My fears about "personalized learning" went up a notch when I read yesterday that this is (surprise, surprise) also the "vision" of none other than news magnate Rupert Murdoch. (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/24/murdoch-eg8-invest-education-technology)
Janet Steffenhagen reported: "While saying technology will never replace teachers, he urged businesses to invest in digital innovations to revolutionize classrooms and promote personalized learning." (see: http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/archive/2011/05/24/today-s-schools-quot-a-colossal-failure-of-imagination-quot-murdoch.aspx)
According to Murdoch, education should be personalized by using "targeted software" similar to how marketing sells products via the internet to target audiences. Buying computers for schools in unnecessary. This will apparently let us "ensure the poor child in Manila has the same chance as the rich child in Manhattan."
Is Mr. Murdoch living on another planet? In 2009, "Personal computer ownership is non-existent for the poorest half of all households in the country, while 30 percent of the richest income decile are able to own computers." (see: http://www.yps.org.ph/blog/digital-divide-philippines)
And why are wealthy newspaper magnates giving speeches on education reform in the first place? Didn't New York City learn that lesson when they hired Cathie Black, chairperson of Hearst Magazines, who lasted a few short months when her approval rating dropped to 17%. Even USA Today reported:
Black's departure is more fraught. Critics say she was never a good fit for the job — a businesswoman who had no education experience and never offered a compelling vision for city schools. Black is a former USA TODAY publisher and head of Hearst magazines.
"She came in with very little knowledge of school systems or of the educational debates," said Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C., education think tank. "Neither she nor the mayor ever made it clear why she was the best one for that job." (see: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-04-07-nyc-schools-chancellor-black_N.htm)
It is frightening that the BC government is pushing the same agenda. They have been very coy about the actual application of personalized learning, but it is becoming more and more clear that this involves a model of blended online and face to face learning. Read: fewer teachers, less instructional time for students. Or call it personalized if you want to dress it up, but that word can mean an awful lot of things.
Rosetta stone (the language learning software) is "personalized" in the Murdoch-ian / BC government sense. It is very good at adapting your lessons based on how you do on tests. If your pronunciation is weak, you get more speaking drills. But it is very standard in the sense that it is an off the shelf box. It doesn't know your child, your home, your community. It doesn't know your hopes and dreams. It is a far cry from the type of "personalization" that Sir Ken Robinson talks about - personalization based on the individual learner in a holistic and meaningful way.
But that costs money, doesn't it.