Classrooms in the U.S. today look radically different than before. Students are invariably a diverse group of proficiencies and experiences, which contributes to a wide variety of needs that have to be met on a daily basis. It’s no longer feasible to teach to the middle of the curve. Teachers need to take into account language, student performance, cultural sensibilities, and social and emotional considerations.
Personalized learning using technology is now a critical approach that allows teachers to meet students where they are and channel the right instruction to the right kids. Due to the pandemic, advancements in technology have been accelerated and are more readily available to all kids in the classroom, opening all kinds of possibilities for effective personalized learning.
What Is Personalized Learning?
There are varying interpretations of personalized learning, including using adaptive software or a “data-driven” approach to education, giving students autonomy of their own learning, and nurturing each child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. In truth, all of these are attributes of personalized learning. But the fundamental premise of personalized learning is the ability to customize a student’s learning experience based on their particular needs, interests, and abilities.
Difference between Adaptive and Personalized Learning
Often, personalized learning and adaptive have become interchangeable as concepts, and while they are related, they are different. Personalized learning speaks to the instructional model that tailors the instructional experience for a student, so they are getting the most appropriate learning experiences for their specific needs. Teachers may organize their classrooms to personalize more efficiently with small groups or different resources, which don’t necessarily need to be digital.
Adaptive, on the other hand, speaks to a method of “how” that can be done more easily, invariably using technology. Technology adapts to what a student knows and doesn’t know and offers up the most appropriate content automatically. So, while adaptive solutions may support personalized learning, they are not necessarily a requirement.
“Personalized learning using technology is now a critical approach that allows teachers to meet students where they are and channel the right instruction to the right kids.”
What Does Personalized Learning Using Technology Look Like?
While technology isn’t a requirement for personalized learning, it sure can help! The advances in recommendation engines and the 1:1 availability of devices for students have made the possibilities of personalized learning a hot topic. Digital learning tools can automate this personalized learning process to a great degree, saving teachers a significant amount of time, and it’s also a way to engage students using intrinsic motivation.
There are a few basic components that apply to all programs:
- Student experience that can be gamified often, offering students formative assessment and practice experiences that determine their proficiency. Many of these programs enable independent practice where students can work on their own with minimal intervention from the teacher.
- Reporting provided to teachers that groups students by similar needs so that their learning can be orchestrated efficiently
- Recommendations for instructional support or practice offered for individual students or groups of students that are specific to their needs. Algorithms and learning models can detect with precision where students’ gaps are and surface pre-requisite skills for those students.
When these three components work together, programs can diagnose students’ needs based on assessments and activities being taken, and reporting can organize and group students so that it’s clear to the teacher what they know and don’t know and automatically recommend specific content that will help that student.
Examples of Personalized Learning Tools
Supplemental programs that personalize learning are fast becoming a staple, and there are various tools and programs to choose from out there that approach different aspects of student learning.
- Waggle is an adaptive practice and instructional support tool for K–8 Math and ELA that focuses on productive struggle, reinforcing good learning behavior, and driving student learning with supportive lessons and challenging learning goals.
- Amira zeros in on oral fluency. After students take a reading fluency assessment, they are automatically placed in 1:1 artificial intelligence-based reading tutoring.
Benefits of Personalized Learning Technology:
- Student engagement is top of mind for all teachers. Why shouldn’t students have some fun with learning? Although students will differ in what drives them, motivations like competitions, games, and avatars can provide intrinsic motivation to get them excited about their learning.
- Teacher efficiency is a key benefit in that students can work independently, and the data supplied to the teacher generate alerts when intervention is needed. This allows the teacher to devote their valuable time to where it’s needed most while students can continue their learning journey independently.
- Skill mastery and more sophisticated learning concepts like productive struggle can be automated for teachers so that students are working on the most challenging or scaffolded content that is leveled appropriately for them.
Personalized learning has met its moment. The 1:1 availability of technology in the classroom has created the perfect environment for the tailoring of instruction to meet the needs of each student. Technology can bring together gamified student experiences, reporting, and recommendations into solutions to drive higher student engagement and greater teacher efficiency and automate productive struggle where every student gets what they need.
Programs like Waggle, Amira, or other automated learning environments all tackle personalized learning differently but subscribe to the same promise of delivering experiences appropriate for each student. While personalized learning has been touted as a great white whale of the future, the advancements of technology, coupled with the diverse needs of the classroom, have secured this approach to learning as a concept that will continue to evolve as a central strategy in the classroom.
Watch our webinar Personalized Learning: The Why, How, and What for strategies and examples on how to personalize learning with and without technology in any classroom.
Waggle offers personalized practice and instruction for ELA and math in Grades K–8. Request a self-guided demo.