Nancy E. Bailey writes here about current efforts to put children with disabilities on a computer and call it “personalized learning” and “inclusion.” It is neither.

“Personalized learning must not be mistaken for inclusion. The reality is that it’s student isolation!

“Inclusion is generally defined as the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. Doing schoolwork on a digital device by yourself is not inclusion. It’s ability grouping for one!

“In special education, inclusion is often described as students working alongside their peers. Alongside? Please tell me that doesn’t mean sitting next to another student on the computer!…

“Differentiation refers to Carol Ann Tomlinson’s push to get children in inclusion classrooms doing academic activities in ways that are common but uniquely different. This takes much thoughtful planning on the part of well-qualified teachers.

“For example, students might read about a topic with everyone placed at their individual reading levels. Next, they could come together as a class to discuss the topic.

“Jennifer Carolan, co-founding partner of Reach Capital, a $53 million venture fund that backs education technology startups, writes in Education Week about such differentiation, trying to liken it to personalized learning. The article is called “Personalized Learning Isn’t About Isolation.” Previously, Carolan was the managing director and co-founder of the Seed Fund at the NewSchools Venture Fund.

“But she’s wrong. Personalized learning is about working alone.

“The reality is, and many of us understand, that tech enthusiasts are pushing teachers out of the profession and creating facilitators who merely monitor students as they work alone…

“It takes experienced teachers in both general and special education, and decent class sizes, to help address the challenges facing students with disabilities. Computers don’t do that. They merely present skills and review (ongoing assessment).

“The human element, the most important part of inclusion for children, involves bringing students together—both academically and socially!

“Children with disabilities need skills, of course. But they also need peer acceptance. They will not get that from a machine. Such acceptance also leads to a greater societal good.”