This helps provide the building blocks of personalized instruction, giving teachers important data on each student’s baseline. “Without knowing a particular student’s prior knowledge,” Dr. Conner explains, “a personalized learning plan may not be personal to that student at all.”
After you’ve assessed each student’s baseline, you’ll be able to provide personalized learning activities that meet each student where they are. These activities can be spread throughout a unit or program like breadcrumbs, providing the reward (and rush of endorphins) that comes from achieving something new in a fun and rewarding way.
From the teacher’s perspective, these personalized activities can serve as guideposts to assess the student’s grasp of the material. If the student isn’t doing well on certain activities, the results can help fill in gaps and indicate what knowledge the student may be missing.
These learning activities can also reveal each student’s growth pattern to see how much they’ve improved from their initial knowledge assessment. Those who improve more quickly can move on to different units; those who are taking more time can complete different tailored activities to reiterate the lessons being taught.
Because the assessment process is so personalized, educators can see at a glance which students aren’t appropriately grasping the material. Students who are struggling can be provided additional resources to get them up to target. Technology can collate this data so quickly, allowing teachers to free up their valuable time for lesson planning and one-on-one meetings with students who may be struggling.
How to Get Started
For teachers and educators who don’t already have a technology-integrated classroom, the thought of doing so can be daunting. One way to break it down into an easier process is often to think of a problem you have that technology could solve. For example, would you like to free up the time you spend grading homework or papers? Do you struggle teaching a class with a mix of high-performing and underperforming students? Would you like to be able to grade assignments from the comfort and convenience of your phone? Would your students benefit from seeing graded work from other students instead of operating in a vacuum?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, personalized learning technology may be a next step that makes sense. From the teacher’s perspective, personalized learning can solve many systemic issues in the education system. From the students’ perspective, these personalized learning programs can help identify individual learning styles, provide access to other students’ responses to aid their cognition, and provide the satisfaction that comes from achieving something new.
About the Author:
About Michael Conner, Ed.D: He is the CEO & Founder of Agile Evolutionary Group. He believes that in order to achieve different results, we must approach problems differently. With close to two decades of experience in the classroom and in positions of educational leadership, Dr. Conner is interested in using data science to provide objective statistics to educate businesses. He attended the Harvard Business Analytics Program from 2018 to 2020.