My last post introduced my intent to draft the Theoretical Model for this project, starting with a pedagogical paradigm. Here is the next section of the pedagogical paradigm around Individualization. Let me know what you think.
No two learners learn at the same pace with the same learning experience in the same way. A person’s individual areas of intelligence, learning style, disabilities, previous experience, prior knowledge, and emotional state all play a part in how a learner engages with ideas in a learning experience.
The buzzword in educational circles is differentiation and it’s what makes any learning experience individualized. It’s a combination of unique support features and timing of those features, individual specific feedback, consideration of learner strengths and learning styles, and tweaked learning tasks.
In a traditional classroom, this is next to impossible since it demands observing each student the entire time they are working to best assess the individual support needed and strategically plan to meet ALL of those needs. However, in a virtual space with technology constantly collecting data on each learner this kind of assessment and monitoring is possible.
- Some learners need more time to complete tasks.
- Some learners need to more quickly advance to a more rigorous environment.
- Some learners need ASL (American Sign Language) translation.
- Some learners need reminders to use tools available,
- Some learners need specific feedback on their performance.
- Some learners need validation that their natural music intelligence is important and can be useful in learning.
- Some learners need privacy.
- Some learners need support with expressing ideas until they can write more clearly.
- Some learners need learning experiences in a different sequence.
- All learners need combinations of these at different times.
Aiming at the middle only hits a few. Those learners who happen to fall anywhere other than the middle are being marginalized for the sake of what is presently possible. It’s time to develop new tools that reduce this marginalization and instead build every individual.
We define assistance as a support feature that a) A learner MAY always need b) Allows a learner to enter at grade-level rigorous learning experiences c) Is controlled by the learner and only removed when the learner is capable of engaging with the learning program at the same level as without it. d) Is penalty free and e) Is addressed outside of the learning space by the parent/teacher for supportive development and reflective discussion about continued need.
We define scaffolding as support to a learner while s/he learns to use a new tool (conceptual, physical, metacognitive etc…) This scaffolding is temporary and changes based on a learner’s need in a given task. The goal is for students to be able to use a tool independently at an adaptive expert level, thus scaffolding support only shows up as needed, and not before.
This is difficult in a classroom, as it requires the teacher constantly be monitoring where every student is along a spectrum of expertise development with that tool and then supply the appropriate support at any given time. To have “classroom tools” that have this type of triggered support embedded into its learning experiences would be a great help in offering this kind of individualization.
Feedback is more than just a grade or score on performance, it gives learners a personalized response that reflects their progress, choices, and performance in tasks. It should be suggestive versus demanding in nature and is specific to the opportunities where the learner could make better choices, practice for a better performance, and show progress.
This kind of feedback is more common at an elementary level as teachers have less students to track. However, it usually centers around performance on the given task versus progress over time and/or their learning choices within a single learning experience or over a series of learning experiences.
Additionally, quality, helpful feedback implies an opportunity to revise or redo a learning experience. Often this is not the case, thus feedback becomes too time-consuming for teachers and irrelevant to the learner. Given a learning environment that allows for endless opportunities to revise, redo, and restart, feedback is not only helpful, but pivotal for the revision to show improvement.
Time can impose a pressure on learners. Some may worry about what they may lose if they don’t finish in the allotted time or how they may look if they don’t finish about the same time as everyone else. Interestingly, most diagnosed special education learners just simply need more time to complete learning experiences, ideally without the knowledge of their peers, the penalty of losing free time, or the implication that they are dumb. To run a classroom where time is flexible is next to impossible considering the need to plan and move from one learning experience to another and be able to discuss what the students are learning along the way.
An ideal “classroom tool” would offer privacy to the learner with respect to the time in any program feature and out-of-classroom access for further exploration. As well, the classroom discussions could center around what they learned in the program elements they chose, what they learned from mistakes they made, and what they learned about navigating the learning environment. This way, everyone has something to talk about regardless of how far they advanced.
Many learners identified as “gifted” are subjected to learning experiences that ignore their present conceptual or cognitive progress. They are given busy work, pulled out of class, or forced to complete tasks that do not challenge them in the least to reduce the range of prep a teacher must do. An ideal program can quickly assess the expertise and areas of need of a student and place them in the appropriate learning environment that can offer rigorous learning experiences for where they are at that moment.
Gardner’s MI theory identifies eight categories of intelligence in human beings. Every individual possesses intelligence in one or more of these categories and can leverage their strengths to improve others. We recognize that each learner will come to the table with natural intelligence they may or may not even be aware of. Thus all eight need to be observed in the characters of the stories, present in the interactive program elements, and developed through identification and feedback.
- Assistance features are 1) Manually turned on/off by the learner 2) Do not impose any penalty in the game space or larger virtual world 3) Range in support from ASL translation at the bottom of the screen to voice-to-text or letter-recognition for new or struggling writers. 4) Presented to parents and teachers upon joining and can be turned on/off at any time
- Scaffolding is both tool and task specific. It is automatically triggered when a student shows need, but not automatically imposed on new tasks, making it a temporary support for learning instead of permanent crutch for performance. The need for the scaffold is included in the assessment of the tool use placing a learner at a less than proficient plot on the tool use map. (See assessment for more details on how this is incorporated into tool use monitoring)
- Feedback prompts are more general than the scaffold prompts in that they look at the overall progress, performance, and choices of a learner over time (a session, a TR, a mission etc.) The feedback prompts make suggestions to make better learning choices and to address progress or performance deficiency in a specific program element, TR, or mission.
- Time is almost entirely removed from the learning equation through 1) 24/7 access 2) endless opportunities to revise/restart 3) independent exploration and choices in the learning space 4) the Pause button where learners can step out of program element to learn from other tutorials, notes, or learners before going back into the element.
- Levels are part of any game space and require a user go sequentially through them. However, the amount of time in each is significantly reduced if the user can meet the qualifications to move on. This keeps learners from having to spend hours working at a level they have cognitively or conceptually passed.
- Multiple Intelligences – Each intelligence will be present in every training room. A specific tool, introduced at higher levels, will be offered to help learners identify their natural intelligence and begin to develop their awareness of how to leverage it to learn. At lower levels, log files will record the creative choices made in create PEs giving some evidence to support the claims about the natural intelligence of each learner. This will show up in middle level reports to teachers and parents, although it won’t be introduced as a formal tool with the learners till higher levels.