The History of "Personalization" and Teaching Machines

Audrey Watters, Universities Canada, Jul 15, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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I'm going through my aggregator to find items I missed while writing and delivering three presentations in four days, and this one from Audrey Watters resonates. We need to be careful. As I pointed out in my own talk, there is a big difference between 'personal' (as in 'personal learning environments') and 'personalized' (as in 'personalized learning'). The latter is where you take something off the shelf, customize it, and deliver it. It's a bit like a modern equivalent of learning styles (which is why some people are calling on Willingham to contribute). The former is when people create and manage learning for themselves. Tim Klapdor has a nice take on it. "How about we think about learners as people – intelligent people – rather than data points?"

Speaking of data points, Audrey Watters's list of a "flurry of blog posts debating 'personalized learning'" all written by men is a bit of an unfair sample. Here's Krissy Venosdale, Joanne Jacobs, Ariana Witt, Linda Pruett, Rebecca W Ralstrad, Billie Ann Blalock - all women, all writing on personalized learning in the last week. It's important to cast a wide net when talking about educational technology - it's too easy to hear nothing but the same old crowd of consultants and pundits, especially if your focus is on social media. And it's too easy to fall back on some familiar stereotypes while explaining why they're wrong. It's a beautiful rich expressive world out there, but you have to close Twitter and go read new stuff by new people.

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