Personalized Learning and “Big Data”

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson –

Last week, I got to give a talk at the annual TESOL Convention in Chicago on how to offer personalized instruction in a classroom environment. At first glance, the two topics seem at odds. How on earth do you teach a class of people while they all do different, personalized tasks?

The answer, of course, is that you don’t. But you can still incorporate personalized learning into classroom teaching by leveraging two of my favorite things: data and technology. Technology can be used to personalize instruction out of the classroom, and data can be used to tailor instructional activities to learners’ strengths and weaknesses. The key here is making sure that you have a strategy for both the tech and the data—both are useless when they aren’t used with a specific purpose.

In addition to an overview of how to develop such a strategy, my presentation offered four rules to keep in mind when designing an integrated curriculum with both in-class and out-of-class activities.

  • Rule #1:  Learners won’t do work that teachers don’t see
  • Rule #2:  Learners should do different things outside of class
  • Rule #3:  In-class activities should be action oriented
  • Rule #4:  Use the data

If you’d like more details on these rules and how to apply them to your own context, watch the video of the presentation I gave.

Katie is Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, which means she leads the teams ensuring that learners are getting the most efficient and effective educational experience possible.  She has a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and years of experience teaching languages, building language courses, and evaluating the effectiveness of language training as a research scientist.  She lectures and writes about all things related to language learning and educational technology.