Should you teach students as one group, or individually? Three new projects support both

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In a famous allegory by Amos E. Dolbear – often misattributed to Einstein – a school was created for the development of the animals. To graduate, they had to be symmetrically developed – to climb, swim, run, and fly at a certain level. The consequences were easy to foresee: “the time taken by the duck in learning to run the prescribed rate had so hindered him from swimming that he was scarcely able to swim at the prescribed rate”. Teachers may worry that school education treats learners like these ducks and ignores the way they develop at different rates. However, you can discover more personalised approaches to learning through these new projects!

Personalised reading with iRead

Literacy is a key competence that is lacking even in developed countries and is a fruitful field for personalised learning projects like iRead. Through new software, iRead aims to help primary school children and children with dyslexia to hone their reading skills, especially learning to read and learning English as a foreign language.

iRead project

The project integrates three distinct learning apps. The first one offers personalised and adaptive literacy games, which reinforce students’ skills through practice and immediate feedback. These games are self-paced, training the users’ vocabulary, decoding (e.g. phonics) as well as comprehension (e.g. syntax).

The second product is a set of interactive e-books (picture books), with visual hot spots triggering the pronunciation and spelling of a word, and simple learning activities. The e-Reader app also provides text-to-speech capabilities for students with dyslexia or for foreign language learners, and task-specific strategies for different reading purposes (e.g. ‘reading for information’ or ‘reading to critique texts’). You can find out more about the methodology here.

In the process of developing these technologies, iRead has had to work closely with schools, education providers, businesses, parents and researchers. The project is currently recruiting schools for its pilot evaluations. For more information, check out this flyer.

iRead began in 2017 and is slated to end in 2020. It is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 and comprises 15 partners in eight European countries.

Personalised learning paths with DEPIT

The functions of a school have become more complex and learning designs have struggled to catch up. One issue is flexibility: many teachers prepare annual plans in advance that are unable to take account of the day-to-day alterations in the classroom. Workload, too, can become unsustainable, and multimedia often goes unused. The need for more personalisation and adaptability to learner needs is the starting point for DEPIT (Designing for Personalisation and Inclusion with Technologies).

To improve conditions, the project is developing an interactive learning design methodology that will support classroom management and individual learner needs. The project has also produced an application to facilitate the design process: the DEPIT APP, which is already available for download. This allows users to design and implement curricular learning paths at different levels.

DEPIT app for personalised learning

DEPIT began in 2017 and is due to conclude in 2020. It is an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership led by a consortium of universities, teacher/trainer associations, school networks, and software development companies from four countries: Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Personalised and inclusive learning with ALS

Many children with Special Education Needs still attend mainstream education – whether their challenges are physical (e.g. visual impairment), behavioural, or specific (e.g. dyslexia). However, the pace and content of lessons can be difficult for these children to follow without adjustment and it is especially important for them to assimilate their learning in their early years, so they can more easily progress in the future.

With that in mind, ALS (Adaptive Learning System) created a digital learning tool to adapt and personalise learning content during early childhood education. This tool creates learner profiles based on students’ cognitive behaviour and motivation, and modifies their content accordingly.

The project’s output includes an analysis of learning difficulties and how to circumvent them; guidelines for adjusting learning content; and a document on Universal Design for Learning.

ALS began in 2014 and ended in 2017. It is an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, and has been designated a good practice example.