By pairing personalized learning and technology, a teacher
can help students learn what they need to learn through the
topics that interest them most.
Here’s what I wonder: Can my 12-year-old son Tucker, a kid who lives for anything having to do with basketball, learn just about every math concept he needs to be successful in life in the context of playing the game he loves?
I posed that question on my blog a few months ago, and
the post elicited more than 60 responses from readers who
connected basketball to the study of bivariate data, complex
equations, statistical analysis, slope, variables, predicting outcomes, probability, geometric shapes, mean, median, mode,
averages, arc, force, angles, percentages, fractions, linear
inequalities, volume, speed, mass, acceleration, and dozens of
other concepts that are no doubt part of Tucker’s K– 12 math
curriculum (Richardson, 2010). And when I showed him
some of the great ideas that teachers had left on my blog, he
lit up. “Really?” he asked. “I could do that?”
Yes, I think he could. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t
need good teachers to help him make sense of those concepts
along the way. But now more than ever, Tucker (along with
the rest of us) lives in a moment when personalizing the
learning experience is not just a possibility—it’s almost an
expectation. We personalize our playlists through Rhapsody
and i Tunes, our reading through Amazon and Twitter, and
our search results on Google and Bing.
But in the midst of this culture of customization, what
about education? Are we personalizing learning for our students in ways that make school more relevant and inspiring?
Largely, the answer is no.
In this era of access, personalizing learning means allowing
students to choose their own paths through the curriculum.
For schools and teachers, it means connecting our expectations to students’ passions and interests as learners. That is
both a challenge and an opportunity for educators working
with 20 or 30 students in a classroom. The reality is that
despite having talked about personalized learning for more
than a decade, most schools and teachers have been slow to