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by Stephen Downes
Jan 26, 2016

Review of Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning
William R. Penuel, Raymond Johnson, National Education Policy Center, 2016/01/26


This is a review of a report titled Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning (57 page PDF) which summarizes finding from three projects based on the idea of personalized learning. According to the report, the findings are generally positive, but they warn against saying the one thing caused the other; the experimental design was too weak and the data mixed. The review published by the National Education Policy Center (12 page PDF)echoes these cautions and also questions the methodology on a variety of grounds, the most serious of which is probably the predominance of charter schools in the research projects, a process that introduces "bias associated with being a school selected as part of a competitive process to be part of a program." Fair enough, but I think there are some positive takeaways. It's hard to balance personalized learning with a requirement of standardized outcomes, and the fact that these projects show no evidence of being disasters suggests that personalizing learning will, at a minimum, do no harm. I think that is promising evidence, even if the authors of the review do not.

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Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap”
Ricardo de Querol, El Pais, 2016/01/26


There's a lot to protest, says Zygmunt Bauman, but protest has been ineffective in the social media age, an age in which in which "all agreements are temporary, fleeting, and valid only until further notice" (this reminds me of an interview I heard on the weekend to the effect that the impact of Uber is that companies will feel free to flout regulations simply by saying they don't apply. Part of the problem, he says, is that social media protests lack leaders, so "they cannot convert their sense of purpose into action." In effect, "The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you... people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice." Zygmunt Bauman is a force, but I don't agree with his analysis here. True, the social contract (such as it is) is dissolving, but I don't think social networks are the cause. Creating change is no longer about forcing your will on to a recalcitrant community, it's about creating alternatives through networks of associations. More: Bauman Institute.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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