A personalised approach to digital learning is vital, says Rupert Ward, Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Huddersfield. He told us more about how the return to the classroom post-lockdown is an opportunity for us to rethink online learning:
According to a recent survey of 600 SLTs, department heads and teachers, reported in Educational Technology, 75% thought digital delivery would continue to play a significant role post-lockdown. But what does this mean? What sort of digital delivery? How, where and why should delivery change?
Let’s start with the why. Our formal education system is built on three key pillars – surrogate parenting (to facilitate a larger workforce); individual development (to supply the economy with skilled employees) and civic development (to maintain social cohesion by passing down values from one generation to the next).
We have seen during lockdown the importance of the first of these, but what about the other two? Are these appropriate in such a rapidly changing global environment and what changes should be made?
We need to better develop what are broadly termed twenty-first century skills, with a reduced focus on received wisdom and a greater focus on user-generated wisdom. One particular area of concern, for example, is group problem-solving capabilities, where less than 10% of fifteen-year-olds could demonstrate such skills in the 2015 PISA results.
We’re also seeing increasing evidence of civic fissures, with decreasing levels of trust in information, expertise and, indeed, each other. A much greater level of personalised and social learning is required to ensure education delivers the individual and civic development our changing environment requires.
How do we make these changes? How do we develop user-generated wisdom and create time in an already busy timetable for more social learning? The answer is we need to wean ourselves off our out-dated educational model by using technology to enable learners to learn better.
In recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of people getting fit. Why? Social trends? Fashion? Yes, definitely, but also technology, and improved fitness processes. Tracking of progress enables individuals to gain instant feedback, analyse their performance and have agency over their exercising. There has also been a focus on fun activities, sports psychology and increases in social exercising such as park runs. In short, the clarity of how to make progress with getting fit is increasing.
We can, and should, do the same within our educational systems. Individual learning should contain more choice, more bite-sized elements of learning, more interactive, engaging and fun content. More of this should be online, freely accessible anytime, anywhere. Teachers need to monitor learner progress and to verify learning in the classroom, but a shift to more individual learning online can free up more classroom time for more effective social learning – the key gap in our education.
To foster lifelong learning we need an educational system that supports rather than stigmatises, that enables and expects differential progress and does not see this as failure.
iDEA, one of the world’s most successful free educational technologies, provides a personalised learning approach making learning as engaging as possible. It is highly adaptable for use within schools, such as through
- Mapping badges to curricula and incorporating them in schemes of work
- Providing extra curricula lunch or after-school clubs (sometimes these are run by their own ‘digital leaders’)
- Supporting Computing at School both for learners and teachers
- Setting badges as homework to reinforce and support what was covered during lesson time
- Using badges to expand the in-class conversation and empower students to share their thinking
- Using badges to help introduce a topic before teaching a lesson on it
- Asking students to pick their favourite badge, do further research on the topic and present it to the class
- Using iDEA as part of teachers’ continuous professional development. The iDEA Record of Achievement is often used to provide evidence of this.
iDEA recognises both individual and social learning and is successful because it’s fun. It shows quite clearly that digital delivery can run alongside traditional education, and in some cases even replace parts of it.
By developing better technology-enabled learning habits, by having more choice and by better signposting more opportunities, we can develop more user-generated wisdom. We can become learners who learn how to learn, we can become metalearners.
First though we need the right tracking systems, the right feedback, and incorporate more fun, socialisation and educational psychology into our educational systems. We need to remove barriers to learning and give learners a clear and motivating view of how they are making personalised progress.
Now is the time for change. Personalised learning technology enables all these changes to be made, supporting teachers to be better teachers, revisiting how we timetable teaching and enabling better learning. Above all though, it enables us all to learn differently, because we all do learn differently.”
Rupert Ward is a Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Huddersfield, former Project Lead for iDEA, and author of two books on personalised learning – Personalised Learning for the Learning Person and Getting Personal: How we learn and why we don’t.