Is individualized instruction a bad thing?

Diana Senechal left the following comment over on a Wall Street Journal article about computers' burgeoning ability to individualize student learning:


While "individualized instruction" seems an unequivocal good, perhaps it is not. There is something to be said for asking students to pay attention to something that does not immediately interest them, something they may not immediately understand.

New software "rescues" children from frustration and difficulty; it meets them at their level and provides hints and encouragement when they have trouble answering a question. Some researchers are developing mood-sensitive software with animation that mirrors and responds to students' moods.

This may well be more engaging for some students. It may bring up test scores. But what are the long-term consequences? What will happen when these students need to learn something difficult and complex? What will happen when they need to pay attention to a lecture? Will they reach for their ipads and entertain themselves with a game? Will they text a friend across the room, "OMG this is so boring"?

The article refers to teachers at P.S. 100 who say that the computer sounds and animation capture students' attention in ways the teachers could not. Is this really a good thing? Or are we teaching children that they need not discipline their attention on their own, that they need not persist with anything that doesn't grab them right away?

What do you think of Diana's comment? Is individualized instruction and/or learning a bad thing?

Image credit: GothamSchools.org

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