Edtech Business

Stacey Childress: "Personalized Learning Will Go Mainstream"

By Stacey Childress     Jan 1, 2014

Stacey Childress: "Personalized Learning Will Go Mainstream"

At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we envision afuture in which students’ learning experiences will be markedly different thanthey are today in several ways:

  • On any day of the year, students will be able to see how they are doing, where they want tobe, and how they might get there. They will feel ownership of their learningand motivated to succeed. They will collaborate and connect with their peers inways that reflect how they live now and how they will work in the future.
  • Schoolswill be designed to optimize time, pace and instructional methods to make themost of teachers’ time and to create learning paths that work best for eachstudent. Teachers and other adultswill have more diverse roles in and out of schools based on their strengths,from coaches and guides to content experts. Teachers and school leaders willhave the flexibility, autonomy, and information they need to select content andtools that work best for their students.
  • The technologyto support such learning will integrate seamlessly into the environment andoffer intuitive user experiences and smart recommendations. It will “justwork.”

Following the lead of some terrific, innovative educators,we use the term “personalized learning” to describe the shift from traditional classroomapproaches to the kinds of learning experiences necessary to realize thisvision. I’m expecting to see three things related to this shift in 2014:

1. Personalized learning will go mainstream.

Greater numbers of personalizedlearning school models will demonstrate their ability to help every student reachtheir potential, no matter where they start out. As whole-school personalizedlearning grows and generates results, we’ll see more clearly what’s possiblefor kids when blended instruction, competency-based progressions, and teacherleadership come together. Students who start the year behind will achieve morethan a year of learning growth in a single school year, making up importantground so they can finish high school with the knowledge and skills they needto succeed. As more schools demonstrate what is possible, momentum will growfor fundamental redesigns of instructional models that incorporate the attributes of personalized learning.

2. The “teachers or technology” dichotomy will becomeincreasingly irrelevant.

Nobody knows teaching liketeachers. This remains true in the most promising personalized learning schoolmodels. When teachers can spend more time with individual students and smallgroups, and have access to better information and instructional supports, theirstudents learn more. Just as doctorsembrace breakthrough technologies for better diagnosis and treatment, teachersare embracing technologies that help them free up time to focus on what mattersmost for each of their students. This will accelerate in 2014. It’s likely thatsome voices will continue to sound alarms about schemes to replace educatorswith computers and algorithms. But the growing number of teachers whoincorporate digital content and tools into their instructional practice willprovide a strong, fact-based counterpoint to such claims.

3. Product developers will focus more intently onaddressing scenarios that matter most to educators and students.

As growth in ed-tech markets heatedup over the last couple of years, really talented engineers and entrepreneurssometimes built stuff without incorporating lessons from the science of how welearn or addressing concrete use cases that matter for learning. In 2014 we’llsee more targeted market research that taps the voice of teachers, students,and administrators to identify and highlight important use cases along withgaps in the market. This will help mobilize innovators to fill those gaps. We’llalso see more authentic involvement of teachers in the product design anddevelopment process, and more focus on what it takes to effectively implementnew tools into the workflow of classrooms.

These are just three among many milestones on the way tocreating more schools that prepare all kids for success, regardless of whatneighborhood they live in. I’m optimistic that momentum toward this goal willcontinue in 2014!

Edtech Business

Stacey Childress: "Personalized Learning Will Go Mainstream"

By Stacey Childress     Jan 1, 2014

Stacey Childress: "Personalized Learning Will Go Mainstream"

At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we envision afuture in which students’ learning experiences will be markedly different thanthey are today in several ways:

  • On any day of the year, students will be able to see how they are doing, where they want tobe, and how they might get there. They will feel ownership of their learningand motivated to succeed. They will collaborate and connect with their peers inways that reflect how they live now and how they will work in the future.
  • Schoolswill be designed to optimize time, pace and instructional methods to make themost of teachers’ time and to create learning paths that work best for eachstudent. Teachers and other adultswill have more diverse roles in and out of schools based on their strengths,from coaches and guides to content experts. Teachers and school leaders willhave the flexibility, autonomy, and information they need to select content andtools that work best for their students.
  • The technologyto support such learning will integrate seamlessly into the environment andoffer intuitive user experiences and smart recommendations. It will “justwork.”

Following the lead of some terrific, innovative educators,we use the term “personalized learning” to describe the shift from traditional classroomapproaches to the kinds of learning experiences necessary to realize thisvision. I’m expecting to see three things related to this shift in 2014:

1. Personalized learning will go mainstream.

Greater numbers of personalizedlearning school models will demonstrate their ability to help every student reachtheir potential, no matter where they start out. As whole-school personalizedlearning grows and generates results, we’ll see more clearly what’s possiblefor kids when blended instruction, competency-based progressions, and teacherleadership come together. Students who start the year behind will achieve morethan a year of learning growth in a single school year, making up importantground so they can finish high school with the knowledge and skills they needto succeed. As more schools demonstrate what is possible, momentum will growfor fundamental redesigns of instructional models that incorporate the attributes of personalized learning.

2. The “teachers or technology” dichotomy will becomeincreasingly irrelevant.

Nobody knows teaching liketeachers. This remains true in the most promising personalized learning schoolmodels. When teachers can spend more time with individual students and smallgroups, and have access to better information and instructional supports, theirstudents learn more. Just as doctorsembrace breakthrough technologies for better diagnosis and treatment, teachersare embracing technologies that help them free up time to focus on what mattersmost for each of their students. This will accelerate in 2014. It’s likely thatsome voices will continue to sound alarms about schemes to replace educatorswith computers and algorithms. But the growing number of teachers whoincorporate digital content and tools into their instructional practice willprovide a strong, fact-based counterpoint to such claims.

3. Product developers will focus more intently onaddressing scenarios that matter most to educators and students.

As growth in ed-tech markets heatedup over the last couple of years, really talented engineers and entrepreneurssometimes built stuff without incorporating lessons from the science of how welearn or addressing concrete use cases that matter for learning. In 2014 we’llsee more targeted market research that taps the voice of teachers, students,and administrators to identify and highlight important use cases along withgaps in the market. This will help mobilize innovators to fill those gaps. We’llalso see more authentic involvement of teachers in the product design anddevelopment process, and more focus on what it takes to effectively implementnew tools into the workflow of classrooms.

These are just three among many milestones on the way tocreating more schools that prepare all kids for success, regardless of whatneighborhood they live in. I’m optimistic that momentum toward this goal willcontinue in 2014!

From our Guide

further reading

STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.
STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH
News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.