Students, parents and teachers have become used to personalising their own technological devices in order to follow their interests and intellectual pursuits as well as maintain connections with their colleagues, peers and friends. Access to the internet has enabled and unleashed the potential for learning almost anywhere, at any time and on virtually any topic.
The recently published report Mapping a Personalised Learning Journey – K-12 students and parents Connect the Dots with Digital Learning from surveys of students, parents and school leaders provides further evidence of the need to support personalised student learning. This report builds on previous Speak Up surveys and complements the work of Moyle and Owens (2008) Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices and the Students’ Voices website.
Students, parents, teachers, librarians and educational administrators from public and private schools across the US were surveyed on questions about using technology for learning, 21stcentury skills, the future, emerging technologies and the challenges that educators encounter integrating technology into their schools (p. 15). The report suggests that ‘technology is the great equalizer of opportunity’ (p. 1) and that ‘this value proposition around equity [can be extended] to greater personalization of the learning process as well (p. 1) because ‘students’ access to the Internet … has in fact broken the monopoly that traditional education systems have on learning’ (p. 2) as a one-size-fits-all experience.
Parents look to schools today to prepare students to develop the necessary skills in order to be successful in the future, so it is incumbent on schools to meet those expectations, is the underpinning rationale of the report. ‘This is the time to learn from the rich experiences that students are having outside of school with social media, online learning and mobile devices, and to use that knowledge to inform new approaches to in school use such as emerging technologies’ (p. 2). However, of concern is that the Speak Up data affirms ‘the persistence and expansion of a digital disconnect between students and educators, the gap between how today’s students want to use technology for learning and how technology is served up to them in school’ (p. 3).
Mapping a Personalised Learning Journey – K-12 students and parents Connect the Dots with Digital Learning finds that around 50% of students in years 6-12 maintain a personal social networking site and participate in online discussions boards, communities and chats. Students are using a range of strategies to adopt and adapt technologies to support their self-directed learning and online classes are often a supplement to traditional classes, especially using mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops, digital readers and tablets, ownership of which is increasing significantly. Mobile devices, social media and Internet resources are driving self-directed learning, states the report.
Students (~50%) report that they cannot use their mobile devices or access social networking sites at schools and argue that they should be permitted to use their own tools for learning. Personalisation of learning, according to students, would include research information, communication with others, access to online textbooks, personal reminders and alerts, collaboration with classmates and reviewing video lessons at a later time. The nascent ‘bring your own device’ alternative is being raised, for financial, practical and personalisation reasons, as one possible model to enable technology use in schools.
Interestingly, 57 percent of parents supported the use of mobile devices for learning at school whereas in stark contrast ‘65 percent of principals said that was unlikely’ (p. 9). Students submitted that through the use of mobile devices they could control their own learning, work at their own pace, get extra help, review materials as many times as needed and be comfortable in asking questions of their teachers (p.10). However, for 75% of students ‘maths and science class is still predominantly teacher-centred with little or no opportunities for students to direct their own learning, at their own pace, with their own tools (p. 11). Perhaps a balance between teacher instruction and self-directed learning is a model that could be further trialled and researched?
This is a challenging and confronting report for educators that provides the evidence for educational leaders to justify finding new ways for effective teaching and learning that uses technology. In the words of the report, a key factor for education today is ‘the extent that the school or district community of stakeholders (students, parents and educators) shares a common vision for leveraging technology to increase student achievement and teacher productivity’ (p. 13).
Mapping a Personalised Learning Journey – K-12 students and parents Connect the Dots with Digital Learning from Project Tomorrow is compelling reading for educational leaders seeking to improve education engagement and achievement.
Gerry White is Principal Research Fellow: Teaching & Learning using Digital Technologies, Australian Council for Educational Research
This article was first published on the Digital Education Research Network (DERN)
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