TedTalk by Ben Kestner about Personalizing Education

Great talk from an esteemed colleague.

“I have a theory that we can start moving things forward too by focusing on the message to kids. THEY will start the revolution!”


Ben Kestner

11 Responses

  1. I’m afraid I’ve seen far too many proposals for personalizing with persons not to be a little wary of this line.

    • It’s always wise to be a bit skeptical. And yet not so skeptical that we never allow ideas to enthuse us – even influence us. What worries you about the term “personalization?”. I’m sure it has its dangers–unintended consequences, etc. Which are you worried about?

  2. arrgh, personalizing without persons …

    • Skepticism is a good idea.

      • I am an elementary tehacer in a Distributed Learning school. The new plan reminds me of many things I do currently. I have personalized learning paths for all my students. This means that I meet one-on-one for several hours at least 5 times a year to create, modify, assess and communicate the strategies and progress of the plan. I use the student’s learning styles, interests and assessment data to help create the year’s learning path. I use variety of resources to enable instruction, including multiple technological tools. The parent is essential and a team member. There is flexibility and choice at every turn offered. I do think these things are important and great goals for BC’s education system.But for the regular classroom tehacer, there are huge areas of concern: First, time: The personalized approach would require a recognition that tehacers need more prep time. At least 1 hour every day. There would need to be more time to become involved with parents, more meetings, more in person discussion (not more report cards). Then resources: All tehacers would need access to the latest computers, scanners, etc. More money would need to be devoted to better and more resources at the school (variety of textbook programs, online course options even for elementary).Flexibility and choice requires more and up-to-date engaging resources.There should be common instructional courses provided by the government in an online format (individual tehacers should not be required to create online instructional resources which in my opinion is like asking every tehacer to write their own Social Studies textbook). The curriculum will need to be tightened. The PLO’s feel sloppy and vague to me. A look at the intermediate PLO’s especially always makes me feel exhausted. There needs to be a safe and common Ministry provided online portfolio system that students can use for artifact collection. All tehacers will need to be able to access these sites.And class sizes! No human can personalize learning in a truly meaningful way with 30 students. And I can’t get my head around what that would look like at the high school level.The best way for success is for the government to allow keen tehacers willing to find a way for this to work at an individual school, rather than mandating from above. I think a pilot approach will work better. It would be good for the ministry to have a look at what works well and what doesn’t in places like DL, and various alternate programs where lots of personalizing is already occurring. And get feedback from those tehacers on whether it seems likely to succeed in a bricks and mortar setting. And other countries further down this path must have ideas on what works and what doesn’to share.

  3. Deb,

    The idea of personalization is not new. It has been one of the themes of educational system design for at least 30 years, just since I started paying attention.

    What has changed since the days when a whole generation was so naively enthusiastic about the potential of information technology and intelligent software systems for education? It is that all our early assumptions about who would be in control of the technology has now come a cropper.

    In our innocence so long ago we just naturally assumed that the medium remain under the control of learners and teachers, and thus be used to serve their common ends. But more and more we see that corporate entities have increased their control over the technology, warping the medium to their own private commercial and political purposes.

  4. Thank you for posting this, Deb. I’m very inspired by him. Project based learning is the hook that drew me into education as a music artist in the first place. I have seen, time and again, that students love to create projects in areas that interest them. My fav times at Vanguard were teaching hands-on music recording technology and song craft to my students and then watching them collaborate as songwriters, singers and musical programmers. I saw the most talented kids blossom from the most underserved communities. The ones I’m still in touch with continue to make music. In every case, my class was their first in music. I made it hands-on from the first day. (I also wrote the grant that won the equipment to have the class in the first place.)

    Also, Ben’s example of the teacher who didn’t know of his students interest in astronomy for four years brought up a memory of from my high school days. At Jamaica High School, my home room teacher, Ralph Klein – a great guy, was a music teacher. He didn’t know I could sing until he chaperoned our senior class ski trip and heard me singing the Hallelujah Chorus in the back of the bus – right on pitch (key of D). He couldn’t believe I could sing like that. “This is a crime,” he told me, and swiftly made me rehearsal pianist for his sophomore chorus. I had been too shy for those three years in his homeroom, to let him know I could sing.

    I’ve gone on to a career in music, sung the national anthem at Shea Stadium, had my musical produced Off Broadway and so on. But, given my invisibility as a musician in my high school, as an educator, I felt a calling to find and support any student who had talent and passion for music, writing, film making and anything else I could facilitate. My dreams love to stoke theirs. Isn’t that why we become educators…to light and stoke that fire? There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing that fire glow in a young heart.

    BTW – he refers to a group of schools in his talk. Is that “Net Schools?” I haven’t found them on the web.

  5. I really enjoyed Ben’s lecture on You tube ,to me it’s an extend of two learning theories which are constructivism initiated by Piaget and socio -constructivism initiated by Vygotsky ,both nearly 100 years ago.This is all magnificent ( sincerely ,I have a dyslexic child that struggled and is still struggling but at now university) Please tell me what happens when the student educated in a personalized education system integrates university and has to produce a lot of work ,exam etc…?
    Thank you

    • It surely makes it problematic! But figuring out how best to organize our lives is till at the heart of it.

      My colleague and friend Dennis Littkey is trying to develop a college system that is personalized. College Unbound he calls it.


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