Arne Duncan: How Technology can Enrich Education

Source: Scientific American, Aug 2013

In traditional classrooms, students complete a lesson and move on to the next when it is time for the whole class to do so—regardless of whether they have mastered it or they are already well ahead.

Here each student worked at her or his own pace, taking as much or little time as necessary to complete one lesson and then moving on to the next. Each child worked from an individual learning plan, and Ford could offer students material from a wide variety of digital sources—including traditional publishers, freely available “open” educational resources and her own original material.

Personalized Learning Through Technology

Among the most important directions for technology—and one that the U.S. Department of Education is working to accelerate—is supporting the efforts of teachers to tailor learning to the needs of each student.

One of the most enduring, and valid, criticisms of our education system is that it has taken a one-size-fits-all approach to our kids in the face of their unique combinations of gifts and challenges.

Personalizing learning is the idea that the pace, approach and context of the learning experience should be tailored to the needs and interests of individuals. It is easy (and common) to tell a teacher to adapt a lesson to the needs of each child, but hard to do it.

Technology can help. By blending face-to-face and online learning, teachers can enable students to work at their own pace, be flexible in grouping students according to ability, and get a dynamic stream of information about where students are doing well and where they are struggling.

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