Make Learning Personal

March 2, 2017

make learning personalThis book, and its companion, How to Personalize Learning, are pretty much the “bible” for understanding why schools are making the switch from computer labs to devices in every hand.

My library is no longer a tribute to Dewey-Decimal symmetry.  It is a not-quite bookstore model/Dewey hybrid that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever … unless you happen to be an actual patron.  That’s because I have re-imagined the question of “where should this go” by looking at the picture from a student’s point of view.  I know from experience that my readers who read about sports don’t particularly care whether a book is fiction or nonfiction — many of them probably aren’t sure they remember what those words even mean.  They just want a book about football, or baseball, or hockey.  So I can steer those readers to their very own place in the stacks, and they suddenly feel at home.  I have inter-filed books on animals, mythology, supernatural, and war for the same reason.  General nonfiction, otherwise known as “the stuff no on ever reads unless they have a research assignment,” is still very much Dewey, with stickers and dividers to help lead the way.  To my more traditional teachers and parent volunteers, it’s a bit confusing, but to my students, it makes perfect sense.



I hear from many teachers who wish for something that will never happen — 1:1 devices for every student.  Not only will there never be a budget for this at my school, but I would not prefer it anyway.  Our aim is personalized learning.  Personalized learning is … well… personalized.  Imagine being asked to use a new smart phone, tablet, or laptop every time you sat down to do something productive, like pay your bills online.  You would spend more time fiddling with the settings on the device and trying to find where things are than you would on being productive.  I can’t even type on a new keyboard without frustration, even though all the letters are in the usual places.  There is always a long and uncomfortable period of adjustment.  That’s what we ask learners to grapple with every time we sit them down in front of a new device.  Once you get used to a personal device, your use of that device becomes organic.  You become familiar with where the buttons are, how to access the various tools, and so on.  I would rather have students bring in a hundred different devices that they have made intimate friends with than give them a new “friend” each day and have them struggle to use it.