Learning Should NEVER be Lonely.

One of the terms that I just can’t come to grips with in education is “personalized learning.”  Maybe I’m being paranoid, but it literally frightens me. 

In my worst nightmares, I see rows of quiet kids sitting behind computers in quiet classrooms clicking away at keyboards as they work on individual tasks that are “customized to meet their unique sets of strengths and weaknesses.”  I see principals reveling in “the responsiveness of their classrooms” and teachers relaxing because there’s nothing to grade.  Worse yet, I see corporate giants drooling over heaping piles of cold, hard cash forked over by districts trying to “make the grade” even when “making the grade” means stripping every last drop of humanity out of our schools.

(click here to view and download on Flickr)


Here’s a simple truth, y’all: Real learning is sometimes personal and oftentimes social, but it is NEVER lonely.



Related Radical Reads:

Technology is a Tool, NOT a Learning Outcome

In Celebration of Teaching Geeks

#edtech Reflections for Preservice Teachers

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  • BillIvey

    You know me!…

    … constitutionally incapable of challenging a generalization. 🙂 But let me first say, I agree with you 100% (or more) that learning without human interaction is lonely and ineffective, and I would wake up screaming in a cold sweat from that nightmare you described.

    Still, I actually do think learning can sometimes be lonely, and I even wonder if there’s a place for that. If nothing else, I think people out on the cutting edge can often be lonely (I know my dad definitely feels that way at times), and where would we be without them? And I’m willing to allow for the possibility that one or more of my students feels ahead of her time in one way or another, and the resulting loneliness.

    So with all that said, maybe the key for students is knowing well-meaning people, most especially your teacher and ideally both peers and parents as well, are willing to be there for you to the very best of their ability when you need them. And maybe the key for the rest of us is having people to fill the same roles.

    • Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample)

      When you said…

      "I actually do think learning can sometimes be lonely, and I even wonder if there's a place for that."

      I nodded my head in agreeement. We sometimes need time away from everything and everyone to explore our own thinking. For example, I just got back from setting up a Courage and Renewal retreat for district staff. There will be times today when teachers will be asked by the facilitators to walk around the shelter property, to be alone, reflect, and write about why they went into teaching in the first place. Wireless is purposefully absent.

      At the same time, the educators are at the retreat as a community. Someone is close by to come back to and guide everyone on the next steps. I guess it really all depends on the type of learning that needs to take place and how, through socialization or introspection.

  • jozettemartinez

    When tools become substitutes…

    I am digging this piece for a few reasons. I am a teacher who does utilize tons of technology in my classroom, along with classroom dialogue and group idea-a-tion thereafter. It does, in the beginning, feel rather ‘lonely’ when students are independently working on their computer interfaces.

    I find that checks for understanding increase significantly when students are doing independent computer work, because, though the perception of teachers is that all must be engaged, in reality, some might be lost, or bored, or as you say Bill, lonely. They need that dialogue time, that human interaction that is so vital to the collaboration that some teachers always tout but rarely embrace.

    Technology is good, but it is not a substitute for a flesh and blood teacher. Debrief and further exploration, in tandem with hands on learning after the simulations is key. It is also the socio emotional piece that so many of my students need and crave. THAT is what makes my job the best. Without the talk time, the inquisition, my computer interfaces are useless. Great topic!


  • Wm Chamberlain

    Neither personalized nor

    Neither personalized nor individual has to mean alone. The value of technology is the promise of finding tribes we can learn from and with. Instead of seeing the kids working alone and lonely at the computer, think of them having learning conversations and doing learning projects with others who want to work with them on what they want to learn who are incapable of being present in the classroom.  Don't we learn from each other in our SM spaces because we can't be physically together? 

    Of course, the reality of the situation is that the meaning of personalized, individualized learning will probably skew more to your nightmare than my utopian ideal.