Barriers to Personalized Learning in Schools

At the CoSN conference in March 2008, I led a birds of a feather discussion about Long Tail Learning. Our discussion hit on trust, student privacy, and school district liability. We came up with a list of barriers/challenges:
# The classroom model of traditional education: 1 teacher, 25-30 students
# The Carnegie units system of measuring learning by time and place
# The ability for students to self identify
# The lack of data back to teachers and students
# Defining effective learning
# Lack of social acceptance of year-round schools
# Parents who want children to be educated in the same way they were
# Liability concerns about privacy when aggregating information.

We also considered some of the solutions or ways that we could overcome these barriers:
# Centralize resources: teachers, lesson plans, students
# Enable customers to do the work, students to select preferences
# Enable more access to more tools for all users
# We have to make the “learning” the constant, everything else should be a variable
# The system has to recognize and reward initiative
# Aggregate and distribute, see the Omaha Public Schools system

When we started to think about massive aggregation and distribution, we kept hitting the wall about how existing organizations could do this with all of the legal privacy and liability requirements. Practicing Patients, an excellent article by Thomas Goetz, March 23, 2008, NYT, highlights patientslikeme. This Web site allows patients with incurable diseases like ALS and AIDS to build social networks and share information. Unlike most sites, they have developed sophisticated data aggregation and analysis tools that quantify patient information and display it in graphical format. Because it is an opt-in site and patients have complete control of their profiles, they are not under HIPAA rules. Perhaps there is a model here for an opt-in student learning web site that aggregates profile data and provides analytical tools for students to learn about their own learning.
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