Personalized education was already big pre-pandemic, but homeschooling and digital instruction made more parents and teachers embrace the idea. With a shortage of human teachers, many schools jumped on the bandwagon of using technology that collects each child’s personal data and tailors content accordingly.

Researchers, however, warn of three dangerous pitfalls.

First, personalized education offered at the expense of standardized education exacerbates gaps between children who grow up in environments that hoard opportunities and those who don’t, between the privileged and not-so-privileged.

Personalized education proponents rightly argue that teaching to the average is an outdated and impossible target given the complexity of learning. But schools need some form of standardized education in order to identify and narrow education gaps created by socioeconomic differences among students. Standardized instruction may not adequately coach all children’s talents, but it allows educators to compare individual to collective achievements, as well as local performance to international standards.

Unfortunately, current personalized platforms are not designed to tackle educational inequality. Personalized apps push well-performing students to the top of the pile by supplying them with more advanced content. In addition, personalized algorithms demonstrate what is known as the Matthew effect: Those who start behind are left behind with their own data — without group power to lift them up.

Schools cannot offer personalized education alone, and partnerships with community organizations are vital for tackling inequalities among students. It is important to remember that personalized education technology can exacerbate the gaps between those with digital access and those without, as well as between those who are digitally literate and technologically savvy and those who are not.

Read the full article about personalized education by Natalia Kucirkova at The Hechinger Report.