How much do online retailers know about your shopping habits? “Too much” would be a likely and understandable response. There is, however, a wide acceptance that our search data and purchases are collected and analysed in order to make tailored recommendations and an equal acknowledgement that this modern technology has not replaced all our shops or our shopkeepers. Retail has just moved with the times.
Whilst we’re well aware that retailers’ intentions in harvesting such data are not exactly benevolent (they are businesses and do exist to part consumers with cash after all) they aren’t totally malevolent either. While the quality of product recommendations from online retailers might be eerily accurate and the algorithms used to generate them are complex, the concept of shopkeepers that know their customers and their preferences is hardly a new one.
Why then, hasn’t such technology seen greater adoption in the education sector? Adaptive Learning technologies, systems which tailor content to their pupils’ educational requirements, are based on really quite similar ideas to those used in retail. They assess what the customer’s (pupil’s) needs are by looking at what they already have (their educational purchases, as it were) before suggesting what they should buy (learn) next. Is it because of that age old nagging concern – that we might be replaced? By a machine?
The reality of adaptive learning’s potential in the classroom couldn’t be further from the truth. Adaptive Learning has the potential to be a fantastic classroom resource, and just as the printing press will never destroy schools or the teaching profession, neither will the computer. Unlike traditional classroom resources such as the textbook and the CD-ROM however, Adaptive Learning opens the door to the bespoke learning experiences that have been tailored specifically to the learners – and all without creating additional work for teachers. What are we so scared of?
Peter Mason is Support and Engagement Manager for Planet Sherston