Open EdTech Summit (II). Brainwriting and Brainstorming: Personalization of the Learning Process

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #62, November 2008


Teamwork at the Open EdTech Summit. First part is a brainwriting exercise where a personal reflection time should produce a list of ideas. Then, a brainstorming exercise with the rest of the group where ideas are put in common. This group is about Personalization of the Learning Process. Other groups are Learning Content Development and Delivery, Future Technologies at the Service of Learning, Learning: Everyone, Everywhere and Anytime.

Team 1 – PLP (Personalization of the Learning Process). Contents of this area: individual methods of learning, personal learning speed. student personal learning experience, interaction between learning processes and technology.


How far can we go with personalization in a credential-driven education system?
  • As far as we push the learning process away from teaching, shifting responsibility to the student, the process can be as personalized as at the individual level.
  • Goal setting and assessment has to be homogeneous in a higher degree (with slight changes according to personal needs), education has not.
  • ICTs lower the transaction costs of individual/personal mentorship
  • ICTs lower the costs of content diffusion (open educational resources in digital format)
How far can we go in automatically adapting the student’s personal learning experience, based on the system’s assessment of their knowledge/understanding?
  • Syllabuses can be highly dynamic, though they require some human and technological effort
  • Again, assessment should take place at the final stage, evaluating the “output” of the educational process. The process itself… should it be assessed (per se, not in terms of evaluating its performance to achieve educational goals)?
Will it be possible in the very next future that each student rules completely her/his learning process?
  • The student should be able to rule their learning process
  • More effort — and resources — should be put on the how and the what for, not the what
  • The focus should be goal setting, designing “default” paths according to more common profiles, and guidance
How far technologies will help us in adapting the personal rhythm of learning to the academic demands of the universities?
  • Should universities have academic demands at all? Shouldn’t universities be the ones to adapt their rhythms to personal learning demands?
  • If focus is not put in the process but in goal setting, guidance and assessment — not in teaching — then technology could help to bind people together while keeping the ends quite loose.
Is it possible to offer university contents completely adapted to a specific (individual) learning process?
  • It absolutely is: we don’t have to make scarce something abundant (e.g. tight syllabuses)
  • The goal is not filtering, but capaciting people to filter


Larry Johnson: how do you guide someone through their random process so that they become an e.g. “engineer”?

Jutta Treviranus: Personalization can be understood as personalization of access, not necessarily (or not only) personalization of the content. It’s critical to identify what constitutes an “engineer”.

David Wiley: a credential is shortcut for the employer to identify competences, a bundle of competences. Can be unbundle these competences? Course selection, sequencing, etc. can be hence adapted.

Llorenç Valverde: still a tight curriculum in Spain even after the Bolonia process. Is there room for a freedom of choice?

Lev Gonick: how to create space for subversion? how to bring the student autonomy? not big changes: where are the cracks of the system?

Jutta Treviranus: optimising learning, making it challenging to the student.

Vijay Kukmar: we can go very far in personalization. Microcredits, e-portfolios… are already existing tools that can be drivers of change. Not thinking about disciplines, but transferable skills and learning how to learn.

Jutta Treviranus: how you best learn? personalization is not about the system itself, but the engagement.

Ismael Peña-López: now what’s scarce is not knowledge (that’s why we had to produce and put together the scarce knowledge in classrooms and universities), but mentoning: no more focus on knowledge, but on mentoring.

Claudio Dondi: It’s easy to identify what the core competences are in a specific discipline/degree/etc. Thus, competences should be certified competences, more than learnings. Move the assessment from knowledge only to know-how.

Llorenç Valverde: how to certify competences without assessing content?

David Wiley: what happens with social interaction (amongst students) if personalization goes to the limit of individualization? Personalization should not let aside social activities. How to find the balance between helping in the decision-taking and taking the decision for the students.

Elena Barberà: personalization of what? goals? processes? technologies? We have to identify where are we learning, where are the connections between the person and knowledge, and adapt the use of the tools to this: learning needs evidence, documentation.

Francesc Santanach: personalization will be crucial in the future where heterogeneous students will meet in the same classroom. Globalization and digital technologies foster this heterogeneity. It is more important to recommend, not force anyone into any path.

Larry Johnson: there is a deep lack of definition about what is personalization, how to… There is not such a defined niche for personalization, and technology will not make it out of the blue.

Jutta Treviranus: personalization and technology not only from a pedagogical approach, but also in other aspects just like (physical) access.

Vijay Kumar: the difference between information and education; and between education and formal education (certification, etc.); and between education and learning. Should we focus in how learners customize their learning experience and forget about education?

Lev Gonick: how do institutions avoid the irrelevance of “bad” learning practices?

Llorenç Valverde: personalization has not to be contaminated by the commoditization that came with the industrial revolution. But we can avoid the pret-à-porter one-size-fits-all of education and go into personalized tailoring.

Lev Gonick: we have to set up theories that create new frameworks that e.g. allow the human genome project to emerge.Without that theory, educational institutions will be marginalized from their own system.

David Wiley: theory has to be backed up with real data.

Jutta Treviranus: and we need a framework to gather all theories.

Claudio Dondi: there is a problem when trying to put under the same system training (professional training) and education. The higher education system is not actually coherent with the rest of the socio-economic system. Thus, something should be done at the system level: the problem might not (only) be at the praxis level, but at a more systemic one.

Vijay Kumar: what is the atomic unit of personalization: is adaptation or is it individualization? The currency between the academic system and the socioeconomic system is the degree. Is the problem this currency? the different interests at either side of the currency exchange?

Larry Johnson: the very most importance of competences as the real currency, not certification.

David Wiley: competences permit tying the content, to experience, to certification…

Lev Gonick: we created a personalization at the technological level, but not at the educational process level.

Claudio Dondi: Difference of personalization between how and what.

Larry Johnson: there has to be a mentor-like connection in personalization. The system is educational, not technological.

David Wiley: personalization of the mediation, personalization of the feedback you give, personalization of the hint, etc.

Lev Gonick: how to use the technology to personalize to achieve higher success, to prepare the student for success?

Vijay Kumar: metacognition, where I know how to access problems and where to look for help or solutions. Seeking information, validating information, etc.

David Wiley: prior knowledge is a basic, stable difference between students.

Ismael Peña-López: not only identifying how to access problems, not only assessing one’s assets or prior knowledge, but be able to identify and assess your own context, culture, environment… your localization. These three issues — the cognitive process, prior knowledge and context — might be three main drivers of personalization.

Claudio Dondi: the difference between prior knowledge and the capacity of learning.

Vijay Kukmar: how to shift from content-centered processes towards learning-to-learn processes?

Elena Barberà: we are looking forward more autonomous learners, to enable them to take responsible and adequate decisions at the correct time. Autonomous thinking might be one of the big answers to the whole debate.

David Wiley: personalization as Amazon. Amazon only asks you to buy books, no conscientious or rational or meditated choice required: just buy. And the system can tell the tastes and needs and suggestions.

Jutta Treviranus: what are the limits of personalization? don’t we have to let the system open? We cannot allow ourselves to reinforce individual biases.

Person is all alone, big distance to cover, all learning is contextual, take the route to the future… by walking, the first step is down, it’s lonely on the mountain top, breathing is learning, room for serendipity.

Open Ed Tech (2008)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Open EdTech Summit (II). Brainwriting and Brainstorming: Personalization of the Learning Process” In ICTlogy, #62, November 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from

1 Comment to “Open EdTech Summit (II). Brainwriting and Brainstorming: Personalization of the Learning Process” »

  1. When discussing the learning process, we must start from the beginning. We must know how students think. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.

ICTlogy Review

  • ISSN 1886-5208