Ed tech continues to change schooling, with devices and online programs nowadays taking front and center, not the teacher. That is most certainly the case with personalized learning, the latest education reform buzzword.

Although touted by proponents as learning’s savior, to this day, an effective model remains elusive. The result: It’s inconsistently implemented in our nation’s classrooms, with some schools…

  • Corralling kids in a gym to work on software said to adapt itself to the needs of the user;
  • Turning over all work-related decisions—how, when, and where—to students;
  • Offering computerized one-on-one teaching all day long.

And leading the charge? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg with his Summit Learning Program. Heralded for its “personalized” delivery of schooling, students for the most part work at their own pace. Teachers serve only as “facilitators,” with kids getting just 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one “mentoring” per week. In other words, the teacher is all but irrelevant.

No surprisingly, students, like those in Brooklyn last November, are walking away from their Summit-loaded computers in protest. Said freshman Michael Storman, who spends five hours every day on Summit course-ware: “It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long. You have to teach yourself.”

Troubled teachers are speaking out, too. Said one anonymously, “I’m walking around thinking this is absolutely insane. They’re not learning. I tell the kids to come off that Walkman, tell them to come off the phone, tell them to come off the website they in and go back to their [Summit] modules.”

Then there’s this from UCLA’s Noel Enyedy’s recent report, “Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning.” It conclusion: “There is little evidence for the effectiveness of personalized instruction through technology.”

And, as he reminds us, “The term covers so many differing systems, it’s nearly impossible to make reasonable claims one way or the other.”

Not all progress is progress…