Saturday, April 13, 2013

Personalized - not Individualized - Learning

I finally had the opportunity to see Yong Zhao present in person at the LHRIC Tech Expo a week ago. He was as good as advertised. Much of what he said was not new to me, as I've read some of his work and other folks are saying similar things.

But there was one idea that stuck with me. This is from my notes so may not be a perfect quote, but should be pretty close:
We should be striving for personalized learning, not individualized learning. Individualized learning is a different approach toward the same goal.
This is something I think I've been trying to get my head around for a while now, but he succinctly captured it in two sentences. A lot of the affordances of technology can be applied to either of those approaches, personalized or individualized. I've typically used some form of "personal" when I talk about this, but I've also typically equated it with "individualized." Dr. Zhao points out the flaw in that equation and I think it's important for me - and others - to recognize it.

I find myself thinking more and more about how we can personalize education for our students (and ourselves), not individualize. I really want the learning to be personal, to meet the needs and passions of the learner, not the needs or desires of the state. I want it to stimulate creativity, and diversity of thought, and a sense of curiosity and wonder. I want it to be more of a "strength" model, not a "deficit" model.

My worry is that where I see "personal" some folks see "individualized," where we use these new technologies to individualize the approach to each student so that they achieve higher, but still with the same end in mind (a standardized knowledge base). While I do think that's marginally better than the current approach (standardized approaches to a standardized end), I worry that much of the promise I see will be directed toward an end that is detrimental for our students.


  1. I agree with (what I think are) your thoughts on individualized learning. I don't like the isolation component of what I perceive as individualized learning. I would love to hear more about your thoughts on personalized learning and how we can create this for students. Tell me more. :)

  2. Very interesting concept. Like everything in education, much easier said than done.