Is Personalized Learning the New Model Of Education?
Personalized learning as the term implies is the model of learning that focuses on the individual or the learner. It is student-centred as opposed to the teacher-centred method. Personalized learning puts the learner at the focal point of the entire teaching and learning exercise, taking into consideration their uniqueness, strengths and weaknesses.
There are different categories of learners. There are the fast learners and the slow learners. There are the “proactive” learners and the “reactive” learners. Some students are analytical while others are technical in orientation. In point of fact, every student is more or less unique in terms of their cognitive abilities or how fast they can comprehend a lesson or subject.
Therefore a system of education that does not take the peculiarities of learners into consideration is dead on arrival. Such a model cannot work in an increasingly digitalized world where exposure to technology and more efficient ways of doing things have made most 20th century methods obsolete.
The world has moved beyond the age of brick and mortar classrooms where the teacher’s goal is to deliver the lesson of the day as quickly as possible and get out, whether or not the content is properly understood by all the learners. In fact, in a typical African classroom, learners are often shy to say they don’t understand a concept or lesson because of the kind of reaction they might get from their peers or even the teacher. Slow learners are often ridiculed and dubbed “dull”, “unserious”, or “olodo” as some folks are popularly called in many Nigerian schools. Hence, typically, when a teacher delivers his lesson and asks if it is understood, the whole class would chorus a thunderous “yes sir!!!”, even though some learners, probably up to half the class, do not understand a thing taught in that class. This is the ugly truth about the state of learning in most parts of Africa.
The negative impact of this model of learning on the performance of students in internal and external examinations such as SSCE, UTME and BECE cannot be downplayed. We have observed with awe how the standard of education has continued to plummet in this country. The direct result of this is the alarming rate of failure in external examinations. The remote consequence is the quality of graduates produced by our higher institutions and the non-productivity and lack of creativity of the country’s teeming population of “educated” youths. Being unemployable in most competence- and skills-driven sectors, these graduates are often recruited as teachers into an educational system that is already plagued with a plethora of problems to continue a vicious cycle.
The cycle may seem endless, but it begins with the quality of education and methods of teaching and learning at the disposal of schools and learners. The old physical classroom method of instruction continues to show its limitations as technology gradually makes the world digitally smaller, and overwhelming amounts of information are made readily available for the consumption of the individual.
A lot of technological devices are now available to students – smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs, video games and smart TVs. Contact and interaction with these technologies create a functional addiction to them in no time. The result of this is that students, in fact, most people, including the much revered teachers, now spend a huge chunk of their time with one of the aforementioned devices or the other.
So if students spend so much time on their phones and computers, how do we get them to pick up their books and read, or concentrate in class?
The bare truth is that paper books are becoming harder to read as students get more exposed to digital screens. So the simple solution is to give all the books digital screens, literally speaking. What you are reading now is a simple example. You’d probably not be reading this if it is buried deep within a 350-paged hardcover book.
Everything is going digital, and so must learning. The benefits of digital or electronic learning includes personalized learning among other things which make the experience appealing to the new generation of learners.
Personalized learning as stated in the earlier paragraphs is a concept of tailoring the content and pace of learning to suit the peculiar needs of learners. When a lesson is delivered electronically or made accessible over a network, learners can easily access the content from anywhere and at anytime they wish. Thus, students can learn when it is most convenient for them and at a time when they are less distracted. Everyone has their ideal time to study. In addition, there is no sense of hurry in order to meet up with the pace of the teacher or the very smart ones in the class. You simply follow your own set pace. What is more? When you attempt an assessment of your progress and fail a test, you won’t get your ego bruised as you would in class when your classmates mock you for failing to answer a “simple” question correctly.
The benefits of personalized learning delivered electronically are almost endless. However, the goal of this post is not to undermine or discredit the impact of the traditional classroom in learning, but to encourage the adoption of digital technology in order to mitigate the shortcomings of the physical classroom.
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