The old-school methods of conducting a classroom simply don’t work for today’s plugged-in students, who gain little from churning out stacks of worksheets and study guides. Modern learning theory supports the shift away from antiquated, rote learning models toward personalized learning opportunities in which instructional designs and academic-support strategies are tailored to each individual student’s needs rather than uniform lesson planning. This model also creates fun and engaging classroom atmospheres that benefit students and teachers alike.
Personalized learning is not a new concept, but the emergence of classroom technology has made it easier for educators to develop and deliver such student-centered lessons. This article explores the benefits of personalized learning and how technology provides alternatives to traditional “one-size-fits-all” approaches to teaching.
Drive Student Engagement
A common problem in classrooms is a disconnection between teachers and students. Instructors are often not using the same language as their students, and the passive way in which information is delivered can create even more disconnect for students who are either very far ahead or very far behind their peers. This is one of the areas in which the personalized learning model greatly benefits teachers and students alike.
Because this model takes into account each student’s learning needs, interests, abilities, and aspirations, personalized learning creates more engaging and dynamic classrooms that drive academic achievement and personal growth. In fact, case studies have found that implementing technology in the classroom to create personalized learning plans increases student achievement and improves test scores by an average of 30%. Here are some of the specific ways teachers can use technology to create, implement, and measure personalized lessons:
- Deliver instruction through engaging forms of media, including videos, audio clips, and interactive games
- Give students more options beyond the traditional essay, poster, or report; for example, students can deliver a multimedia slide presentation or a comic created with animation software to convey their understanding of a topic
- Use digital tools to gather immediate feedback on students’ understanding and use the information to customize subsequent lessons
Facilitate Design Thinking
Personalized learning, design thinking (DT), and project-based learning (PBL) often go hand in hand. Design thinking is being used in health care, business, education, and other fields as a strategic problem-solving method that involves stakeholders and fosters empathy. PBL is focused on driving students to research, encounter, and interact with the central concepts and principles of a particular discipline or topic. Design thinking is being used in healthcare, business, education, and other fields as a strategic problem-solving method that involves stakeholders and fosters empathy. These student-driven learning projects have been shown to increase student engagement and help students retain content longer and gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum than traditional classroom settings. PBL supports the personalized learning model by allowing teachers to tailor research projects based on the interests, aspirations, cultural backgrounds, or learning needs of individual students.
Within DT and PBL classrooms, technology puts students in more active and engaging roles with regard to their education, particularly about how to collaborate and research, as well as how to generate, obtain, manipulate, interpret, and display information. Technology also allows for more dynamic lesson plans that can be geared toward individual students or groups of students, as opposed to teacher-led discussions or textbook lessons that assume a group baseline and ignore the personalized needs of individual learners.
Streamline Differentiated Learning
The old style of teaching a class involves a linear process of the teacher introducing new material, followed by students practicing the new skill with worksheets and taking a test to demonstrate understanding. The class moves forward regardless of how many students actually master the material. Lagging students get left behind, while others are bored because they master the subject faster than their peers.
One goal of a personalized learning plan is giving students time to explore subjects that interest them, in ways that work best for them. Educators are coming to understand that every student in a classroom possesses a unique set of talents and interests. Personalized learning allows students to express their curiosity and put forth their best work using tools and strategies that highlight their abilities rather than illuminate their disabilities. When each student is allowed to shine in his or her own unique way, your classroom culture will become more positive and students will be encouraged to keep pushing themselves to do better on each successive project.
Numerous studies have concluded that differentiated classrooms do a better job of providing students of all abilities the instruction they need. High-performing students stay challenged and less bored, while students with mild to severe disabilities are also offered the opportunity to learn and demonstrate competency in ways that work for them.
Master Personalized Learning with an M.Ed. in Learning Design and Technology
To gain a solid foundation in educational technology, learning theories, curriculum design, and differentiated classroom facilitation, consider earning your Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology. This program will equip you to effectively teach students of all skill levels and abilities by developing instruction for individualized learning. Contact Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and request information about our online M.Ed. in Learning Design and Technology program.
Check out the “How Educators Use Technology and Data to Guide Teaching and Learning” free eBook.