Personalised learning is the antithesis of what humans are – social and gregarious. So why does Silicon Valley think that learning alone will best prepare our children for a future where it’s knowledge use not knowledge content that determines your hireability?
According to Silicon Valley, personalised learning will allow every student to succeed because it provides exactly what each student needs when they need it. Add to this the personality testing and the ability to read children’s emotions, and you’ve got the perfect learning system.
Other than massive privacy issues that all of us should be fearing, there’s one standout problem to me: each student does this alone.
Whether a lawyer, programmer, cleaner, waiter or any other occupation you can think of – there is not a single occupation that does not require the ability to work with others. So how in the world could a personalised learning regiment prepare a student for anything the real world has to offer, regardless of how much knowledge they can consume?
As Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group, says, we need to reinforce the traits and behaviours that make us uniquely human and separate us from what machines do best – house information. And to do that, we need to encourage more social interaction, more group work, and a greater ability to navigate relationships, both positive and negative.
Personalised learning doesn’t do any of this. What it does do is collect massive amounts of data on performance, behaviour, and if Silicon Valley gets what it wants, correlations with neural performance. You can imagine how much value data such as those hold for companies.
Coding will not save our future
Let’s take, for example, Silicon Valley’s push for students to learn code. I agree that coding can teach students particular skills such as logical thought and problem solving, but getting students to sit in front of computers to learn to code it is not preparing our students for a brighter future in and of itself. In this supposed future run by machines that everyone tells us is coming, it is hard to believe that in all the jobs that will be automated, that coding won’t be one of them. And I’m not the only one that thinks this.
Coding, a profession that functions by placing rules in order, is just as susceptible to automation as any other profession. With machine learning and AI, the only programmers that will be necessary are high-level programmers that can think independently and ethically, and those that can work with a team of others. For most other problems, you’ll be able to ask Siri to write the bit of code you need.
So when Silicon Valley states it wants to prepare our students for the future, it’s important to understand that there are other possibilities for why Silicon Valley would push personalised learning.
The only thing that is wrong with education is that we don’t trust our teachers
What we need to remember is the very system that Silicon Valley says is broken is the system that led to these successful individuals. The only thing that silicon valley tends to benefit from undermining the current system is to ensure that individuals like themselves do not continue to be created. What better way to control individuals than through personalised learning where a computer tells you what you should learn instead of a teacher that encourages you learn what interests you.
What we, and students, need is technology that makes teachers lives easier. Because if students need anything, it’s more time with someone that loves to see them grow, challenges them personally, and helps them learn how to navigate real-world issues. But supporting teachers is not going to make any company rich.