How can we personalise learning?

Rupert Ward, professor of learning innovation at the University of Huddersfield, on why personalisation is the future of education

The vast majority of teachers in a recent survey said that they were becoming both more confident with, and increasingly using, digital technologies since lockdown. They found quiz-style learning with instant feedback as the most valuable remote learning tool.

However, what is particularly worrying are concerns regarding increased learning disparities during lockdown (one survey showed 91% of teachers think this will be happen because of the pandemic), largely as a result of variable levels of parental input and teacher feedback, though also because of variations in infrastructure and resource access. Parents are also concerned about relevance, motivation, socialisation and fun in what’s being learnt during lockdown.

Personalisation – an education hero

Personalised learning was seen by a small percentage of teachers (16%) as the best way to increase achievement during lockdown and, in a separate survey, was also highlighted as the biggest educational barrier to current learning, closely followed by learner engagement.

Digital quizzes were again most popular amongst teachers as an online learning tool, with e-books, videos and online learning platforms also being mentioned. Large percentages of teachers also see free education apps and more online classes as a way for students to catch up and to try to address this increasing learning disparity.

The lockdown has provided an opportunity for us all to reflect on what we are doing and how we are doing it, and education, and the use of educational technology, is no exception to this. Personalised learning has been highlighted as of growing importance even before the pandemic, alongside increased uses of other technologies.

Reimagining the sector

The challenges we currently face provide an opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves as teachers, and learning as a process, and it’s clear that with more exposure to digital technologies during lockdown, teachers are becoming more interested in what adaptations they can make to support more effective learning both now and in the future.

One of the most popular educational technologies during lockdown has been iDEA, with over a million digital badges completed during this period. It helps address many of the challenges discussed above, promoting digital literacy and inclusion. It involves quiz-based interactive learning, as well as some video-based content. It’s free, accessible to all, available to use on any electronic device with internet capabilities and it focuses on providing engaging personalised learning which is both fun and effective. It’s being used in schools around the world to support the curriculum at KS3/4, as well as being used in lifelong learning, so parents, guardians and carers, as well as their children, may benefit. Badges are included in schemes of work, lunch and after-school clubs, as homework, to introduce topics, as part of class discussions, to promote further interest in topics and careers, to support teacher development in schools and in university teacher training.

As we have seen with Joe Wicks during lockdown, fitness can be engaging and popular if it’s provided in the right way. A similar opportunity presents itself for education, for getting learning fit. With the right technological support and the right education alignment, personalised learning can and indeed will provide us with a new way of providing and engaging with learning. The ideas are there, and indeed iDEA is there, we just need to have a conversation now about how we best support teachers and learners in this brave new world.

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