Making the Grade

How personalized education practices can empower the next generation of students.

GUEST COLUMN | by Richard Brown

CREDIT Nuance Dragon Naturally SpeakingWith all of the next-age consumer gadgets unveiled at the latest technology conferences, stories of the changing retail landscape and ever-advancing practices in healthcare, it’s easy to overlook the foundation that makes every one of these industries possible: education. While some pundits get hung up on the fact that less funding is being allocated to public schools across the nation, or that standardized test scores across the country are lower than those of other countries, there are, in fact, great opportunities to inspire the next generation of students to live up to high learning standards. Much like technology, retail, healthcare, banking and other industries, education practices are evolving, and there are exciting new ways to ensure that students develop all of the skills and have access to all of the necessary resources to enhance learning opportunities.

As young students face learning obstacles, one of the best ways to maximize the effects of today’s education practices is to personalize learning.

As young students face learning obstacles, one of the best ways to maximize the effects of today’s education practices is to personalize learning. Catering teaching to students’ individual needs has long been encouraged, but new developments in both technology and society make it more possible and important to do so now. Below are four ways that schools can adapt to their students’ learning styles to personalize education.

  1. Use Data Analytics for Better Education

Tests, quizzes and other activities provide endless amounts of information for teachers to use to assess their students individually. And now, technology and digitization allow them to better understand the valuable data. For schools, as in any business, the biggest issue with data collection has been finding the tools needed to decipher it all. As the classroom becomes increasingly digitized, there are more ways than ever to understand a student’s personal strengths and areas for improvement. A recent Wall Street Journal article outlined the advantages that data storage and access present to schools. The author explained, “Over the past decade, schools have started using cloud storage or begun sending more data to state education departments for collection and analysis. The amount of data collected is expected to swell as more schools use apps and tablets that can collect information down to individual keystrokes, or even how long a student holds a mouse pointer above a certain answer.” A test score can provide a detailed analysis of a student’s thought process, and the teacher could then understand exactly why the student answered a question incorrectly. Using data, teachers could more easily tailor their approach to a student’s individual needs.

  1. Speak Your Mind and Get More Accomplished

Just as students learn at different speeds, the way that they process information varies greatly as well. This is often evident when it comes to transferring thoughts onto the typed or written page. Voice recognition technology can serve as a valuable aid to help students who have physical or learning disabilities, or simply have difficulty conveying their thoughts by writing or typing. These students can still reach their full potential by using their voice to write and edit essays, papers and other assignments. And, voice recognition technology allows students to easily transcribe dictated notes for better organization and preparation ahead of assignments.

  1. Leverage Your Voice as You Learn a New Language

Voice recognition can also be a valuable tool for helping students learn a new language, particularly as more applications and programs are developed for this specific purpose. NewStatesman highlights phone apps that allow users to learn thousands of words of new vocabulary, helping them to comprehend a new language more easily. This technology could be used as an effective complement to classroom language instruction, where students have more difficulty with retention and “new words tend to go in one ear and straight out the other,” according to the article. Because children in a classroom setting process information in their own unique ways, it’s important to let go of the idea that writing and learning should only involve pens, paper and a keyboard.

  1. Take Advantage of Intimate Learning Experiences

Not every personalized learning solution has to involve the next generation of technology. While technology allows schools to move faster and get ahead in some situations, it often doesn’t address the core issues of students’ challenges. Not all students have the same level of access to various resources, whether at school or at home. The ‘Knowledge is Power Program’ (KIPP) charter school has successfully catered to students’ needs by creating environments that are more conducive to success. Students can apply to get accepted into the free program, and in smaller, more intimate settings, teachers are able to successfully execute personalized learning. Of the students who join KIPP, 80% go on to enroll in college. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled a South Bronx KIPP program in which students were able to attend college while dealing with difficult circumstances. The author writes, “The students tend to come in from traditional public schools significantly below grade-level math and reading. KIPP manages to close the gap, and its students performed second best in the Bronx and seventh in New York City on recent state standardized tests.” While quality education practices should be a universal norm, it’s important to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the best strategy for getting the most out of students.

While some companies continue to push the boundaries of creativity, innovation and advanced technology, it’s sometimes too easy to forget what makes all of it possible in the first place. We have the opportunity to educate the next generation of students, but we need to consider the benefits of personalized learning approaches to help them take the necessary strides to reach their full potential.

Richard Brown is Senior Director of Dragon Product Management for Nuance.

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