‘Differentiated Instruction’ and ‘Personalized learning’ are made possible in new and important ways today because of technology. Traditional classrooms required all students to be on the same page at the same time. This concept of ‘synchronicity’ across time, space, and cognition was created to make managing groups of people accessible, and their output more easily quantifiable (Cope and Kalantzis, 2016). Despite the fact that differentiated learning is not a new concept, we could never expect it to truly exist when the overarching goal is homogeneity. What if we omitted the need for everyone to be on the same page or even topic at the same time, and we allowed learners to watch, listen, learn and interact in a truly personalized way?
One of the affordances of E-Learning is that learning can be personal-at the pedagogical level. Without the restrictions of space, time and quantification, learners can create their own experiences while still meeting core goals and acquiring complex knowledge and skills. If traditional approaches to pedagogy were from the perspective of the teacher managing groups of people, then an E-Learning environment would allow for the individual or small groups of learners to decide how they want to manage themselves; resulting in new pedagogical methods and practices.
Dictionary.com defines ‘pedagogy’ as “The art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods” (2017). If we view this definition from the perspective of the single manager of interaction and learning of a group of people (i.e. the traditional classroom teacher) then this definition makes sense in one way. But if we replace that concept with autonomous learners who have open access to unlimited resources, producing artifacts with as much or as little collaboration with others as they prefer, and then submitting those artifacts to be reviewed by peers, suddenly that definition makes sense in a whole new way (Cope and Kalantzis, 2016).
This infographic, by Google, helps to explain the ways in which technology is changing, not only the way that we process and store new information, but also the ways in which we access it, and exchange it. It also challenges our antiquated cultural perception of ‘memory’ (How Google Affects Memory and Learning Infographic, 2014).
Google products help us to work autonomously, collaboratively, and interactively all in an incredibly personalized way. Just recently I collaborated on a project from my office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while my colleague worked from his office in Seoul, South Korea. We used Google Hangouts to have a first face-to-face meeting, and then relied on google docs, google drive and Gmail chat to collaborate for the duration of the project.We shared resources, ideas, edited each other’s work, left comments of review for follow-up and feedback. In that time we created 40 weeks of curriculum plans for primary school EFL learners in China, 2 infographics for each section, an in-depth rationale and course guide document, and a sample lesson plan. This proposal package will be presented to Chinese public school administrators by a Singaporean Education Company next week. The four parties involved in this product never needed to be in the same time or space for the design to occur.
If you google “distance collaboration for companies” there is no shortage of resources recommending tools, apps, and techniques on ‘managing groups efficiently across distances (Cole,2015) . It seems that we have accepted, to some degree, that business can be done from anywhere in the world, and company meetings no longer need to be face-to-face. Why then, do we still seem reluctant to accept this crossover into the world of education? And why do some still insist that online education is ‘ok’ for some’ skills, and not for others?
Here is a very informative Ted Talk titled ‘A vision for Radically Personalized learning’ by Katherine Prince. She starts by asking the question “Why do we all need to learn the same thing on the same day and with the same age?”……really… why?
Cole, S. (2015, February 11). How 5 Remote Teams Use Technology To Make Long Distance Work. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3042237/how-5-remote-teams-use-technology-to-make-long-distance-work
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2017). E-Learning ecologies: principles for new learning and assessment. New York, NY: Routledge.
How Google Affects Memory and Learning Infographic. (2014, January 14). Retrieved July 26, 2017, retrieved from http://elearninginfographics.com/how-google-affects-memory-and-learning-infographic