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Elizabeth Ricker

Neuroinformatics heads to school: The future of personalized learning

The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.—William Gibson, quoted in The Economist, December 4, 2003In America, we love personalization: personal computers, personal trainers, and more recently, personalized medicine. Because we especially prize individuality, the ground is fertile for developing services that cater to individualized preferences and needs. Personalized education is no exception; we have a growing drive to individualize and maximize how each student learns. Because the parallels between personalized medicine and personalized education are enlightening, let’s start with personalized medicine.First of all, what is personalized medicine? Imagine for a moment that instead of taking medicine designed for the general population, you took therapy specifically catering to your genetic profile. Your doctor looked at your DNA, measured certain protein levels, and your doctor divined what drugs would work best for you. So far, measuring proteins in the body, such as erbB2 and EGFR, have successfully provided the basis forpersonalized cancer treatments that had better outcomes than treatments designed for a more general population of cancer patients. More than just for cancer, however, personalized medicine promises to use individuals’ genetic and other biological information to provide medical care with fewer side effects and higher rates of success. Thus, genetic and other biological information leads to the medical intervention in personalized medicine.In its popular form, personalized education does not take a biological perspective. Instead, success stories in personalized education typically consist of software programs that are designed to provide the best amount, type, and rate of information for individual students’ cognitive, emotional, and social styles of learning. In order to do this, personalized educational systems typically draw from the insights of computer science, education, and behavioral-level psychology. Even one of the leaders in the field that hasroots in cognitive science, Carnegie Learning, does not employ neuroscience. Neuroscience covers phenomena at a cellular or molecular… Read More