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Personalized Education

|Posted originally on Dreams of Education on September 20, 2012|

Last year I had a “hunch” about learning…specifically about curriculum. That hunch turned into a full-fledged idea and a mission to do better for kids. Everywhere. Along the line I met some truly incredible people who taught me things I didn’t know how to do before. Like wire framing (thanks @ianchia), and pitching ideas (thanks @houseofgenius), and how to go about picking up programmers (thanks @toma_bedolla). Now I’m ready to share the culmination of all this work with you.

This isn’t just a post to tell you about what I’m doing, it is a call to action for everyone (yes, even you). It is a request for you to join me in this mission in whatever form that may take.

I have a vision: to make personalized learning a reality for EVERY child.

I know, it is big. It is also doable.

For those who are new to following me, here was my original “hunch” written here, Dreams of Education:

“The problem with curriculum and textbooks is that they complete thoughts. Curriculum and textbooks give the impression that learning has an end. That when you have made it from cover to cover, the job is done. I know in my own schooling this was true, I thought that school was teaching me what was important and that anything outside of the curriculum wasn’t important or relevant to my life…wouldn’t they have included it otherwise? How did curriculum get this way? Well, people realized that there was no possible way to cover every facet of learning, so they stripped it down to what they thought was important. The problem? What is important to you may not be what is important to me. What’s more, something that is very important to me may have been cut all together so I don’t even get the chance to know that it is important to me. Humans tend to like things that are definable, we like things that we can put into a neat, orderly box and carry out in a predictable way. It feels safe and manageable. This is what led me to the following hunch:

What if curriculum was more flexible? What if curriculum/schools/learning looked more like Pandora. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an online radio station that plays the music that it thinks you will like. You type in an artist or song and it creates a customized radio station just for you. It is remarkably accurate. Pandora almost never gets it wrong for me. It is like they have a direct line to my brain and can predict what song I would like to hear next. When it is wrong, I can give the song a thumbs down and it apologizes profusely for the error and promises never to play that song again on my station. The other thing I love about Pandora: I can have multiple radio stations. Because sometimes I really couldn’t think of anything in the world better than Frank, Dean, and Sammy; but other times I also want a little Timberlake, Whitestripes, or Bangles. What if curriculum looked like that? What if learning happened as a result of typing in one subject or topic that a student was enamored with and a completely personalize learning journey began playing out for them? What if students were led through a journey that was completely customized? What if they had several stations mapped out for them?”

I believe this is possible. I believe it is within our reach to create a completely personalized learning experience to every unique child. I believe that we can honor humanity instead of treating our kids like widgets in a factory. I believe that teachers should be teachers, focused on the needs and development of the child instead of teaching the masses through scripted curriculum.

This is The Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project will empower teachers and parents to become engineers of learning by providing each individual student the exact content they need, at the exact moment they need it. The Learning Genome will enable students to explore the process of inquiry, experimentation, discovery and problem solving. Instead of learning how to pass the next test, we will enable students to construct meaning and learn how to transfer that meaning to new life context. At the hub, the Learning Genome is a platform that aggregates resources and, using a series of algorithms, provide recommendations of the BEST resources to meet the individual learning needs of a specific child. The Learning Genome creates those serendipitous moments of finding just the right learning tool to meet the needs of children at the right time.

Much like Pandora finds that perfect piece of music, the Learning Genome will find the perfect piece of learning material to aid the student in learning. The key to the Learning Genome’s success is crowd sourcing. I will be drawing on educators around the world (that’s you!) to help me tag curriculum, books, lessons, videos, apps, websites and other educational content. This collection of tagged content lives in the centralized ”cloud” and will allow users around the world to find and access materials that best suit student needs. By gathering information about the individual student’s learning style preferences, multiple intelligence strengths, social/emotional levels, interests and passion, the Learning Genome can help teachers to create customized learning maps for each individual. This portion will be free. Every child deserves a unique learning experience.

In addition to the Learning Genome Hub (the aggregate), the site will include a complete Student Information System, planning tools, e-portfolios, e-learning, individual learning plans, assessment and blogging tools. All of these will work seamlessly together for you go-to for learning and planning.

Changing the world here.

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