Personalization: What is Best for Learners?

by Jim Wynn & Michelle Selinger


Jim Wynn


Michelle Selinger

Personalized computing initiatives in K-12 education aim to ensure all learners are equipped with their own computing device, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone, to connect them to resources, information and people that will help them be more productive in their learning. It is thought that giving learners a computing device can provide them with access to more and better information. This also allows learners to collaborate with others beyond the classroom in new and exciting ways. Furthermore, it can motivate learners through relevant and authentic experiences, as well as help them personalize opportunities for learning and assessment tasks related to their learning styles and preferences. Such a use of devices can hold the promise of connecting each learner into intelligent systems that can suggest new learning pathways, enable aggregated analysis and, through better data capture of the learner experiences, enable much better decision making about all aspects of education services.

There is also a need to be cautious about a single device being able to bring all of the learning experiences a learner needs. Small screens may be good to look things up, but may not be effective for use with a spreadsheet, anything requiring lengthy keyboarding. Additionally, devices without USB, or other functionally necessary, and easy-to-use input slots will not be able to attach to many peripherals that can bring subject specific learning to life.

Can one device help with collaborative work?

One device per learner is not the only learning answer, and collaborative work, for example, with groups of learners sharing a single device, may not be the best option.  For collaboration to happen across institutions it is essential to have a device that is connected to the Internet, and that provides unlimited opportunities for access to peers and experts across the world. Learning first-hand and sharing experiences and understandings of the world in which each student lives are essential.

The current thinking among educators indicates that stu­dents learn best when they learn together, share their methods for solving problems, and assemble what they have learned in their own way. When technology is used in this fashion, it has to include high-quality learning content and systems that facilitate assessment content to enable feedback loops, so that learning can be assessed. Often this content is unavailable in the right language or format, or it may be hard to locate on the Web. Moreover the content may not be contextually correct for an individual learner in their culture, economic situation, or educational context.

Although it seems an incontestably good idea in practice, there are a number of considerations before embarking down the personalized, one-to-one road, including how it fits into the broader educational context. Not least to be considered is the whole ecosystem surrounding 1:1 or personalized devices—from impact on how a classroom functions as a personalized and collaborative learning environment to support and repair.  Whilst the considerations and integration solutions are many and varied, any discussion about one-to-one, or personalized computing, needs to consider the purpose of formal education, and the role educators and others play in supporting learners.

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.

Dr. Michelle Selinger has been Director of Education in the Global Public Sector Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) at Cisco Systems. Michelle has the fairly unique experience of having worked across many countries in traditional, distance and online education in all sectors of education, as well as in vocational education and training, and has published widely on a range of technology and education related topics.

Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.
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