"Is there any way a teacher can personalise the learning experience for their charges, thereby transforming an ill-defined, throwaway political idea into action that would benefit children?"
asks Phil Beadle in this scathing Comment in today's Education Guardian. I've written previously and with scepticism about the rapidly spreading "personalisation virus", and I feel particularly critical of how the term is used so loosely in education, and especially in relation to ICT and e-learning. But that said, I think Beadle is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For example giving users (including learners) choice is at least sometimes a good thing, as is involving users in the design of services, both of which Beadle contests, with weary cynicism; and I found Charles Leadbeater's Demos pamphlet "Personalisation through participation" which Beadle slags off without even giving it an author or publisher, and without acknowledging that it was written about public services in general rather than education in particular, gave me plenty to think about during work I did in 2004 with Neil Smith and Nicky Ferguson for JISC, to the extent that we included a table of Leadbeater's as an appendix to our report. I can see why teachers view personalisation as "a duplicitous gimmick". But the problem is not that offering choice and control to learners is wrong per se, but that personalisation is being used as a gimmicky panacea, not backed up, in education, by evidence of benefit.
- Thanks to Kevin Donovan, who wrote this Guest Contribution earlier this year, for telling me about the Guardian article.
- With Neil Smith and NickyFerguson I recently finished a peice of follow-up work about personalisation for JISC , which I think will be available on the JISC web site later this year.
- 10 October 2006. Charles Leadbetter has just published his new book We Think, which argues that the new forms of mass, creative collaboration announce the arrival of a society in which participation will be the key organising idea rather than consumption and work (tell that to a Chinese shoemaker working 6 14 hour shifts per week) in a form which will allow comments to be made on it, for potential incorporation into the final product, which is due next year.