All too often these days, we hear certain buzz words: “personalized learning,” “individualized learning,” “customized learning.” Usually they are used all together, as in “personalized, individualized, customized learning.”

Buyer beware! What these words usually signify is that some corporation is selling a computerized learning program with pre-set questions and answers. The students will click through the questions to find out at what step they are on, until they reach the point where they get the wrong answer. Then the computer will respond with a pre-set instruction about what to do next.

Like everything else in the faux-reform vocabulary, this is the opposite of what is meant by personalized, customized, and individualized. This is mechanized teaching, with nothing individual, personalized, or custom about it. At bottom, the goal is to sell stuff to schools and make money. The hope: computers will replace teachers, won’t ever get a pension or a raise, and can save money.

Here is a comment from a reader, who sees what is going on:

“personalized learning” is a code word for kids in front of computers with a classroom aide running the shop and no teachers

It’s a tutoring centered approach to education, as tutors typically play a supporting role and often don’t choose problems or course materials, but help a student through problems and materials chosen by someone else.

Except, in this format, instead of being chosen by a teacher, the problems and course materials are chosen by the technology. This can work for about 10-20% of students, but most students need a human teacher making day-to-day and long-term decisions about content and learning activities.

Replacing human teachers with computers is a recipe for failure. The human interactions that are the foundation of our public education system have been around for thousands of years and can’t be replaced by technology. In the same way that the printing press didn’t replace human teachers, neither will computers.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to replace teachers.$$$$$