Every teacher knows that creating lesson plans is a lot of work. Most people outside of the teaching profession do not realise how much time a good educator spends worrying about what they will say or do in class the next day, but the truth of the matter is that what happens in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg.
With the increasing tendency to tailor lessons to each individual student’s needs and leave behind the “one size fits all” model, the initial impression is that teachers’ work has suddenly multiplied and they need to come up not just with one plan, but as many plans as there are students—a frankly horrifying prospect that is not sustainable in the long term and would require the teacher to be in multiple places at once, holding several parallel lessons at the same time.
How can EdTech make this possible?
Play the lesson plan to your students’ strengths
Technology can be a great help in making lesson plans more flexible and effective, and none of it involves far-fetched solutions such as cloning teachers so they can give students individual attention: that still belongs in science fiction and will remain there for a long time to come.
One simple way to use technology to make learning personalised is to make the most of the multimedia capabilities of the technological devices the students are using: when the same device can produce a written text, a static visual representation of the concepts they’ve learnt, or even a short video, there are multiple valid ways to complete the same assignment. A student who is shy about public speaking might turn in an excellent written piece; conversely, someone who struggles to express themselves in writing might record themselves explaining the same information and prove that they have a solid understanding of it. This is not to say that students should never practice what they are not good at: personalised learning, if done incorrectly, can turn into catering to the student’s every whim, fail to give them a well-rounded education, and leave them ill-equipped to deal with failure in life. In short, true personalised learning requires great skill on the teacher’s part to distinguish between making students practice something they dislike and forcing them to go against their very nature.
Group projects also have great potential: not only do they foster teamwork and sometimes put students in the position of having to work with someone they would not have collaborated with otherwise, improving their skills in the areas of empathy and resolution of conflict, but they also help them figure out what their place in the team is: are they a natural leader or a follower? Are they willing to be the spokesperson for the entire group on the day the project is to be shown to the class, or do they prefer to work behind the scenes? Do their talents lie in researching information or in presenting it in an effective way? A good team is the sum of a lot of different roles and each student should find the one that suits them best.
Something for everyone
It is clear by now that the true way to personalised learning for a class of twenty students is not to make twenty separate plans, but one plan that has something for each of those twenty people. Some may be content with a traditional lecture, others may prefer to learn through a video, others yet may benefit the most from using learning apps that offer a hands-on experience: experimenting with all modes of learning will offer something of value to everyone. Visual learners may be bored during the lecture, auditory learners may struggle to excel at practical assignments—that is all part of a varied, multimedia lesson plan. What truly matters is that with well-executed personalised learning, each type of student knows their turn will come sooner or later and that no way of learning is superior to another.
With the aid of technology, a lesson plan is no longer a bitter medicine that everyone has to swallow, but a template with plenty of room for individual variations that allows every student to find their own personal path to success.