After some further reading the need for criticality remains. Reading Newell, R (2003) Passion for learning it outlines approaches to personalised learning not too far away from the Ultraversity approach to learning. Two key differences Newell is talking about school aged learners and though technology is mentioned it is not a hi-tech approach to learner-centredness.
Newell’s learner centred approach promotes inquiry, personal planning and negotiation of topics. Two key reasons are offered for why learner-centredness should be employed …
• Rekindles the intrinsic motivation of the learner
• Keeps alive the passion for learning
These would seem reasonable but it is undoubtedly not the only way in addition it raises the question does seeking to jazz-up and excite knowledge make it a consumer product, does it attempt to add value to something which has inherent value and in-doing so erode the true inner value.
A further running theme of the literature is on meeting learner needs, on processes for defining learner choices and decision making. Futurelab talk of the learner knowing themselves and their needs to inform choice … “for learners to gain control over their own personalised learning, they have to truly understand their own needs, interests and aptitudes – otherwise their learning will have to be ‘personalised’ for them, perhaps by others who may not know them well enough to do this.” The article suggests “[a]chieving the self-knowledge needed for authentic personalisation can sound frighteningly introspective” and adds that “it need not be so “. However the futures exploration does little bar tinkering at the edges to suggest anything other than egoism.
Is the centrality of the learner in this brand of learning another mark of consumerism, individualism, egoism and a rehection of wider community perhaps? Is it wise to look at personal needs as the centre of learning, does personal need always serve groups and societies? Should they? Pragmatically, does the learner really know what they want – does this erode a spirit of adventure in knowledge and an opportunity cost.
So many of the visions of education of old are routed in a vision of society (Dewey with democrosisation for example places the individual at the centre, but returns also to the wider context, with a relationship with others:
“I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals. If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction; if we eliminate the individual factor from society, we are left only with an inert and lifeless mass. Education, therefore, must begin with a psychological insight into the child’s capacities, interests, and habits. … They must be translated into terms of their social equivalents–into terms of what they are capable of in the way of social service“.
What vision of society does personalisation give us and do we want it?