Computer power in education promises to deliver tailor-made teaching programs that can meet the personal needs of every child. Several so-called blended learning projects have been set up, combining data mining with the insights of teachers to generate personalized competence-based learning. Some predict that the one-size-fits-all model of current education will become history when these programs turn out to be successful and scalable. However, others claim that education is not only about transferring knowledge but also about social processes that cannot be realized by offering individualized curricula.
Personalized Learning has become a broad field, due to the many different possibilities offered by technology in education. It could refer to educational platforms such as Blackboard or Canvas, which offer personalized support to teachers and students throughout their education. These platforms are common in universities already, high schools and primary schools only recently started implementing them. Online tutoring can also offer personalized learning, simply by connecting a tutor to a student for one-on-one additional lessons. Mainly children that attend primary school are making use of this possibility. These forms of personalized learning differ significantly from personalized competence-based learning through technology. For in the latter, the use of data mining is a crucial component. Data mining in this form of personalized learning is used to analyze school performance and social and emotional behavior in order to reply in the most optimal way. It aims to engage the student in the learning process on his/her personal terms.Several experimental projects have been set up to explore the potential of blended learning, using data to support the teachers in educating their students. This data is collected through video and audio recordings inside the classrooms and through laptops or tablets that are used by students to study. According to these initiatives, increased integration of technology will allow for more data tracking, which could help educators tailor their instruction to individual students’ needs. Well-analyzed data could help teachers identify struggling pupils long before a graded evaluation. Teachers could also improve their own teaching by reviewing their lessons later on. Because these initiatives combine teacher and technology to educate children according to their personal needs, children no longer need to be separated by age, nor do they have to sit still in rows for hours, facing the teacher. This allows for unconventional set-ups with open-plan spaces instead of classrooms, in which children are no longer bound to separate classrooms. Although these ideas are appealing and it seems to be evident that competence-based learning will deliver content more effectively than a one-size-fits-all approach, it is still far from obvious that personalized competence-based learning by means of data mining is ideal. There are numerous pedagogical reservations that have not yet been properly addressed. The social aspect of learning, for example, is compromised when children spend a huge part of their time on individual learning instead of collective teaching. It is not yet known whether being in the same space will provide an equal or sufficient social learning experience, and if it doesn’t, it is unclear how these shortcomings can be compensated. Another objection might be the unavoidable implementation of tablets and laptops in order to collect data from children’s individual learning development. Other projects, such as the Steve-Jobs schools in The Netherlands, implemented iPads in primary schools to let children get used to technology from an early age. The first results of this experiment were not positive. The test results of children were not optimal and the classes were messy, according to teachers. Practical disadvantages are caused by the large scale on which data needs to be gathered and analyzed, which jeopardizes children’s privacy.. Furthermore, the costs of these teaching methods are still exorbitant, making it impossible to implement in many schools.Since entire generations of young minds are at stake in education, it is likely that the implementation of personalized competence-based learning through technology is still a long way from becoming reality due to pedagogical and practical obstacles. However, because of the huge advantages it can deliver, it is also likely that this development will continue and finds its way into the education of children one way or another.