Personalized Learning vs. Personal Learning #BCSLearns

Each week, as a member of MEMSPA, I receive the Marshall Memo, which is a summary highlighting key educational articles from the week compiled by Kim Marshall.  In his February 1, 2016 issue of the memo, Marshall shares an article from Literacy Today entitled “Let’s Get Personal: Balancing Talk with Technology to Truly Personalize Learning” where author Julie Coiro cites an international study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) questioning the positive influence that technology has on student learning. In short, Coiro asserts that “Although these findings may relate to differences in professional development or implementation, it was clear that drill-and-practice software had a negative effect on student performance.”  What was most interesting to me in this article was how Coiro shares a comparison between personalized learning and personal learning.  Her comparison is highlighted below…


  • Experiences are customized for each student but controlled by the teacher or program.
  • Students work individually on computers.
  • They move through personalized playlists independently and at their own pace.
  • Students have little choice in selecting the activities or how they demonstrate mastery.
  • Students have few opportunities to construct ideas or collaborate with others.


  • Students initiate and control the learning process.
  • Learning experiences often emerge from actively engaging and talking with others about personal wonderings.
  • These wonderings are often sparked by a topic or problem encountered in school, at home, or in the community.
  • Students have opportunities to generate questions and create products that connect their own interests to real-life concerns.
  • Technology is not critical for learning to be personal; all that’s needed is space and time to actively reflect, collaborate, and engage with personally meaningful ideas.
  • Once students are empowered to direct their own learning pathways, technology can open the door to a range of texts, tools, and people to explore and connect ideas.

“What worries me,” says Coiro, “is that, in some circles, personalized learning increasingly has come to represent a narrow strategy of computer-based instruction with limited opportunities for human interaction and personal ownership of the learning process. When blended learning becomes synonymous with separating students into cubbies equipped with headphones and customized digital playlists for a large percentage of each school day, we risk losing sight of the human elements that make learning a truly personal endeavor.”  Can I hear a “you betcha”?

At BCS we work hard to leverage technology purposefully where, as Coiro states, we, along with the students we serve, “use a range of human and digital resources to improve [our] ability to think, problem solve, collaborate, and communicate.”  Coiro shares four suggestions for striking leveraging technology purposefully:

  • Build a culture of personal inquiry.
  • Expect learners to talk.
  • Encourage digital creation.
  • Make space for students to participate and matter.

Want more that presses our thinking on this notion of personalized learning? Check out the video below by educational game developer Jeremy Friedberg at TEDxYouth Toronto where he poses the question: Why does play have to be separated from education?


2 thoughts on “Personalized Learning vs. Personal Learning #BCSLearns

  1. Pingback: Supporting Students Becoming Future Ready | Learn-Lead-Love

  2. Pingback: These Trends Look Familiar? #BCSLearns | Learn-Lead-Love

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