A Personalized Learning Environment for the Future of Classrooms

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

Everybody learns differently and has different interests around different subject matter – so how can we utilize technology as a solution to personalize our educational experience and make it more interactive and engaging for individuals?

A little dip into the “Get Studying” subreddit reveals a whole host of problems with the traditional educational model of lecture, study, homework, repeat.  This is just one:  “within 5-10 minutes of the lecture starting, I get sleepy and lose focus” – and the answers in the comments go something like this: “force yourself to stay involved.”  Hm.  Sound familiar?

It feels like the responsibility is not just on the student here to stay focused, but the teacher, the school, the publishers of the educational material, the creators of educational software and technology.   Classroom education has an engagement problem, especially if the teacher isn’t terribly dynamic on their own – but will integrating “media and technology” be a solution? Let’s think about how we can turn the classroom into a personalized learning environment.

Often media and or technology in the classroom has been viewed as the sleep switch from the students’ perspective.  The moment students are given permission to “tune out” rather than “tune in” to the conversation – they’re no longer on the spot – eyes glaze over, and minds start to wonder.

Physics is not my favorite subject, but I was enrolled in physics as part of my undergraduate curriculum.  At the time, our professor Eric Mazur did something that raised a lot of eyebrows.  He gave everyone in the classroom a “voting clicker” and we all voted on the questions he asked, and then we saw a real time poll of who got the answer right and wrong.

While the tactic didn’t inherently teach me anything – it certainly did keep me engaged with my peers.  I was able to see – “hey – a lot of other people didn’t get this concept either.  I’m not alone in my confusion.”  And I leaned forward.  Why?  What was it that we weren’t collectively understanding and why?  In this case, the clicker did a great job of helping us focus on the material and where our weak points were.

Some might call this a quiz – but it never felt like a quiz, because the emphasis wasn’t on the grade, it was on the understanding – personalizing our lecture at a group level.  Our professor wanted to show us immediately what we weren’t understanding, and work with us on those problems.  It helped to give a better picture of the class’s understanding – and made for a more efficient classroom, so that we were tuning in rather than tuning out.

To take the concept one step further, I would have liked to have seen supplemental interactive content recommended for me after the lecture based on the areas I needed to improve upon– something I could review in depth on my own time, rather than flip to a page in the textbook that just stared back at me.  How many times have you had the lightbulb go off just by hearing the concept or content framed in a new way from a new person?

Certainly our brain is wired to better process and remember information and concepts when we have the opportunity to think about the content from multiple perspectives, and apply that knowledge in different scenarios and problems.  By utilizing technology to help us understand our weak points and recommend additional multi-media material to help us improve, that would be a step forward in the arena of personalization of our educational experience.  Some may even call this new classroom a personalized learning environment.

There are certain things that we can learn by study and practice – all of which routine and traditional teaching can help guide.  But there are so many other factors that come into play when it comes to the “soft” elements which make us want to learn that information: motivation to learn, retention and application of that knowledge.   Using technology like a live survey and personalized supplemental delivered on demand after the assessment would be a great place to start to help improve the quality of education for every individual in a group classroom setting.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy a few others on the topic of education:

Peer to Peer Tutoring

Film School Online

The Digital Creator

 

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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