Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Digital Learning should be Personalized Learning

Learning is most effective when it’s personalised; it means something to the learner. That happens when people feel they are participants and investors in their own learning, shaping what and how they learn, and able to articulate its value to them.” — Leadbeater, Charles, “What’s next? 21 Ideas for 21st Century Learning”

The teacher’s role is changing from a one-to-many distributor of content (lecturing), to a facilitator of one-to-many personalized and blended learning environments, and reinforcement over time to create individual mastery. Technology must individually deliver proven accelerated learning methodologies for participants to enage the content interactively over time. The teacher will facilitate bettered individual learning outcomes through technologies. The cool technology, like the iPad, is only individually valuable if the learning is truely changed from one-to-many to one-to-one.

Telstra Enterprise and Government just released a white paper titled Personalised Learning, itself is the outcome of an Education Roundtable held a year earlier, and interviews with a variety of Australian senior educators and government officials. Some remarkable stories/practices about the innovative work occurring in the education space are told. The White Paper summary makes five points, and some key ideas follow as below.
1. Today’s student is different in meaningful ways and as a result is transforming education as an institution.

2. In a 21st century model of education, learning can be liberated and enhanced in a technology rich environment.

3. Twenty-first century skills should be the outcome of a 21st century education.

4. Getting education right for the future requires a different approach to teaching and an on-going commitment to upskilling teachers for the very special task of designing and facilitating effective and engaging learning experiences.

5. Transformation starts by building a partnership that can put in motion a set of disciplined experiments designed to form the building blocks for a new educational model.

Today’s students have grown up in a world “saturated with technology”.  Next generations have grown up in a digital world that allows them to customise their experiences as well as the products and services they receive. Technology is a key vehicle by which education can be brought to life, helping children to have learning in the way of how they interact with the world through their lives. 

With easy access and increased control over the selected content, the learner can personalise the lecture experience, pacing the viewing and reviewing as learning needs required. With an increasing amount of high quality content available online, learners are able to learn from, interact with, and leverage the perspectives of multiple experts as they engage in a personal learning journey outside the classroom. The portable devices replacing print textbooks can access not just a book but a whole library of books. Recent advances in digital textbooks, allow students to highlight and annotate content, take notes in the margin, view videos or listen to audio, take interactive quizzes, play high quality learning games and collaborate with others.

Flexible devices like smart phones or tablets are able to move with the learner, deliver just-in-time insight at the points of need. That makes on-demand learning resources and assessments recording can be offered with ubiquity, portability. “Learning does not necessarily mean four walls”, as Greg Prior, NSW Deputy Director-General, shared, “We need to think now about how we can get mobile into our current asset environment. A learning society is mobile.”

By managing complex student data via technology, teachers are able to target specific student learning needs using a portfolio of high quality, flexible and engaging content. This leads education move away from “instructor led mass education” that was provided during much of the 20th century; offers students an opportunity to learn in ways that suit their individual learning style s and multiple intelligences, often with extensive use of technology in the process.

Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. Neuroscience reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints. Three primary brain networks come into play, thus three principles of UDL are defined.

universal design learning, UDL, personalized learning

CAST(Center for Applied Special Technology, founded in 1984) is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through Universal Design for Learning. Also usually in “normal” classrooms without special education support, those students with issues like short attention and emotional problems will be left behind in learning. But UDL aims to teach every students by differrentiated learning designs. The goal of UDL is to create environments in which everyone will have the opportunity to become expert learners. (Teacher-Friendly UDL Tools Examples and Resources ;UDL videos, articles, presentations, and links Resource Library )

Technology is an enabler giving our newest generation of students a voice and the means to actively engage with teachers in the co-design and development of their own personalised learning experience. To enable students become capable learners and put them in charge of their personalised learning should be an very important step toward success.

These are other great articles about personalized learning with more practices and thoughts :

From GOOD Education : Why Alternative Education Needs to Go Mainstream

From Digital Learning Now : Element #3- Personalized Learning 

From World Future Society : The World Is My School: Welcome to the Era of Personalized Learning 


More links to articles and stories about Personalized learning curated by Kathleen McClaskey.

More recommended reading : Better Individual Learning PathResources about Universal Design 


Note: Since this blog was moved to here without having the possibility to keep all old comments with it, I attached one of the most important comment as below:


I worry very much about the graphic you present here.  It is quite appealing.  I can see a cottage industry develop around providing teacher useable content, but isn’t this the same road we went down a few decades ago with the advocacy for “brain-based” learning?  I have just finished reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary” and it took him nearly 600 pages to ‘re-nuance’ the big mistakes we made in so-called left brain/right brain ‘breakthroughs’.  I worry that  the visual might function as a callosumectomy, dividing the whole brain into pieces and making the same mistake that Descartes did and that (according to McGilchrist) we have made ever since–the valorization of the left brain.

Having said that I do appreciate that we are learning more about the brain’s functions every day.  But we must take the adage to heart that to a carpenter everything looks like a nail to be pounded or a board to be cut.  As teachers does this also mean we use every brain discovery as a tool to lever ‘learning’?  I guard against this.  If we found out that subliminal messaging worked would we use that in every lesson plan?   I would not use it with children and I would be very wary of using it with adults.

ClassroomAidInc reply:

Iain McGilchrist’s ideas can be found in this video:…

I also found this article could be of interest for this post’s readers: Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching… (briefing on learning science and links to more info.)

Yes. The science of learning is still under exploring and could even work differently for every learner. I think the picture from CAST is trying to demo. several factors involving the success of learning.
Thank you for the considerate comments.


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4 Responses »


  1. Resources about Universal Design | Classroom Aid
  2. Resources about Universal Design | Classroom Aid
  3. Stages of Personalized Learning Environments | Classroom Aid
  4. Digital Learning should be Personalized Learnin...

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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