How to Do Adaptive Learning Right

Keith Devlin, Randy Weiner, EdSurge, Jul 05, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Responding to Audrey Watters's examples of how things can go badly wrong with adaptive learning, Keith Devlin and Randy Weiner argue "Watters’ bleak future will only come to pass if the algorithms continue to be both naïvely developed and naïvely applied, and moreover, in the case of mathematics learning (the area we both work in) applied to the wrong kind of learning tasks." I question the use of "only" in that sentence; there are many ways Watters's bleak future could come to pass; this is just one of them. But they still say a lot of the right things in this post

For example, "the most effective way to view K-8 education is not in terms of “content” to be covered, acquired, mastered (and regurgitated in an exam) but as an experience.... Mathematics is primarily something you do, not something you know." If you view adaptive learning as simply delivering the right content, you have the concept wrong. Also, they argue, in their adaptive learning system, "the main adaptivity is provided by the user... the mastery of specific procedures should be skills that a student acquires automatically, 'along the way,' in a meaningful context of working on a complex performance task." Again, if you think of an adaptive learning system as a 'teaching' system, you're doing it wrong. Via Larry Cuban.

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