'Adaptive Learning' and 'Teacher Autonomy' are not Mutually Exclusive

by: Zack Blois on Apr 25, 2013 2:01:00 PM

With all of the buzz about Flipped Classrooms, Blended/Hybrid Learning models, and computer-based assessments, it may seem like control of instruction is being taken away from educators and given to some ‘robot’ or face on a screen that churns out math problems and reading prompts.

However, adaptive digital content that is created with the educator in mind, as well as the student, should actually enhance and expand educator autonomy, not limit it.

New Educational Technology is Often Followed by Skepticism

Adaptive educational content is not the first technology advance that has been met with skepticism in the school world. About ten years ago, SMART Boards were viewed as a cool, but unnecessary luxury that served more as a distraction than a learning tool. And, those with a more anti-SMART Board view may have had visions like this...

Jumping back to 2013 (and, thankfully, not 1984), we know that simply isn’t the case. Big Brother is not coming through the touchscreen to indoctrinate students. Instead, SMART Boards have revolutionized full-class instruction, offering educators a wide variety of differentiation abilities and heightened student engagement. Teachers found ways to optimize and integrate the interactive boards into their own lessons, instead of being ‘dictated’ by their flashy function.

Making Adaptive Learning Work for You

Strong educators can, and will, do the same with adaptive learning content. Just like the SMART Boards of old, today’s new technology may seem daunting, but there are some really great benefits of incorporating digital resources into your instruction. The key is to choose the best adaptive learning content for your students. Below are some ‘must haves’ to get you pointed in the right direction!

describe the imageCustomization and Individualization Ability
Simply providing adaptive features isn’t enough. Teachers should seek the ability to customize the order, difficulty, and length of digital access and topics. Platforms that lack these functionalities create linear learning paths for students. In my opinion, that is the antithesis of teacher autonomy.

Look for digital instructional tools that give you access to a wide range of grade level content, difficulties, and scopes. Additionally, search for platforms that offer the ability to prescribe whatever piece of the content, whenever you deem it a best fit. Not every student is on the same learning path, and good platforms should recognize this both in their adaptive nature and curriculum customization features.

Avoid the digital equivalent to ‘Hand Turkeys’
My Methods professor always warned us to avoid adding ‘hand turkey’ activities to our lesson plans. A ‘hand turkey’, in her eyes, was any activity that did not contribute to the overall goals and objectives of the lesson plan. She used this reference because, during every Thanksgiving, she saw tons of teachers have kids trace their hands to draw a turkey without making one useful connection to their daily lesson plan about the holiday. “What a waste of time and attention,” she would exclaim.

Similarly, your adaptive digital content should relate directly to the lesson goals and objectives YOU have laid out, not the other way around. For example, having students play broad-reaching multiplication video games that do not specifically meet your specific multiplication objectives limits the effectiveness of your lessons.

Transparent and Useful Reporting/Data
I can’t think of a quicker way for an educator to lose independence than to send kids off on an interactive, adaptive digital learning experience and have nothing to show for it afterwards! 

Students having fun and enjoying their learning is of the utmost importance, but you are going to need to reach deeper than basic educational games if you want to truly include effective digital learning as a part of your daily instruction. Adopt adaptive platforms that offer immediate and robust analytical data so that you can identify where individualized instruction and reinforcement is required.

You can’t have 'Autonomy' without 'Comfort'

Most importantly, make sure to use the digital learning content that makes you feel most comfortable. If you can’t get behind the resources you are using in your instruction, your students will notice, and the resources will almost certainly lose effectiveness.
 


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Topics: Blended Learning, Personalized Learning