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June 27, 2013

Is Personalization in Education About Students or Profit?

Chris Thinnes:

The end-run of the logic of the "free market model" of education--and its application to schools--is simple: the repudiation of schools as we have come to know them; the abandonment of democratic principles on which they are based; and the service of a technocratic vision of education as matrix of individual relationships with private providers. In recent years, this vision takes the form of crude assertions that online learning platforms might not only extend or enrich the learning that takes place in schools, but might obviate the need for the "school" as we know it.

This claim is supported by politicians, pundits, and policy wonks--the vast majority of whom would make vitally different decisions for their own children's education, than they might for yours or mine. It's obvious to educators that we should embrace the opportunities provided by digital tools, services, and platforms to supplement and to inform the learning that takes place in a school, but we should beware the growing and disturbing focus on the replacement of the school by those technologies.

We have known for many decades in schools that differentiation, individuation, and responsiveness to student voice and choice are hallmarks of effective schools' support of each learner in a school community. Now, however, the discussion of vaguely related imperatives is dressed in the language of "personalization" of products, content, and services, as though this represents a new-found metaphor for redefining education as we know it. We lay faith--lazily, or purposefully, and even in the most sophisticated and insightful writing about mutations in 21st century capitalism--in the promises of private corporations that mimic this language, extolling selfless commitments to service our individual needs.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 27, 2013 1:50 AM
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