What Adaptive Technology is Teaching Us about Learning

by Saga Briggs

What Adaptive Technology is Teaching Us about Learning - Innovation ExcellenceIf you’ve ever created or assigned a PowerPoint presentation at some point during your educational career, take heed: the program’s founders never intended it to be used for educational purposes.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, founder Robert Gaskins said that far more people have access to the program than the relatively small group of salespeople for which it was originally intended. When video projectors became small and cheap, just about every educator adopted one. Not only that, but PowerPoint presentations were never supposed to be an entire report—just a quick summary of something longer and better thought out. Gaskins calls it an “abomination” that students ever turned in book reports via PowerPoint: “Children need to think and write in complete paragraphs,” he says.

I bring this up because it highlights a current issue we can’t seem to resolve: most educational technology isn’t designed for teachers and learners.

One of the first red flags came from a district in Arizona that spent $33 million in educational technologies only to see test scores in reading and math stagnate while other districts enjoyed improvements. Had teachers in that district been assigned a more active role in designing and adapting these technologies, their students’ scores might have risen as well.

We may have moved on from PowerPoint presentations to apps, but the communication gap between software developers and learning experts persists.

“Blended learning is and will continue to be a critical element of a 21st century education, but only if executed with intentionality and precision,” says Rocketship Education co-founder Preston Smith in a recent Huffington Post article. “Most importantly, it will only succeed if implemented with the expertise of teachers.”

And that’s where adaptive technology comes in.

Sounds like another techy buzzword, right? Well, it’s actually one of the first edtech tools to grant teachers and learners complete ownership over its use. Using a single platform, teachers can develop and deliver content to learners, reflect on the effectiveness of that content, and further adapt content to the specific needs of their students.

Students benefit from customised educational content and immediate feedback based on individual strengths and weaknesses. And the best part is, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, that’s the whole point: Where many forms of edtech have distanced technologically challenged teachers in the past, adaptive technology promises to provide the scaffolding instructors and students need to move from learning how a tool works to learning how that tool can work for them.

image credit: elearningindustry.com

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Saga Briggs is Managing Editor for InformEd, an Open Colleges blog. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and lives in Portland, OR. You can follow her @sagamilena

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