"Personalized Learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners, often with extensive use of technology in the process."
Personalised Learning is in the spotlight at the moment as teachers here begin to wrestle with what it really means. The availability of technology, although still limited within the primary school in terms of one-to-one connectivity, alongside the development of our virtual learning environment, iLearn, means that true personalised learning is now within our grasp.
But what does personalised learning actually mean in this world of multiple intelligences, different learning styles, neuro-plastic brains and all those things which teachers are becoming more aware of? The Wikipedia definition above is a good starting point, stressing as it does the word individual, and noting the aspirations and needs of those individuals, as well as the use of technology.
I have been trying to think of it in terms of the experiences our students have and yesterday it came to me.
During a trip to Central, my son dragged me in to Yoppi. Yoppi is a frozen yoghurt shop and it was the first of it's kind I had ever visited. It was a fascinating experience. Not only did I get to taste a very pleasant dessert, but I also gained some insight into what personalised learning is and why it is so important to our students.
Firstly, Yoppi looks new. It's attractive, shiny and modern and looks inviting. It's a shop that makes you feel welcome. Secondly, you as the customer can tailor your yoghurt to your requirements or needs.
There are three parts to the overall process. Firstly you can choose from any of four yoghurts to go in your pot. You can add them individually or you can get the machine to blend them for you. Two of the yoghurt flavours appear to be staple, in that they don't seem to change much, but the third and fourth flavours look like they change regularly. More of that later.
Having added your yoghurt to the pot, choosing as much or as little as you like and remembering that it's likely although not necessary that you will have added some of the flavours which are considered a staple, you then can choose from a huge number of toppings to add interest and taste to your choice. In other words, you can personalise your choice to your own desires whilst keeping the yoghurt as a base.
The last stage of the process involves your choice being weighed (evaluated or assessed if you like!) before you pay the bill, which of course is dependent on size.
At this point you can enjoy a totally individual taste, tailored to your needs, aspirations and desires!
Not only that, but you can also influence how your future experience might be by taking part in the voting system to add different flavours when they are changed during the next week. The opportunity to do this encourages customers to become empowered and engaged with the process.
And as for the technology, well, there's free wi-fi! What more could you ask!
The parallels with education are clear. This new type of food experience offers it's customers the opportunity to customise (within the confines of the staple flavours), enrich and personalise, seek evaluation, and influence future choices.
This is exactly what personalised learning should be about.
We could learn a lot from the frozen yoghurt experience. I'll be going back again next week just to make sure!