6 Vectors Advancing Personalized Learning By Tom Vander Ark

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Personalized learning will significantly improve achievement levels, boosting completion rates in both K-12 and postsecondary education. That claim is based on six recent developments:

  1. Adaptive instruction: The most promising aspect of personalized learning is smart content that uses adaptive assessment to quickly diagnose learning levels and deliver the right unit of instruction. Examples include Dreambox, a K-5 math product; i-Ready from Curriculum Associates, with K-6 reading and math instruction; CompassLearning in partnership with NWEA, with K-12 reading and math instruction; and Knewton and MyLab from Pearson in post secondary developmental math.

  1. Playlists: First used in an educational context by the guys that designed School of One and now powered by NewClassrooms, playlists like iTunes Genius use recommendation engines to suggest the most appropriate learning. Like adaptive content, playlists deliver learning at the right level, but they draw from multiple sources.

  1. Alternative ways to learn: Customized learning suggests not just the right level but the right modality. Some students just need the right approach to learn math. ST Math from MIND Research Institute is a game-based visual approach that promotes conceptual understanding and is great for visual learners and students new to English.

  1. Learner profiles: Digital Learning Now! recently released a policy paper titled “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles,” which outlines how a portable gradebook of data that will help teachers begin personalizing from day one and how expanded profiles will drive recommendation engines and incorporate portfolios of personal bests.

  1. Blended learning: School models that combine the best of personalized online learning with hands-on classroom learning hold promise to better serve most students and improve working conditions for teachers.

  1. Online learning: Where states and districts allow it, two million high school students are blending their own learning by taking advantage of access to great teachers and courses online.

These six change forces, combined with improving access to mobile learning devices, is ushering the age of personalized learning -- the first big chance to boost learning per hour and extend the learning day and year.

Tom is author of Getting Smart and founder of Getting Smart®. Tom is also a partner in Learn Capital, a venture capital firm investing in learning content, platforms, and services with the goal of transforming educational engagement, access, and effectiveness. Previously he served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation and was the Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he implemented $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs. Tom was the first business executive to serve as public school superintendent in Washington State. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom has published thousands of articles and blogs. In December 2006, Newsweek readers voted Tom the most influential baby boomer in education.Tom is a director of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and several other nonprofits.

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