We have been quiet about e-Literate TV lately, but it doesn’t mean that we have been idle. In fact, we’ve been hard at work filming our next series. In addition to working with our old friends at IN THE TELLING—naturally—we’re also collaborating with EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and getting funding and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
As we have discussed both here and elsewhere, we think the term “personalized learning” carries a lot of baggage with it that needs to be unpacked, as does the related concept of “adaptive learning.” The field in general is grappling with these broad concepts and approaches; an exploration of specific examples and implementations should sharpen our collective understandings about the promise and risks of these concepts and approaches. The Gates foundation has funded the development of an ETV series and given us a free editorial hand to explore the topics of personalization and adaptive learning.
The heart of the series will be a series of case studies at a wide range of different schools. Some of these schools will be Gates Foundation grantees, piloting and studying the use of “personalized learning” technology or product, while others will not. (For more info about some of the pilots that Gates is funding in adaptive learning, including which schools are participating and the evaluation process the foundation has set up to ensure an object review of the results, see Phil’s post about the ALMAP program.) Each ETV case study will start by looking at who the students are at a particular school, what they’re trying to accomplish for themselves, and what they need. In other words who are the “persons” for whom we are trying to “personalize” learning? Hearing from the students directly through video interviews will be a central part of this series. We then take a look at how each school is using technology to support the needs of those particular students. We’re not trying to take a pro- or anti- position on any of these approaches. Rather, we’re trying to understand what personalization means to the people in these different contexts and how they are using tools to help them grapple with it.
Because many Americans have an idealized notion of what a personalized education means that may or may not resemble what “personalized learning” technologies deliver, we wanted to start the series by looking at that ideal. We filmed our first case study at Middlebury College, an elite New England liberal arts college that has an 8-to-1 student/teacher ratio. They do not use the term “personalized learning” at Middlebury, and some stakeholders there expressed the concern that technology, if introduced carelessly, could depersonalize education for Middlebury students. That said, we heard both students and teachers talk about ways in which even an eight-person seminar can support more powerful and personalized learning through the use of technology.
The second school on our list was Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey, where we are filming as of this writing (but will be finished by publication time). As you might imagine, the students, their needs, and their goals and aspirations are different, and the school’s approach to supporting them is different. Here again, we’ll be asking students and teachers for their stories and their views rather than imposing ours. We intend to visit a diverse handful of schools, with the goal of releasing a few finished case studies by the end of this year and more early next year.
With the help of the good folks at ELI, we will also be bringing together a panel at the ELI 2015 conference, consisting of the people from the various case studies to have a conversation about what we can learn about the idea of personalized learning by looking across these various contexts and experiences. This will be a “flipped” panel in the sense that the panelists (and the audience) will have had the opportunity to watch the case study videos before sitting down and talking to each other. The discussion will be filmed and included in the ETV series.
We’re pretty excited about the series and grateful, as always, to the support of our various partners. We’ll have more to say—and show—soon.