David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
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It’s Silly, I know!

It’s a silly distinction to make, I know, objecting to “personalize learning,” as a term for describing the current flavor-of-the-week in education reform/transformation conversation, preferring instead, “personal learning,” .  

As an advocate, I cannot fault the use of either label for student learning that is personal, needs-based, unconfined and empowered by personal passions and skills. That’s my immodestly paltry characterization that fits both terms.

I could, if I thought it would be the least bit helpful, call attention to semantics, suggesting that one is a verb, “..produce (something) to meet someone’s individual requirements..”, and the other an adjective, “..belonging to a particular person..”

But I guess what disturbs me the most and prevents me from letting go of this argument is that one can be

  • Packaged,
  • Monetized,
  • and marketed

to superintendents and legislators,


The other liberates learning.


  • http://connect2jamie.com jamie camp

    Well put! I had a similar conversation with an administrator friend of mine who expressed an interest in having a 1:1 program in her elementary school. Her vision was personalized test prep, not personal learning. I was so discouraged to hear her say that, and frustrated that I couldn’t make the case eloquently enough for her to really hear me. Test prep is not enough. It’s the lowest common denominator, and leaves all the amazing learning out of the picture.

    I heard Chris Lehmann once say, “That we take most complex creative tools we’ve ever had and turn them into Scantron machines is a failure of our imagination.” How true.

    • David Warlick

      Jamie, this is, at heart, a political problem, which, I fear more and more, has corporate roots. This country spends billions each year on education. 1:1, I’m afraid, is becoming a conduit through which profit minded entities can cash in.

      • http://connect2jamie.com jamie camp

        Of course, you’re right about this–and such profiteering is a major threat to American public education today. Probably THE major threat.
        Just wanted to say thanks for putting something I’ve been thinking into words (and graphic) so much better than I’ve managed to! :)

  • John McPeek

    I agree we shouldn’t just be teaching our children to take tests. I may not be a teacher yet as I am in my senior year at the Universitiy of South Alabama for Seconday Education/ History but I have been around the education system for a while. A few semesters ago I asked a Professor if they had any advise for me and they said learn how to teach for testing. I was so taken aback that all I could do was say ok. I hope that when I become an instructor that I can make the distinction between Personalized Learning and Personal Learning as I would love to make learning personal to my students.

  • Monique

    Hey Mr. Warlick, my name is Monique a student in EDM 310 at University of South Alabama. I enjoyed reading your blog. I like how you distinguished the difference between personal and personalize learning. I did not think of education in that way. Great post!

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind

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