Sunday, 28 March 2010

Personalisation; moving forward on another front

Personalised learning means different things to different people. A lot of the debate focuses on who personalises the learning; the teacher for the learner, or the learner for themselves. Despite this polarisation, there would appear to be some agreement on what characteristics the ‘learner’ might have.

They will be self motivated and self regulated, making decisions about what they need to learn, how and when they learn; they will have a ‘say’ in the design of their learning experiences. They will be ‘active’ learners who value their own ideas and respect those of others; they will have the confidence an ability to put their ideas forward; they will reflect on their learning, identifying how they can improve. They will exercise choice as they develop as independent, lifelong learners.

Personalisation recognises that the learner is an individual and that it is no longer acceptable to provide or target ‘education’ at a group; that ‘one size’ does NOT ‘fit all’ learners, and that ‘traditional’ teaching, a practice primarily designed with economy of the teaching resource in mind, does not promote personalised learning. Personalisation acknowledges a need to open up education to learners who had previously been ‘left behind’ and that “more tailored approaches for learners” are required if we are to improve the ‘education offer’ available to our learners, a system that would better address the “disparities that see so many groups of learners, often the most vulnerable, fail to thrive and succeed.”

The need to cater for those learners that have been ‘left behind’ adds weight to the argument for creating a system that recognises and addresses the needs of individual learners. Catering for the need of this group of learners “is critical in working towards a society where a child’s chances of success are not limited by their socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity or any disability.” Personalised learning is promoted as something that can support the aspiration that all learners should have an entitlement to an education and to learning opportunities that are relevant, appropriate and accessible.

Until now it appears that most of the ‘personalisation’ experimentation and curriculum development has focussed on Yesterday’s, classroom-rooted learners. Learners who followed the pre-planned journey that their teachers had planned for them, often reluctantly, often distracted by the media rich environment that they operate in. Perhaps an unacceptable generalisation, but, progress towards personalised learning, with this group of learners appears to be quite slow.

With this back-drop, might it not now be useful to focus on a different group of learners; a group that does not operate in a traditional classroom; a group that are themselves looking towards technology to support them with their learning? Why not direct effort and resource towards home-based learners and explore how the developing social tools and technology might support their ‘personalised’ learning? We might be able to distil something from this experience that, in turn, might help the classroom-rooted learner.

“A central feature of any model of personalising learning is the focus on building the confidence and capacity of the individual learner – in a sense empowering the learner”.

A Starting point

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Transforming Learning

Fate is a strange thing, it has presented me with a real application for the social software that I had been experimenting with, while at the same time, forcing me to extend my thinking about the potential and importance of an ‘open’ curriculum. It has provided me with the opportunity to witness technology being used to transform learning by enabling learning to happen when without using the technology it would not be possible for the learning opportunities to be accessed. Now that does not happen everyday!

I have had the privilege of working with Dan; a quadriplegic who controls his computer by a cheek operated switch pad. He spends most of his day in his bed. He is an exceptional and very determined 21year old who is permanently connected up to a ventilator; he should not be able to speak, but he can. He has persevered and can now control the complex, ventilator driven, air flow such that he has a voice. He is a home-based learner who wants to communicate with others; he wants to participate and contribute. He has his own views, aspirations and ideas that he wants to share. He recognises the potential of learning to ‘free’ him from his room and actively seeks out opportunities to learn. He is looking towards the collaborative, participatory Web for a solution. A solution that would, and already has, transformed the way he learns, communicates and participates.

During recent weeks I have assisted Dan as he has embarked on his journey of exploration, that hopefully, will provide him with a global ‘voice’. A learning journey where he will explore the potential of the developing Web 2 tools; to find out if they can open up new horizons for him.

Dan has mastered Skype and can now manage his own virtual classroom using Elluminate. On March 29th at 14.00 GMT, Dan will deliver a public presentation, from his bedroom. A presentation that will describe his journey so far. He will use a public room within Elluminate.

More importantly, this session will provide an opportunity for others to share their experiences and ideas about how Social Software/tools might help a home-based learner. A real challenge and opportunity. I hope that you are able to contribute.

Please forward this ‘invitation’ to anyone in your personal learning network who you think might want to contribute. We will use the Twitter Tag #HomeBL

The session is scheduled for 14.00 on Monday 29th March (GMT) please join us by following this link