Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Personalized Learning: Inflated Expectations?

CJ Westerberg, July 30, 2013 10:21 PM

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"Clearly there are some advantages at having certain things
personalized for you.
As long as it's some options, choices and suggestions,
then it's okay.
But I wouldn't want to be limited only to what a machine suggests for me.
If it's central to my experience,
if I'm categorized in a certain way and
pushed down a certain path,
it could make a much worse experience for me.
"
                                               - Mitchel Resnick, MIT Media Lab, SCRATCH

Three Questions
  "Adaptive" Assessments and Learning

by C.J. Westerberg

I've been doing much research on what happy, satisfied, successful people have in common or what roads they have traveled and many have had multiple pivots, not straight shots toward Mozart prodigy-like outcomes.

"For example, if we want to understand
how and what children learn,
sitting down and talking to one of the students
can also be very useful.
"

-Mitchel Resnick

Does it take an MIT Lab education thought-leader to remind us of this common sense?

Below are excerpts from an important interview with Mitchel Resnick, who discusses whether and why kids should how to code (to not necessarily become a coder), his experience with MOOCs to teach creativity and what he learned, and the power of community.

For me, the epic and elegant wow in this interview via Hechinger is this one.  Check it out:

Q: What do you think of so-called adaptive learning, where computers tailor instruction for each student?

A:  Clearly there are some advantages at having certain things personalized for you. As long as it's some options, choices and suggestions, then it's okay. But I wouldn't want to be limited only to what a machine suggests for me. If it's central to my experience, if I'm categorized in a certain way and pushed down a certain path, it could make a much worse experience for me.

The machine could have students avoid things they might have been interested in. If the machine is trying to make a guess, based on how I answered one question, what would be appropriate to show me next, even if you and I answer a question the same way, it could be for different reasons. Even if we make the same mistake on the same question, it might be for different reasons. When a machine tries to make suggestions for you, a lot of time it's wrong. It can be more frustrating than it's worth. I personally tend to be somewhat skeptical when the machines try to be too intelligent.

One other caution would be, it's great to have things that are specialized for me, but it's also great to be part of a greater community.

I sometimes worry [that] it's very easy for computers to give feedback these days. It's seen as this great thing. Students are filling out answers to problem sets and exams. Right away it shows them if they're right or wrong and they can get feedback right away, which can influence what they do next. Getting feedback is great. I'm all for feedback.

My concern, it's only easy to give feedback on certain types of knowledge and certain types of activity. I think there's a real risk, that we as a society, are going to end up giving too much privilege to the types of knowledge and the types of activity that are most easily evaluated and assessed computationally.

Q: Are you worried about more multiple-choice worksheets in our schools?

A: If that's the result, then it's a really bad result.

Q: What do you think of using data to influence instruction? Using big data sets to change how schools teach kids?

A:  To be honest, being at a place like MIT, people here are focused a lot at looking at data and treat data in a very privileged way. I'm often on the side of saying, "Wait a minute. We shouldn't be designing everything just on the data." Yes, we should take advantage of the data. But there are other ways of trying to get information as well. For example, if we want to understand how and what children learn, sitting down and talking to one of the students can also be very useful.


For full story: MIT technology trailblazer is critic of computerized learning

Resnick is a voice to be reckoned with, as "the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. His research group is best known for inventing two blockbuster educational technologies: the programmable bricks used in the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits and Scratch, a computer programming language that allows children to create and share interactive stories, games and animations."

Related:
Life as Learning Lab by Mitchel Resnick - tribute to Alan Kay via The Daily Riff
Adaptive Testing Gains Momentum, Prompts Concern via Edweek
LEGO founder opening school (not your daddy's school) via The Daily Riff
Does your school know SCRATCH, SQUEAK and ALICE? via The Daily Riff


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The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.
Alvin Toffler
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