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:

Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

Michael Drosnin
Surprising Science
  • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
  • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
  • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Keep reading Show less

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less