by Stephen Downes
Mar 28, 2017
The point of departure for this post is self-paced language learning using Duolingo, but it quickly moves into a fascinating history of self-paced learning generally. Efforts began in the 1800s with the massification of learning, and very quickly self-paced was associated with personalized learning as designers attempted to adapt their designs to the different abilities of students. Another early feature of self-paced learning was the student-teacher learning contract. Self-paced learning flourished in the 1970s with programmed learning, an offshoot of behaviourism, and the cycle began again. For all that work, the results have been less than impressive. "Over forty years ago, a review of self-paced learning concluded that the evidence on its benefits was inconclusive (Allison, 1975: 5). Nothing has changed since."
"Slowly but surely, in spite of the issues, cloud tools are coming to the classroom," according to this report. But infrastructure challenges remain. "One of our biggest challenges is providing technology solutions that require bandwidth and some computer." As well, there is the complexity of adding new tools to a classroom environment. No single set of tools provides a perfect fit. " In order to decide which tools are best from the universe of choices on the Internet, teachers communicate with one another, participate with other teachers on social networks to find what's working for them."
The best way to create a bias against a group is to normalize a behaviour that others can't, or won't, conform to. American digerati have perfected this in the form of casual profanity in writing. It's a marker they can use to identify each other in writing and because many cultures and individuals won't indulge, they can maintain a firm barrier between themselves and outsiders. Which - ironically - the the point of the current article, though the example is different. You must write a certain way. You must not write a certain way. Only the latter can be resisted in any real sense, which is why the effective biases are formed out of the former. Now straighten your tie, don't slouch, look people in the eye, and smile.
This is a lightweight article touting the benefits of adaptive testing "where, based on a student response to one test item, that student was presented with another item, appropriately targeted so that the student’s response would provide more information about his or her range of understanding." This won't be new to educators but it does point to where Stanford's future work may go.
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