A few years ago, the Freakonomics blog interviewed Joel Rose, the founder of School of One, a specialized education program which attempts to educate students according to their learning curve and personal style, engaging with their preferred learning styles as the technology sees fit.  Joel Rose, also an employee of the New York Department of Education, described the idea of his educational start-up:

The basic idea is that live, teacher-led instruction (the type we all think about when we think about schools) is simply one way – perhaps the best way – but not the only way kids can learn. School of One tries to complement the work of teachers with other instructional modalities such as online learning and collaborative learning in a way that personalizes instruction to each student’s particular academic needs and ways of learning.

As a tech nerd and homeschooler, I love seeing the usage of this medium to improve personal education in order to get the best possible results.  Homeschooling is a method that attempts to provide a unique, personal education method so that all students have the best possible odds for success and personal care.

What’s also interesting is how these methods are bringing in a new system of challenge that can be described as creating game dynamics.   Very simply, game dynamics involves the creation of a situation where a human being is encouraged to perform a certain action via the mechanics we find in games, such as achievements and a notable learning curve.  There’s several interesting theories about how to use game dynamics in real life.  Undercurrent CEO Aaron Dignan emphasized the use of Game Dynamics in environments like work and school in order to encourage others to maintain personal interest.

So, it’s hard to see this system as not valuable.  But what are the consequences of such a method?  What effect might it have on our daily lives?

James Paul Gee, author of The Anti-Education Era, suggests  that the artificial intelligence and game dynamics could damage some student’s abilities to work with others who learn in a different manner.

Today there are adaptive, artificial (computer-based) tutors to teach algebra. Based on how the learner is faring, these tutors (which do quite well) customize presentation, problems, and the order of problems to each individual learner….There is nothing wrong with, and lots right about, such artificial tutors. They are just one device among many that seek to transform education into “a school of one.”

But they represent a perfecting of the human urge to optimize that can go too far and end with bad consequences. People who never confront challenge and frustration, who never acquire new styles of learning, and who never face failure squarely may in the end become impoverished humans. They may become forever stuck with who they are now, never growing and transforming, because they never face new experiences that have not been customized to their current needs and desires.

In Gee’s mind, one of the sufficient elements of education is the challenge of learning with others, of understanding other human differences and correlating our abilities and needs with those of the others.

It’s a simplistic problem that educators, parents, and students need to understand. As Christians, we are taught to recognize the “great cloud of believers”, and the immense variety of humanity and creativity that exists among our community.  So, can we accept this as our source of education?