While I was driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood this week using my GPS I started thinking about how great it would be if there was something like a GPS for learning.
Of course, there is adaptive learning and adaptive teaching. That is the idea of delivering a custom learning experience that addresses the unique needs of an individual. It does that by using just-in-time feedback, pathways, and a library of resources. This is not a one-size-fits-all learning experience.
When I was studying education in college, we learned about creating a "roadmap" for learning. That was a long time ago when a paper roadmap was the way to travel. It was not adaptive. The user had to adapt. With the Internet came mapping websites. You put in a starting place and a destination and it finds a route. At first, there were no alternate routes, but when sites like Google Maps became available you could select alternatives. If you wanted to avoid a highway, you could drag the route around it.
Then came a GPS. We tend to call those devices a GPS but the Global Positioning System (GPS) is what makes that device work. It was developed in order to allow accurate determination of geographical locations by military and civil users using satellites. Those devices had all those mapping things, plus it went with you in the car and, most importantly, it was adaptive. If you went down the wrong street or a road was blocked, it adapted your route.
When Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and other apps became available on smartphones, the makers of of GPS devives took a hit. Your phone knows where you are and where you want to go. It redirects you when needed. It gives immediate feedback on your progress and tells you your anticipated next step in advance.
Those first mapping programs weren't exactly what we would call artificial intelligence but today that is what drives mapping programs forward.
My driving notion of an AI/GPS for learning is here, though it's not quite a set-it-and-forget-it device yet. Several companies, such as Smart Sparrow, offer adaptive learning platforms. I know of a school using Pearson's program Aida Calculus (see video below) which connects multiple forms of AI to personalize learning. The program teaches students how to solve problems and gives real-world applications. Advanced AI algorithms have entered the education space.
Not every teacher or classroom has access to packaged programs for adaptive learning. In my pre-Internet teaching days, we called this approach individualized instruction which also focuses on the needs of the individual student. It was a teacher-centered approach that tried to shift teaching from specific one-need-at-a-time targets.
Over the years, the terms individualized instruction, differentiated teaching, adaptive learning and personalized learning have been sometimes used interchangeably. They are all related because they describe learning design that attempts to tailor instruction to the understanding, skills, and interests of an individual learner. Today, it is through technology, but we can still use human intervention, curriculum design, pathways and some blend of these.