Although education constantly evolves with our culture, primary educational institutions are sometimes slow to update their models by incorporating emerging technologies. There are many forces that explain the plodding pace of educational reform that include budgetary, cultural and logistical forces.

Despite resistance, the overwhelming cultural force that is the technological revolution has started to influence the thinking of many facilitators of early education in the form of a revolutionary movement: personalized learning.

Personalized learning, or a model of education that utilizes computers to facilitate self-directed, individualized learning that is tailored to a student’s abilities, ideal learning method and interests, has gained a great deal of traction.
What possible effects could personalized learning have on students’ education if implemented?

Advocates of personalized education believe that the benefits of this approach are numerous. Students can learn in a way that is best suited to their personal needs, can interact with the material in a way that takes advantage of their comfort with technology and can take ownership over their own education in a way that builds confidence and well-being. Some proponents claim that the fears people have against personalized education are rooted in outdated bourgeois cultural norms that fail to address the needs of modern students.

The advantages of self-directed learning seem obvious, but what are the possible disadvantages?

Critics claim that a personalized model would exacerbate the polarization of a culture that is already fractured. Self-directed learning amounts to learning in isolation and would degrade students’ already suffering from social development. Working to accomplish educational goals in a group is an important part of socialization that would be neglected by this model. While personalized education is supported by many educators, some teachers unions fear that implementing it would lead to replacing educators with computers.

What does the research say?

Where some studies, including the often cited Gates/RAND report, have shown little evidence to suggest a marked improvement in student performance, a more recent study by Education Elements shows significant progress toward ACT goals in districts adopting a personalized education model. More research is needed.

If anything is certain, it’s that our society is becoming increasingly computerized. The only question is, what degree will these new approaches be implemented, and will we find a balance between tested methods and emerging technologies.