Perspectives on Personalising Learning


I’ve just been listening again to Evangeline Stefanakis and Helen Barrett at the CORE Breakfast session, speaking about the use of ePortfolios and the ways in which these can support the goals of personalising learning. While the idea of personalising learning sounds good in principle, there are many ways in which the idea may be manifest in practice. All of these require that we confront our existing ideas and understandings about schools, teaching and classroom practice.

The frame above is from a 9 minute video that comes from the The Consortium for School Networking’s 21th annual conference that kicked off March 28 in San Francisco. It features Chris Dede offering some thoughts on personalising learning and the challenges it brings. Chris interviews two speakers who are working to create personalised learning experiences for students:

  • Jean Johnson, the project director of, and
  • Jack Dale, the superintendant of the Fairfax County Public School district where they are implementing an Individualised Learning Plan for every student!

In his introduction Dede compares education with the acts of sleeping, eating and bonding. Sleeping, according to Dede, is a relatively easy task whose outcome depends on relatively few variables. Bonding on the other hand is quite complex. Dede says that too often we treat learning as if it were sleeping, while everything we know about learning suggests that it is more like bonding – or at worst, like eating. But, says Dede, the very best of our education settings has less variety than a bad fast food restaurant!

The clip contributes some useful thoughts to the Personalising Learning discussion – I particularly appreciated the latter part where the panel engage in discussion around some of the issues about implementing a personalised approach within the existing school system. Dede’s final comment is worth noting – he points out that the major issue is with breaking down the social and political barriers – pointing out that technology will only ever take us part of the way towards the personalised learning dream.

A final point – although I was pointed to this clip through a link on personalising learning – the actual title of the session refers to individualised instruction – obviously the nomenclature issue is still to be resolved!

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