Remember Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? At some point in the story, Dorothy sets off to find the famous Wizard of Oz and her journey begins with a first step on the Yellow Brick Road. She follows the road, makes some stops, encounters some friends along the way, and eventually arrives at her final destination. At the end of the story, both Dorothy and her companions achieve their individual goals, and the Yellow Brick Road played an essential part in that outcome.
Leaving behind the land of children’s stories and stepping into the real world, the one where children go to school (literally, or just open their home computers), do their homework, or engage in extracurricular activities, one must agree on two things:
- Learning is a journey, and the journey is as important as the end of it (the learning goal), and
- The Yellow Brick Road is the perfect metaphor for each student’s learning path until they finish school.
Why each student needs a personalized learning path
Learning has been on the lips of many educators across the world in recent years. The education system may have been invented for the benefit of students (and societies, by extension), but it was designed based on the teacher’s needs. While nobody argues that teachers’ roles have become less important — they didn’t — the focus has shifted on the needs of the student.
Meeting students’ learning needs is a sound strategy for a better education. And the best way to do that is to personalize their learning journeys. No matter if we’re talking about kindergarten students, primary school students, and all the way to high school students, personalized learning gets the best results.
When a student gets the right information at the right time, receives support when needed and in the right form, exerting some degree of agency over the learning process, they retain new information better, are more engaged in learning activities, and overall perform better.
Therefore, each student must be on their own yellow brick road to achieve their learning goals.
How edtech supports educators in creating personalized learning paths
Designing truly personalized learning paths for each student is a challenging endeavor. Starting from the sheer number of students compared to that of teachers, the different grades, subjects, and classrooms, and moving on to the sheer number of student learning needs, educators need all the help they can get.
A lot of that help comes in the form of education technology. Here are a few ways in which edtech supports educators in their massive task of creating personalized learning paths for each of their students:
Ownership of learning. Students learn and process information in different ways. That’s why they need to be involved (more or less, depending on their capabilities) in designing their learning path. If they’re involved, they feel like they own it. Collaborative technology is a significant first step in including student input into the learning path design phase.
Read more: How distance learning fosters global collaboration
Individual milestones. It’s easier to keep students engaged if they can take a break or two along their way, look behind and see how far they’ve got, or plan their learning journey further. Gamification features (leaderboards, badges, trophies, and the like) of various edtech can help teachers add personalized stops on the learning path.
Read more: 5 Tips on how to gamify your classroom
Instant feedback. Every student needs reassurance that they’re on the right track. Educators can offer proper and constructive feedback through school chatrooms, messaging apps, emails, and even audio or video recordings. And the best part is that the student can find that feedback online and review it as many times as they need to.
Read more: The 5 Bs of online feedback teachers need to master
Progress tracking. To keep students motivated to continue their learning journey, they need to know at any moment where they are on it. The new online learning technologies, with learning management systems leading the way, allow educators to better monitor their progress and adapt the instruction further.
Read more: What works for tracking student progress in online learning
All in all
Designing personalized learning paths for students is still a work in progress, with so many variables that affect the degree of personalization. As education technologies develop in this direction, educators will be able to improve their work further and achieve better results — all for the benefit of the students.
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Livia is one of the online voices of NEO by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about education technology for K-12 and higher ed, gamification, BYOD, as well as other ed-tech subjects.