Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Notes on personalised learning environments for NZ secondary schools

Speculative thoughts on a personalised learning environment for NZ schools.

A truly personalised learning environment would consists of: a platform, a paradigm, and a pedagogy (The 3 Ps).

Some features of the Platform:

Digital - Seems pretty straightforward but ... everything is digital. I join, I sign-in, I aggregate, I share, I create, and I'm assessed digitally. (This "I" should probably learn how to type as a pre-requisite, it replaces penmanship and is part of an expanded digital literacy. How young can you learn now to type? Primary school?)

Data - Curriculum (in NZ, NCEA standards) is incredibly valuable - it creates the matrix through which I can track my progress. Personalisation depends on being able to view your learning accomplishments, your requirements, and your needs and interests from a birds eye view in relation to what is considered accomplished in a particular subject area. Collecting aggregating, and presenting this data is large part of this; as is protecting it. But it's not "data driven", in the sense that this is not about algorithms dictating to me. It's not Spotify, but it might be Pandora (in case you're a music geek.) The fact that I'm also creating digitally means I'm creating more data. This requires a big-data strategy. Big Data is not just the realm of scientists; but it does require computational expertise to be applied. Schools not only need pipes to carry data, they also need expertise. We need fully digital hi-tech librarians perhaps.

Social - School is a social experience. My peers are there to help and support me (this is behavior that teachers and community need to model online ... please!) They may be at different stages in the same journey, and are connected via strong and weak network bonds (see: interpersonal ties). Social includes the community outside of school. Yes, real people in real life. Just because it's all digital doesn't mean I don't get my fingers dirty.

Visualization - data about me needs to be able to be viewed from a variety of perspectives, and in ways responsive to the needs of the user. For example, an administrator, a counselor, a parent, and a teacher may wish to view data in a variety of formats that are relevant and make sense to them. Visualization needs to be in real time. It's not about surveillance. I don't see this as tracking progress in the traditional sense. It's about mapping. How can I help steer you towards resources, goals, and people? How can I know you and the thousand others?

There is definitely an ePortfolio like element to this, but the problem with the current ePortfolios I have observed are that they are not much more than content management systems for user generated documents. There is no intelligence built into them, they are tied to the desktop, and they are begrudgingly social. The platform needs to be geo-spatially aware and mobile as well because we are creating modern learning environments where learning and support for learning may be targeted towards specifically designed architectural spaces (the majority of school buildings in NZ were built between 1950 and 1970). Being geo-spatially aware also alerts the user to the proximity of peers. I will "check-in" to the library and "check-out" digital books. The point is to pair devices and their owners.

This is a quick brain dump, not a plan, or a blog post even. Add your thoughts in the comments if you care to.

Next up ... The Paradigm.



Further reading about Modern Learning Environments