Effective personalized learning, but without personal information

By | December 18, 2015

Coming from Facebook, I'm quite skeptical on Zuckerberg's particular take on personalized learning. It looks like an attempt to monetize the immense data reserves held by Facebook with very little investment on learning outcomes.

But at the same time, I think it is worthwhile to highlight the effectiveness of personalized learning as a tool that has been repeatedly demonstrated to give children a deeper understanding for and appreciation of the topics to be learned. Yet these effective experiment conditions involve an integrated, involved personalized learning experience – a far more integrated and far more involved experience than I suspect Zuckerberg is thinking of.

Rather, I am referring to a system which teaches children how to find what they want to learn about, and encourages them to discuss, explore, and intrigue each other into learning more. Because finding and analyzing information is a much more valuable skill than regurgitation these days. And even more important is understanding and applying acquired information – which is what these newer learning environments encourage through appropriate technology integration and modified pedagogic form.

To better understand what effective personalized learning should mean, I highly recommend you take a look at these TED speeches – they're a few years old, but still equally relevant (yes, that's goes to show how slow our education system is at embracing change!):
– Sugata Mitra (2010): http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education
– Sir Ken Robinson (2010):
– Sir Ken Robinson (2013):

Personalized learning without personal information
If you look closely, this latter sort of personalized learning doesn't actually require personal information to create personalized learning. Instead, it requires students to create and define a learning context – and build interest groups around that context in order to conduct learning. What makes this learning personal is the fact that each student has a unique combination of learning contexts, depending on their interests – meaning that each student has their own expert specializations, while still learning enough about all contexts to attain a broad general education base. Or to make things simpler to understand: why not recoin the term 'personalized learning' as 'contextual individual learning', to avoid confusion on whether personal information and associated data privacy issues come into play?

That's where Zuckerberg misses the point: yes, we need personalized learning. But we don't need a service that collect personal information in order to deliver personalized learning. What we need is a service that delivers contextualized information to provide personalized learning.

/via +Sabine Eckhardt Legakulie

Zuckerberg will personalisiertes Lernen fördern: Was bringt das? – SPIEGEL ONLINE

3 thoughts on “Effective personalized learning, but without personal information

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Eileen O'Duffy well, language changes. I doubt that back in the 80s 'personalized' was a bad thing – we didn't have the context of widespread global data abuse that big data and social media have made possible.

    One thing that I've noticed is that large enterprises looking to offer new online services are starting to shift away from 'personalized', because they realize that consumers don't want to build individual profiles all over the place (and hand over their data). Rather, consumers want a relevant online offer experience without the profile-building stuff. In my opinion, that applies to shopping just as much as education: put relevant, interesting materials together to create a unique individual experience – yes. Build a profile around each individual where they have to fork over data – no.

  2. Eileen O'Duffy

    When I trained as a teacher back in the eighties we were also talking about ‘personalised’ learning. I’m always amused to see new buzzwords…..

  3. deborah rabbit white

    We are part of a school community that has been following this idea for 45 years. In fact, I only remain in the area I live because it is one of only 2 schools like this, in my country, that are also publicly funded.
    I fairly certain I would never trust zuckerman.


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