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‘Magic’​ Adaptive Learning Technology

    Adaptive Learning Technology: From ‘magic’​ to a usable solution

    Dear reader and fellow educator,

    You and I both have heard the tech-evangelists preach all sorts of blessings from the Digital Realm.

    It seems there is no end to the fabulous results if just computers are used for teaching.

    The tech-evangelists, who develop their visions in PowerPoint, make it all seem so easy. That is not my experience and I have come to suffer from PowerPoint-fatigue! Designing and producing teaching materials occasionally feels more like very hard work.

    After having seen and heard numerous magical presentations by commercial companies, I have grown a wish to find out if the magic is accessible to us “mere mortals” (aka non-techies with a tight budget) without paying something equivalent to the GDP of a mid-sized country. Annually.

    My quest is to go behind the PowerPoint visions with pretty pictures and optimistic estimates of effects. What can I actually DO myself? Can I make it work?

    The focus needs to stay at the student’s and educator’s needs and compare those to the educational affordances of the technology. Not the other way around IMHO.

    One of the interesting technologies in digital teaching and learning is Adaptive Learning Technology and I hope it one day will help educators solve Bloom’s Two Sigma-problem. That would be a dream come true! Imagine every single pupil and student having access to mastery learning in combination with personalized 1:1 teaching – whether by human or computer or better yet: by both in combination.


    But for personalized teaching and learning at a low cost to be feasible software has to be money-wise reachable, easy to use for the designer and has to make pedagogical sense.

    Moneywise reachability

    Open Source Software can be free and there are several options available (in no particular order):

    • Alosi at alosilabs.org?
    • Concerto at concertoplatform.com?
    • Scale at viseyes.org?
    • Adapt?
    • Functionalities in LMS’s?
    • Other?

    Please, please let me know if you hear of any other open-source, free software for adaptive teaching that I can try out.

    Easy to use for the designer

    Some of the mentioned software is rather hard to use and the average educator is not likely to give it a try, I guess. Then it struck me: I am an ICT-based Educational Designer and not a computer scientist or data-anything. I am a self-proclaimed superuser, thou! If I (who majored in Arts) can describe how I make any software work (in case I succeed installing it, that is) you can make it work too!

    The first step for me is to learn basic Linux. Done!

    The second step is to test and review the software and document the process. That is my work in progress.

    Pedagogical sense-making

    It is not enough for the technical solution to be available and affordable. Using technology needs to make pedagogical sense in the teaching and learning context. Technologies are by definition tools; suitable for different tasks. Teaching chess is not the same as teaching ballet or German grammar. The three scenarios call for different teaching tools.

    EdPlus at Arizona State University has developed an adaptive biology degree (http://bit.ly/30lJL4Z) and the University have good results using Adaptive Learning Technology in combination with blended learning. Their approach using the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy for Adaptive Teaching makes perfect sense to me when Bloom’s Taxonomy is appropriate. (illustration is © Arizona State University – thanks for letting me use it!)

    Do you know of other educational institutions using a sensible pedagogical model for adaptive teaching?

    The questions I am interested in when looking into the software are

    1. What are the pedagogical affordances of the platforms?
    2. What kind of learning designs can Adaptive Learning Technology be suitable for?
    3. What pedagogical taxonomies can be used?
    4. For what subjects?
    5. What is the algorithm behind any given platform, why is it chosen, and does it have pedagogical implications? Bayesian Knowledge Tracing? Item Response Theory? Rasch? Other?

    Am I missing out on a question or two? What do you think I need to investigate?

    What are your experiences? Please help my quest by commenting, liking and sharing