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Personalized Learning Tools: Friend or Foe?

Will personalized learning software make teachers less central to instruction and lesson planning? That seems to be the fear among some skeptics. Such learning platforms automatically create individualized learning paths for each student. Based on performance and existing skillsets, virtual personalized learning programs develop lessons and assignments targeted to each student’s individual needs. As innovative as education technology has become, these personalized learning tools can’t match the expertise and insight a teacher brings to the classroom.

While we might dream of a perfect gadget that follows the best educational practices, tech tools are only as effective as the teachers who utilize them. Educational apps and software don’t have the level of rapport that a teacher develops with students. Personalized learning platforms should be viewed as a supplement to teacher instruction, rather than a substitute.

By pairing great teaching and innovative personalized learning programs, districts can better fulfill the needs of all students. Here are five ways that personalized learning tools can support teacher instruction and intervention:

Specific intervention.
With the data provided by most personalized learning tools, teachers can easily identify students that need intervention. As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, edtech tools are able to provide detailed insight to a student’s learning process. For example, a program might be able to detect that a student is struggling with a specific digit when multiplying. Teachers can utilize this information in their own one-on-one intervention sessions with students.

Action plans.
Many personalized learning platforms provide detailed action plans in addition to specific data for individual students. One such platform is Lexia Reading Core5. Based on student performance in specific skill areas, the program automatically recommends lesson plans that can be delivered in a variety of ways. These action plans are a useful foundational tool for teachers to begin intervention with students.

Small group instruction.
While personalized learning is often focused on the needs of individual students, tools that offer personalized instruction can also facilitate group instruction. Many programs provide a holistic snapshot of classroom data—sorting students into groups based on skills they struggle with or excel in. By reviewing this data, teachers can better organize small group instruction and activities.

Creating obtainable goals.
In any classroom, students will have a diverse range of skill sets and abilities. With edtech tools that adjust to each student’s learning pace, students working below grade level are able to obtain a greater sense of achievement. Teachers can set general goals such as excelling to the next level in a program or mastering a skill in a given week or day. No matter what level a student is working at, teachers can ensure they recognize their own academic successes.

Pretest knowledge before units.
For teachers that use personalized learning tools in a blended learning model, pretesting knowledge before a unit can better inform future instruction. By implementing personalized learning tools in class or as a homework assignment, teachers can collect data on student knowledge prior to developing lesson plans.