#PLENK2010 Academic Achievement, Personalization of Education and Learning

Academic achievements have become the headlines in many blogs and news. Here  on New York Times Education

The results also appeared to reflect the culture of education there, including greater emphasis on teacher training and more time spent on studying rather than extracurricular activities like sports.

Mr. Finn, who has visited schools all across China, said, “I’ve seen how relentless the Chinese are at accomplishing goals, and if they can do this in Shanghai in 2009, they can do it in 10 cities in 2019, and in 50 cities by 2029.”

Does this surprise you?

Here in Interpreting international comparisons in academic achievement, Tony says:

My view is that Asian students are probably pushed harder by both parents and the school system than many students in Western countries. They do better because they work harder at what the school requires them to do. What PISA does not attempt to measure is breadth of learning, or whether students who score very highly on standardized tests have the range of other skills such as sport, social and artistic, that are not measured by the OECD.

Could we measure other skills such as sport, social and artistic in an objective way? May be for the same group of students of the same school, based on similar curriculum.  Are the schools in Asian countries teaching with the same or similar curriculum in sport, social and arts in Western countries? Also, there are students having different talents and skills, and so students who score very highly on standardized tests (or those who perform with excellence in academic subjects) don’t necessarily have the same range of other skills such as sport, social and artistic.

I think there are some truths about some Asian students working hard at school. Do they do better because they work harder at what the school requires them to do?  In this high test score, low ability, there are concerns about students working hard to achieve high test score, but have low ability.

Students, parents, teachers, school leaders and even local government officials all work together to get good scores. From a very young age, children are relieved of any other burden or deprived of opportunity to do anything else so they can focus on getting good scores.

The result is that Chinese college graduates often have high scores but low ability. Those who are good at taking tests go to college, which also emphasizes book knowledge.

So, what can “we” do to lift up the standards of education and learning, for learners to achieve high score and high ability?

Steve Wheeler shares in his post on personal or universal education the importance of personalization of education and creativity.

Heppell points out that creativity could be encouraged and personal learning achieved through the use of handheld technologies such as mobile phones. When they use these tools, he says, children are in their element. When they walk into the classroom, they are told to switch off all devices, and in doing so, the school switches off the child too.

I agree with the personalization of education and think that is especially important for Higher and Adult Education.  Also,  creativity is important in learning, and I have shared that understanding in my previous posts.

I would like to respond to Steve’s post with mine here where I commented:

Under an institutional learning environment, mandatory grading (i.e. part of the outcome of learning) in most educational systems diminishes the prospect of a risk free environment (Anderson, 2008). Thus a student would likely learn through the teachers’ recommended resources and information provided through the lectures or tutorials, as it is likely that any assessments are derived from such sources of information. Thus, when the teacher provides information, the teacher will then be exercising power and control over the student. The premise, then, that education can be neutral and non-value laden with a knowledgeable teacher, becomes a paradox. Personal learning, on the other hand could mean that the learner now is empowered to assume part of the role of the educator, where s/he takes up all the responsibility of learning, using PLE/N to sensemake and wayfind independently or interdependently with others in networks. I had experienced such journey after finishing formal university education, where I conceptualised that “authentic and pragmatic education” started with the social university (i.e. the community and networks) that I am immersed in, supported with numerous artifacts and resources that is all under my control, enabling me to become a truly autonomous learner.

To me, it is never easy to have a fully personalized education based on a mass education model, unless the education system is re-structured to cater and accommodate for the personal learning network/environment into education and learning.

So, how about mobile learning?  In this towards a theory of mobile learning

To be of value, a theory of learning must be based on contemporary accounts of practices that enable successful learning. The US National Research Council produced a synthesis of research into educational effectiveness across ages and subject areas (National Research Council, 1999). It concluded that effective learning is:

− learner centred: It builds on the skills and knowledge of students, enabling them to reason from their own experience;

− knowledge centred: The curriculum is built from sound foundation of validated knowledge, taught efficiently and with inventive use of concepts and methods;

− assessment centred: Assessment is matched to the ability of the learners, offering diagnosis and formative guidance that builds on success;

− community centred: Successful learners form a mutually promotive community, sharing knowledge and supporting less able students.

In A Theory of learning for the mobile age the authors continue:

These findings broadly match a social-constructivist approach, which views learning as an active process of building knowledge and skills through practice within a supportive group or community (for an overview, see Kim, 2000). Learning involves not only a process of continual personal development and enrichment, but also the possibility of rapid and radical conceptual change (see Davis, 2001).

To summarise, we suggest that a theory of mobile learning must be tested against the following criteria:

• is it significantly different from current theories of classroom, workplace or lifelong learning?

• does it account for the mobility of learners?

• does it cover both formal and informal learning?

• does it theorise learning as a constructive and social process?

• does it analyse learning as a personal and situated activity mediated by technology?

The authors suggest: learning as conversation under such a theory.

“The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-knows, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. (Freire, 1996, p. 61)”

To what extent is this applicable in education – K-12 and Higher and Adult Education? Yes, learning can be achieved through conversation, but how about its impact on the academic achievement of students?  Does higher learning lead to higher academic achievement?  In theory, yes, in a networked environment, but how about that in a school environment?

The elearning 2.0 below summarises some of the trends and merits of online and networked learning.  So would academic performance be perceived and measured under a social and networked learning environment?  Not yet!  These sort of learning environment is gaining momentum in Higher and Adult Education, but still at a very early stage when it comes to K-12 education. Why?

The networked learning model as discussed here by Wendy Drexler provides some good examples on how some of the high schools students could be “taught” in the use of Web2.0 tools.  However this way of networked “formal” learning is still under experimentation.

So what is personalized education?

Stephen in his post here on Open education says:

That our role, as a wider society, ought not to be to shower free resources upon people, in the hope of somehow lifting them up and may be enlightening them, and certainty of creating lifelong customers, but rather in the fostering of a social, legal and cultural climate where people are empowered and encouraged to create and share artifacts of their own learning.

So, personalized education could mean education empowerment, where individual learners are encouraged and supported to create and share artifacts which help themselves in learning, rather than being spoon fed by teachers or by the OER (Open Education Resources) in learning.   This could be a fundamental shift from teaching to learning.

The challenge to this way of open personalized education and learning is:

Are the learners

– equipped with the skills and literacy to create artifacts?

– motivated to create and share artifacts?

– assessed based on the creation and sharing of artifacts under a formal education system?

– encouraged to use different forms of elearning including mobile learning?

My questions are:

– What is the purpose of education at this digital age?

– Are we aiming for public mass education or personalized education and learning in our institutions?

– What assumptions have we made about learners in personalized education?

– What are their motivations towards personalized education?

– What are the expectations of the employers on these personalized learners (as a result of personalized education)?

Postscript: Enjoy this post on Web 2.0 and the future of K-12 education.


6 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Academic Achievement, Personalization of Education and Learning

  1. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for sharing the information and your views on this. Here is my response https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/plenk2010-academic-achievement-personalization-of-education-and-learning/

    I think there is a big difference between the education system of Canada, Hong Kong and China (represented by Shanghai here), and so when it comes to assessment based on test, it could be quite difficult to interpret such outcomes. As I was educated in Hong Kong, I realise that tests and examinations are the cornerstones of success in getting a place in the best Colleges (High Schools)and Universities, or getting a job. With that in mind, then academic achievement could be a yardstick towards success in study, or even employment, and that could be a strong motivating factor for some of the students. This is just my experience and perspective, and so I think there are many other factors which make up for the better performance in the tests. I am not sure how much differences there are in between the East (say Hong Kong and China’s education system) and West (say Canadian’s education system), but surely the emphasis may not be the same, isn’t it. From my limited experience of interacting with Canadian educators, I think Canadian education is encouraging more open online learning. How about the assessment like tests or examinations? Are they considered as important as that in the East like Hong Kong and China?

  2. Pingback: #PLENK 2010 i risultati PISA-OCSE 2009 Italia « serenaturri's Blog

  3. Pingback: Education around the world – Who is the best? | Learner Weblog

  4. Hi John,

    My question:
    What happens when learning occurs in an online network rather than in a situated setting?

  5. Hi Mary,
    Good question. I don’t think that is easy to know the result. As some education is open and others closed, so is learning. Can we really measure learning that occurred online (with online network) that easily? What are the criteria of assessment and evaluation? Do we measure the number of interactions and quality of interaction (like the learning analytics)? How do we know learning has “occurred”? Is eportfolio able to measure and evaluate online learning? The critical question: What sort of learning do we want to measure in an online network? Ontology? Critical Literacy? Sensemaking? Wayfinding? Or research?


  6. Pingback: #CCK11 Future of Education and Digital Scholarship | Learner Weblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s