Stephen Downes on Personalized and personal learning

I enjoy Stephen Downes’ OlDaily blog because his writing inspires me a lot.
His thoughts on personalized and personal learning contain a very amusing comparison with dining:

Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store. You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

Reflecting upon my own experience as a teacher and how other educators learn I see a clear distinction between those who wait to be served and those that boldly go where none have gone before. It reminds me of Priestly & Biesta’s Agency. (an excellent excerpt can be read in Rene Kneyber’s Flip the System II). They argue that teacher autonomy is not enough. Rather, we need to focus on teacher agency and the conditions in which it can be accomplished.  This requires an active approach instead of a passive responsiveness to the current status quo. Educators can be an agent of change. If they are willing to do some shopping themselves (in line with Downes reasoning) the can make an education personal. If an educator or teacher chooses to remain passive (which seems unprofessional to me) and serve the Educational Fast Food found in most modern educational publishers catalogue, then education will succumb more of it’s stature.

Let’s do a little taught experiment! Her are some questions:

  • What is the impact of personal learning on students compared to personalized learning?
  • How does this relate to the common one-size-fits-all instruction in most classrooms today?
  • How will students benefit from teacher training becoming personal instead of personalized?
  • How will students and/or teachers benefit from educational management training becoming personal instead of personalized?

I think all people involved in education need to figure out how to be an agent of change.


Vicky Davis on Writing

Vicky Davis on Writing

Vicky Davis is a cool teacher. She even has a cool twitter handle: @coolcatteacher.She recently posted “4 great writing tips“. Writing is fundamental in education because it allows us to express ourselves. I applied Vicky’s ideas in this blog post and I am considering using these tips in all my posts.

For instance, this text has been checked by Grammarly. Isn’t that awesome! Just as Vicky suggested, Grammarly is helping me improve my English. It is providing me with the necessary feedback to understand my errors.

I used to improve the readability of this text. I liked it so much, that I bought the desktop version.

Beyond test-focused policies

Welner and Mathis (National Education Policy Center) make a strong case against the focus on standardized testing. I agree there are limits to the testing. It’s a means to an end. That end is not the test itself, but part of communicating with students about learning experiences.

To me the goal of education should be to improve the Self (Keegan) through dialogue (Biesta / Deridda) and therfore learning outcomes can be undefined! It’s the learning experience that defines the true value. It creates a better understanding (context), yet allows each participant to take ownership and personal definition. Yes we can agree to disagree! Something which is rarely part of formative assesment.

Sidorkin’s Beyond Descourse  takes dialogue beyond the framework of discourse, making it an end in itself rather than a means toward better education. Therefore to improve education in the creative classroom we should be willing to have dialogue without predefined outcomes.

Practically this could be something like: “Choose a subject you would likt to investigate and choose your own method of presenting your findings!”. My role would be to frequently engage students in a dialogue which is focussed on the process,  the inquiry ( or Enquiry as in Roberts) and not on the subject of their research. I find this to be a great way of challenging stundents to express themselves.