What is Personalization/Personalized Learning?

According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), personalized learning is:

“Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests – including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn – to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

Ultimately personalization, while not requiring individual learning plans for each student, addresses the needs of individual students. Successful personalization requires teachers to truly know their students and how they learn best.

The concept of personalized learning and its importance in education is nothing new. For years, educators have touted the merits of personalized learning. We know that it works and the research bears it out. One only need look at the $840 million a year tutoring industry to understand the value of personalized learning. After all, tutoring centers leverage the benefits of personalized learning to sell their product.

Assuming the goal of education is mastery, personalization is the only approach that will afford all students an equal opportunity to demonstrate mastery. As almost any parent with more than one child will tell you, every child is different. They learn to walk, talk, and read at various rates. Why should we believe that learning content is any different? Yet by teaching a class of 30 students all at the same pace and through the exact same method, we are not considering those differences.

Personalize Learning with Blended Learning

The truth is, while we have known of the importance of personalization for many years, it has never been practical to personalize in a classroom of 30 students. So, what has changed to make this a reality? As in many other professions, new technology has given educators the ability to revolutionize the craft.

The use of technology for personalization is the very definition of blended learning. Many people mistakenly believe that blended learning is simply incorporating technology into traditional classroom instruction. However, the Christensen Institute’s definition of blended learning makes it clear that much more is required to truly be defined as blended learning.“The definition of blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:

  • at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  • at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  • and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”
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