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Digital technology provides personalized learning

Digital transformation within education has required some dramatic shifts in practice and also the relatively easy shift of traditional practices on-line. A common example is with more course content going on-line, with students completing exercises and having work marked (sometimes by artificial intelligence). The use of online materials allows for a greater use of graphics and video technology. Digital learning also enables education administrators to gain greater control over faculty performance and course content, which can help to drive up standards in terms of material content and, inevitably, educational attainment.

This is the second of three Digital Journal articles looking at how schools and colleges are using digital technology in novel ways. Where the first article looked at the use of virtual reality in education, the focus here is on personalized education plans. New technology allows the teacher to tailor learning content towards individual pupils rather than having to race through the year’s curriculum at the pace of the ‘average’ student. This works for both fast and slow learners.


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READ MORE: How virtual and mixed reality are being used in education

The term for this approach is ‘blended learning‘. While students still attend conventional schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices can be combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.

This not only helps to construct a barter learning framework it also moves some of the responsibility for learning onto the student, which can help with personal development as well as with wider learning. Responsibility is enhanced because the use of educational apps requires less direct instruction from the teacher since the student goes on a direct discovery based journey of of learning. The use of such apps also affects time and space, since students can study at different times and in different places outside of the formal structure of the classroom setting. Students are also in control of their own pace of learning, which means more able students can advance through the material more quickly without being slowed down by other students and thereby avoiding the risk of becoming bored; and less able students can plug away without having to skip aspects of the lesson in order to catch up with the majority of the class.



More sophisticated software also allows for different learning paths to be taken, so that one student could embark upon a learning path that is simpler or more complex than another student. This is sometimes called ‘adaptive learning.’ Teachers can use online learning systems to track the performance of students and make adjustments as necessary. Such systems also allow usable statistics to be collected about learning outcomes.

The types of apps used function as ‘thinking’ platform takes away from the teacher the need to modify the learning plan. Instead the application can analyze student data in real-time and make adjustments as to the next learning path that the student should take based on an interpretation of the data.

READ MORE: Artificial intelligence used to mark exam papers

An example is with the learning platform Osmosis. This platform is aimed at the university sector, targeting medical students. Learning is in the form of questions, flashcards, videos and gamification. Osmosis analyzes the students’ course materials and schedules; from this it then generates recommendations and quizzes to prepare them for clinical practice, board exams and tests.

A woman reading an e-book reader  the Kindle

A woman reading an e-book reader, the Kindle

Also in this area is Lightboard, which is a glass chalkboard pumped full of light. The device, Eschool News reports, is for recording video lecture topics. The teacher faces towards the class and the writing glows in front of the class.

There are also on-line blended learning websites, such as:

EDpuzzle: A video-enabled site which allows the teacher to add questions and to generate assessments for blend learning. It is configured for student centered self-paced learning.
GoClass: A web interface and mobile app that allows teachers to create digital lessons, blend learning, and generate detailed reports.
Kahoot: A game based blended learning system that allows also educators to assess students in a visual bar graph manner.

In implementing digital technology schools need to be careful not to let the thrill of the technology triumph good learning. Pedagogy should always guide technology. To ensure this happens the school needs to have a common goal and understanding as to how technology will play a role in supporting or enhancing learning.

If this article was of interest, please read the third in the series which looks at how artificial intelligence is going beyond marking multiple choice exam papers to assessing student essays.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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