Mar 2019

Why It’s Time to Start Using ‘Personalized Learning’ as a Verb, Not a Noun

Personalized learning remains one of the hottest tickets in today’s education circles. Education technology companies herald its promise. Numerous foundations continue to invest in its potential for transforming schools. I guarantee the phrase will be bellowed through the halls of South By Southwest Education as it commences in Austin, Texas.

Yet it remains a challenge to arrive at a simple definition of personalized learning. Ask any five educators in a room what it is, who’s doing it best, how to implement … and you’re likely to come up with five very different definitions and scenarios.

Some of the more common definitions emphasize students having a voice and choice in what they learn — along with customizing how, when, and where they learn it. Yet other frameworks focus on self-paced learning methods, powered by technology. Still others prescribe that personalized learning must include elements such as competency-based learning or learner profiles.

But when Amplify’s Larry Berger and I sit down to host our March 5 session at South By Southwest to talk through and debate the why, how, and what of so-called “personalized learning,” our primary goal is to cut through the noise to process the promise of personalized learning as well as the guardrails around that hype.

For starters, I’m urging educators to stop trying to define “personalized learning” as a noun, and to start thinking of it as a verb. Educators are personalizing learning for their students, or helping their students personalize their own learning.


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