Saturday, December 22, 2018

8 Reasons Not To Love Personalized [sic] Learning

As we roll into 2019, it becomes increasingly clear that much of the education debate is going to center on Personalized [sic] Learning. I've poked at various parts of PsL at length, but I'm going to respond to someone who just wanted me to lay out the problems in a simple list. Challenge accepted.

First a note on terminology. We're going to have to start distinguishing between Personalized [sic] Learning, which is highly problematic, and personalized learning, which has been a good and worthwhile aim of classroom teachers for decades. The latter is the simple work of a human teacher trying to customize the educational experience to meet the needs and interests of a human child. The sales force for PsL would like you to believe they're selling the same thing. They aren't-- they're selling a adaptive algorithm doling out computer-based education-flavored materials, what is unironically called "mass customization." Here are my reasons for objecting to PsL:

1) The bait and switch. Wouldn't you like to have your child's education customer to meet her specific needs by a caring trained educator? Well, we won't actually give you that, but with this software we can provide sort of almost like it kind of a bit.

2) The lack of evidence. Does this actually work? There's no evidence that it does, though some purveyors are pretzeling themselves int a state by trying to cite things like an old study about tutoring.

3) The destruction of teaching. Personalized [sic] Learning proposes to remove the trained professional persons from the classroom and replace them with "mentors" and tech monitors, leaving students to get their personalized education from a machine.

4) The destruction of schools. If all we need is an internet hook-up, we can not only dismiss with teachers, but we can get rid of the whole "school" thing. We can learn anything from anyone anywhere at any time, which sounds cool until we consider learning cosmology from Bob's Space Stuff School or the Flat Earth Academy.

5) Educational decisions made by tech companies. For the gazillionth time-- software is not delivered by God on a velvet cloud. It comes from humans. If you have educational software created and designed by software engineers, then once again you've got school run by amateurs, a pastiche of biases and prejudices hiding behind the mask of technology. And it will the educational content will be chosen and designed for the delivery system, rather than vice versa-- and that's backwards. Tech companies, for oh so many reasons, should not be in charge of our education system.

6) Data security. These systems must be collectors of massive amounts of data. One of the biggest companies in PsL is Summit, which is backed by one of the biggest social media companies, Facebook, which has spent 2018 showing us all the reasons we can't trust it. From data that's grabbed by shady operators to data that's shared by the companies shady deals, there's an awful lot of data insecurity.

7) More top-downiness. Just like Common Core, PsL flows down from far away places. The computer-centered delivery system is a conduit that flows only one way, with the student being a passive recipient of what the system deals out. You can claim that the system deals materials out based on its careful reading of the student, and even if that weren't a load of baloney, it would still mean that the student is sitting there passively having education done too her.

8) Actually, we've seen this, and it stunk. PsL at its very worst is basically cyber-school, and what we've seen time and time again is that virtual schools don't get the job done. Rocketship Academy didn't change the face of education. Summit Learning is not universally beloved.

There's a great deal to dig through in detail here, and I have and I will, but if you want a quick answer to "Why shouldn't we cheerfully embrace Personalized [sic] Learning, this is it.

1 comment:

  1. #9: I want to sit in front of a computer screen six hours a day with no human interaction with a real teacher or my peers said NO student ever.

    This dumbest of all dumb ideas will fail on the most basic of all obstacles: kids don't want it.