Very excited to see Audrey Watters in action in real life after having read her posts and keynotes on many occasion where my mind was in need of critical analysis of contemporary learning and society. She is wearing some fabulous boots (!) and looks fierce as ever.
The transcript of her talk Thehistories of personalized learning - can be read here.
There is no agreed upon definition of personalized learning. There is a history of people working in tech, she refers to disruptive narrative often accompanying the technological discourse. The invention of education is filled with slogans, imagined histories… and they add to the narrative of Edtech and its perceived disruption.
Currently, there is a hype towards the need for personalized learning. This could mean that students to move through content at their own pace. Or personalized learning could mean that the students get to determine the topics. Or it could mean that it is personalized by students visions, ideas. It can be driven by student needs or abilities, navigating through education. Or personalized learning will only be attained through computer technologies, through automation of everything, the tech being the salvation.
The history is filled with traceable legacies on what education is, and this points towards your philosophical and political (and economic) views/values.
The latest influence of ‘philantropics’ putting their money in one type of definition of personalized learning, has a profound impact on education.
The definition of personalized learning today is related to 1903, individual learning can be traced back to 18th century. This shows that personalized learning is a very recent development where the individual learning was replaced in personalized learning.
‘rugged individualism’ is a core American ideology, particularly Sillicon Valley (back to frontier days). This is also deeply intertwined with contemporary capitalism. Post-war consumer capitalism. Personalisation acts as a salve for standardization, in an age of mass consumption (name on coke bottle to make it feel special). Personalisation is related to customization, more than actual tailored to the person’s own needs.
So, how much of personalization is this contemporary definition: think MOOC, think online courses, online tech, … we even have the ‘personal’ computer (oh, I like this parallel and critical realization).
Pressey (name not sure) made an automated teacher, and wrote a practical guide on standardized testing. By the 1920’s standardization was already embedded in the American educational system.
The message that automation is going to free the teacher is also very perverse. It is not about labor saving devices. The automated teacher was seen as a need for personalization, but it was in fact a response on standardization.
Self-management, self-help has got…
[suddenly Audrey completely lights up when she mentions the link between pigeons and education, and that she could go on for hours on this link… it reminds me of my grandfather who had pigeons that entered competitions – blauwe geschelpte his type of pigeons were called].
All the smart people fucked up education, and no one takes responsibility. There is currently a death of expertise, this has an impact on the future of education, of society. How does an algorithmically driven FB news impacts ‘the news’.
Freedom of the state is the cost of education being supported by private money. Schools suddenly need to use the buzzword personalization, but there is no government oversight, and no appeal to civil and human rights in the face of the shift of personalized learning. In democracies one can wonder whether we can maintain shared responsivities for collective justice when our institutes are taken down.