Home | Author | Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Acknowledgements | Subject Index

For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

Return to Chapter 3.2  |  Go to Chapter 3.4

(Last updated Feb, 7, 2008)

Volume III – Chapter Three


As we continue to discover more about the brain, a growing proportion of students are likely to be diagnosed as learning disabled.  Eventually, the nomenclature will change, and we will recognize so-called learning disabilities as what they really are —differences in how people learn…we will call them learning differences. --The president of Columbia Teacher’s College

The big challenge is how best to take advantage of the uniqueness conferred on each of  us… We need to ask how people can best organize their activities and their lives, given vast and interesting individual differences. --Howard Gardener

“…an awful lot goes on in the brain every time we have a thought, most of it in parallel and of an awe-inspiring complexity and richness of association. --Gerald Edelman

Human learning is both and individual and a social phenomenon. --Jan Visser. 

There is no such thing as a one size fits all technology. --Ellen Wagner.

 We tend to overestimate the effect of technologies in the near term and underestimate their effect over the long term. --James Dudestadt

To provide for everyone in the world the learning and skills each person needs will require knowing more about each individual, his or her cultural situation (including economic status) and should relate each online learner to a community of learning and local guidance and help. On personalized learning see:
<http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=85>.Also we must know more about the learner's culture and generation. We note that learning is not confined to the classroom. It exists everywhere all the time so effective lifelong learning must take into account many kinds of learning environments and experiences, often unique to different cultures and situations. A person's transcript of courses should be expanded to include all significant learning experiences (such as private music lessons) from kindergarten to the grave. To accomplish this it needs to be electronic. It can be encrypted on a web page that allows different sections to be downloaded for a prospective employer, or a school application or for other learning uses. Wagner (2005) says that `mobile learning' offers many rich opportunities for personalized learning.

Note: http://www.educationevolving.org/>for websites giving voice to learners. Also Frazier (2006)
 <http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=230>. UNESCO index to free ICT software <http://www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_freesoft/Software/>.

Early in the 21st Century the `net generation' "has grown up in wired world. (Oblinger 2005) Many of them can do several things at once, to the dismay of lecturers in class. By age eight many youngsters today are involved with television, computer and video games all at once.  Many are discovering new learning styles. If teachers and curriculum planners do not yet see how different the current generation of learners are, "in attitude, aptitude and knowledge,"' the next generation is going to be strikingly different, Oblinger of the EDUCAUSE learning and teaching project says. So we need to know much more about learning, and the different ways in which a learner may learn and "the skills they need, such as the lifelong ability to engage in equability.".In her 2005 address at the Norway Institute of Science and Technology (Fan 2005) Professor Fan Yifong of China reported that "Anne Moore, John Moore, and Shelli Fowler described the characteristics of the Net Generation as: 1) Life online; 2) Rapid communication; 3) Social networking; 4) Games and simulations: 5) Digital literacy.[1] From their work, we learn that the Net Generation has expectation of instant message, enjoy interaction with peers for either virtual or real life experiences, like interactive engagement with learning and activities, are able to collaborate with people from all over the world for their on-line project either for entertainment or learning purposes. What is more, they are much more digital literate than the previous generations, knowing a lot about what the digital environment can do for their purposes, but they usually do not care much about the “how” questions. Because they are encountering multimedia inputs, this generation of students is getting less interested in pure text format of materials. They like more vivid, interactive and engaging learning experience thus caused a real challenge to the lecturing format of classroom teaching." If teaching is to meet the needs of this new generation," she said; "we will have to study them and learn what are changing in their way of learning, their way of interacting with each other and their ways of experiencing life."

Barnes (2997) described new ways in which the current `net generation' has new ways of thinking, communicating and learning. They are active in using new technology to implement high-level thinking, small group collaboration in learning,  creating new knowledge. It is a foretaste of the future when a class uses wiki (open ending editing) and a class blog to create their own textbook, one by students and for students, sharing what they are learning. They are partners with their teachers as they  teach their teachers (not only about new technologies) as well as themselves. For example, the net generation are ahead of their teachers in`Visual literacy.' Metros et al, 2006) "Digital technologies have broken down the barriers between words and pictures" and bringing text and image to "construct new meaning. Unfortunately many learners do not yet have the ability to express themselves visually. For today's world they need skills in written, oral and visual communication.  They use wiki (open editing tech)

In (3.2) we discussed some technologies that begin to help some learners with specific problems.. Now in this chapter we discuss the individual learner’s uniqueness, and technology tailored to unique individual needs. At the same time most learning is social and to help individual learners and their counselors and teachers, much more must be known about their interaction with a complex world than many learning theories have considered. Beginning at adolescence all learners need to know much more about themselves and their learning environments, constructed and unstructured. Soon (Spinrad 1997), anyone may have in pocket a conveniently retrievable ‘electronic personal life-file’ of all that can be known about him or her, “embracing “two quite different flavors of storage, the personal and the global.” One’s personal `electronic profile’ of all kinds of learning and experiences can provide “accessible characterization of you and your needs and interests.”

Forthcoming technologies will help learners know more about themselves through cross-indexed electronic diaries and Hirshon (2005) suggests "that blogging will become one of the important media for recording our lives." MIT Technology Review, March 2005, described Blinks software that indexes all one's contents, including word processing documents, e-mails and even video clips. An article in e-Learning. April, 2005, discussed differences in learning styles in different cultures, in Japan for example. A pertinent question: how soon will we have interactive technology that studies the learner while the learner uses the technology? For example, what kind of educational games? For example (Snyder 2005) predicted a flood of games such as PeaceMaker (peace between Israel and Palestine); the MTV game exploring ways to solve the Darfur crisis in Sudan; and the United Nations food game which in 2005 had been downloaded two million times <http://www.food-force.com/index.php/teachers/>. In 2007 an electronic textbook for studying Shakespeare could soon be accompanied with a mulitplayer online video game ARDEN; THE WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE  which can make learning be great fun.

In the first decade of the 21st century many educators lament weak education in math and science.  Davis (2008) points out that  technology that enables `hands-on science can greatly strengthen science  education  Rather than just teaching science `facts,' it is important to help learners to ask questions, discuss methods and come to understand science method and ideas. The present global electronic `system'--that hardly justifies using the word-- is "a primitive antecedent or an early evolutionary stage of a much more complex and advanced  form. It must be carefully researched and planned so that whatever is developed is `what ought to be' rather than what haphazardly emerges! Researchers need to bring together and continue to improve the currently successful course management systems and the less successful `learning management systems,. automated assessment systems, global administrative functions,  intelligent online tutors and much more. An individual's lifelong plan for continuing learning should begin early in life and continue to take account of personal plans, professional on-the-job needs and personal talents. Those closest to learners--for example, family, counselors, teachers and employers--usually know too little of what an individual learner ought to know to guide and to plan for learning at each stage of life.

Already as children play with increasingly sophisticated computer games and toys, inventors can enable the game to study the learner as the learner plays the game. Within this century, almost beginning at birth,  `toys' first--and then video and computer games--can  learn about talents, needs--and learning styles--that can help parents and teachers, and later will help the learner herself. At this point we must add a point of caution! Some of this personal information that education planners will really need in the future is going to require new kinds of very tight security, to make sure that the information goes only to the right persons, much as medical patients need security about genetic defects information that might limit their employment opportunities.

Physicians and medical researchers would laugh at the suggestion that every third grade child should get the same castor oil (no matter what the illness) at the same time every Thursday morning. Yet few physicians object much when their own offspring are run through that factory assembly line kind of education. Since every unique individual has different medical needs and problems, physicians need to know as much as they can about an individual, through comprehensive records on treatments, medications that have been used in the past and so forth. If doctors did not know what medications other physicians were giving to a patient at the same time, many patients might soon be dead. Yet most teachers, social workers and counselors do not know what conflicting advice and directions they are giving and to whom. A troubled youth may deal with many different professionals who do not know what others are saying and what others are prescribing. This is an unnecessary flaw in the education system. Also, just as health care and medicine move into `preventive health’ it is also important for each individual to know more about his or her learning history and needs. This can be as Important as proper diet, exercise, medicines and other treatments.

On the positive side, where neglect can lead to delinquency and no interest in education and development, nurturing a child can discover and develop creativity and previously undiscovered talents. For example, a `portable media center' can be used by individuals learn much more about themselves, and games can help them play out what they would like to be both in career and character. 

Unique individuals may learn differently, although educators quibble about `learning styles.’ As people mature, and move more into self-directed learning, what do they need to know about themselves, about individual differences and needs so that better learning can be built on this information? As researchers learn more how about limitations, however, educators must remember the  `educational fable’ about how hard it was to teach `remedial tree climbing” to a rabbit. Or to continue the joke, maybe rabbits could learn to climb trees with especially designed electronic technology! Even with the best possible instruction, however, rabbits probably should not get jobs cleaning the outside of skyscrapers. Twigg (2003) reported on `content modules' that have been developed "to meet the varying needs of students with different learning styles as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument." As employers increasingly ask for skills, each electronic course module should not be completed until proof--through some kind of testing--is given to demonstrate mastery of skills and content. 

Teachers and counselors learn from experience that some people learn best in the morning. Others have minds that solve problems overnight while they sleep and some do their best thinking while in the half-awake `alpha state.’ Some are most creative while daydreaming in class. Some need absolute quiet to work alone. The stimulus of a group discussion--helpful to all and essential for others—can be a problem for distance learners. Some think best when they start to write, others while listening to one kind of music or another. Gardner (1999) found that “some people are reflective and `metacognitive.’ They are immersed in self-conscious planning that can be very helpful in accomplishing goals. Others are more intuitive."  Pipe organ music during church meditation sets some minds racing. Some are gifted with certain types of thinking—creative or analytical--and a tailored program for each learner should take account of unique individual thinking skills.

Jonassen (1999, 2001) has proposed that new theories and ideas are needed.  He has endorsed  `constructionism,’ still a relatively new idea to some educators and educational technology developers. However, he has said, “it is an old idea to sociology and art…and as a way to understand the education phenomenon it is ageless.” People have always Their own  undrstanding that makes send to them.  He strongly rejects those `formal educational enterprises’ that “ rely on prepackaged chunks of information.” Increasingly, he says, nearly all contemporary philosophies of education (constructivism, situated learning, social cognition, activity theory, distributed cognition, ecological psychology and case-based reasoning) begin to converge on how individuals naturally come to know. At the turn of the 21st century educators increasingly listed “learning to think” as a fundamental goal and purpose of education, yet learners are generally tested on memorizing skills rather than on their thinking skills. The learner who is gifted with the ability to memorize vast amounts of information makes an A on the examination and then may soon forget it all.

Instead of focusing on `content,' Jonassen has insisted, what is first needed is a "unified theory of learning that combines and unifies" cognitive performances such as inferencing, causal reasoning, making predictions and so on, "into meaningful learning performances." Information from various disciplines "have significantly altered conceptions of learning, emphasizing the "social co-construction of knowledge." As it is, teachers and others in formal education "know virtually nothing about what it means to learn." How, he asks, can there be a "renaissance of thinking" wherein learning is willfully  and willingly embedded in in every activity in culture? Herman Sinaiko at the University of Chicago tells his students that  the worst kind of ignorance students can have is ignorance of themselves, their capacities and limitations.

.3.3.1  A COMPUTERIZED PROFILE OF EACH LEARNER (and profiles of classrooms, extended families, neighborhoods, communities...)

Norris et al. (2008) report that  there now can  be "s lifelong personal learning and competency record" that will become a key element "in measuring and imiproving a learners' performance" just as there will be a permanant "electornic health care record for life." It is now possible to  help each learner to have an `electronic profile/bio,’ a comprehensive and confidential record for personalized education.  <http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=87>. The profile can include an overview of needs, problems, goals, opportunities, talents, and gifts. It may begin with diagnosis and expand like the physician’s comprehensive medical record on the basis of proposals, evaluations and changes after discovery of what works best. Increasingly the records of everything in our civilization are becoming digital. Singer (2006) points out how genetic analysis is going to make `personalized medicine' possible for each individual. Genetic analysis of the individual may also discover differences in how individuals learn.

 IBM has  worked on software to create a digital road map of every document that describes the content and formatting, using a simple code that will be computer readable for immediate access to needed data. Perhaps it may sometime be carried around on a “smart card.”  Also all the information about a unique individual might be presented in all kinds of visual form, perhaps on a continually-updated DVD or its successor technology

Wicat Education Institute’s Waterford Learning Profile provided "a wide-range series of tests in the area of thinking and learning skills and attitudes.” It’s focus was “the process of learning rather than the products of learning;” ability tests instead of aptitude tests....”in that they sampled a wider range of experience.  Rather than traditional IQ tests, they were based on the “understanding that everyone has strengths that can be utilized to bring about educational fulfillment. They sought to inform learners themselves, as well as teacher, about learning abilities and strategies, creating profiles “of student strengths and weaknesses as learners;" for example, key learning skills such as verbal, reasoning, spatial/visual, reasoning ability, memory ability, preference and attitude inventories. "most of us (Gardner 2002) have potentialities that have never been developed. (See 1.4.1)

One description of how `personalization is likely to occur, tailored to the individual, was in February 2004 described at <http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/v4i46_downes.html>. Also a Carnegie Mellon University research team  “developed a Cognitive Tutor that was programmed to build a profile of the learning patterns of its users.” It tracked a student’s learning style and also pinpointed flaws in reasoning, giving learners clues to rethink a problem after making a mistake.  In existing learning systems much of what has been learned through periodic evaluations is lost. It has not been possible to cross-index all of the data to provide a unique educational plan and program tailored to the unique learning styles, gifts and intelligences of each unique individual, increasing intelligence, creativity, imagination and brainpower: 

Now educators can hope for and anticipate a social and `personalized education' that deals with the body and all social experience as well as the mind and cognition--just as health care professionals are anticipating a 'personalized  medicine,' "in which physicians can diagnose their patients with unprecedented accuracy and treat each of them with drugs tailored not only to the disease but also to the patient's genetic or metabolic profile.?" (Strikeman 2002) A holistic approach to each unique individual will require the inclusion of all kinds of other information as well because many illnesses come from air pollution and so forth that are social problems.. Larger-scale profiles can be valuable for lifelong learning to help them grow in self-understanding, with testing tools and through getting continuous feedback as electronic learning packages are used. 

This involves two problems: (1)how to gain and (2) use confidential information that provides extremely important data about an individual. Teachers often learn of serious medical and other problems that ought to be known by a pupil's advisors and even parents, but do not feel free to pass the information on to later teachers or put it in a learner's record. By college years research finds that students in one way or anther reveal most such information, and many are quite willing to share it.  This is especially true as students create weblogs online where beginning at puberty young adolescents explore their self-identity, needs and problems, often anonymously. <http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/huffakerl.html>. Emerging new technologies should be able to find ways to make all such information available when it is essential to understand best to help a unique individual learner.

Sunstein (2002) reported that "the power to personalize enables people to learn far more...and to learn it faster. He worried, however, that learners who plan their own education may leave out what is most important for them. So  one of many needs may be: carefully planned electronic packages (segments of courses if you will) that continually raise questions and suggest procedures that the individual (or teacher) might otherwise overlook or neglect.  Still, Sunstein has said, we can imagine a system. while still a mixed blessing with problems, in "which students can construct their own, personally designed educational experience." Bender (2002) illustrated possibilities with 'John Orwell's Doppelganger' that can tailor "both content and presentation to the individual...by maintaining databases about individuals' interests plans, beliefs, behaviors, misconceptions and schedules." The system also gathers information about populations of users. The "model changes  as the system learns more about users as as the individuals themselves change." It includes objective, subjective and long range information and synthesis. 

Noronha (2003) reported that T. R. Madanmohan and Jai Ganesh of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore found that “by using the Internet, education can be personalized to each user, so that each student is given a targeted set of materials based on his or her specific educational goals and previous achievements. At the same time, the Internet allows material to be updated dynamically, which creates an up-to-the minute resource for students. So, their customized model offers tailor-made material, study guides, activities and discussions formed around existing material -- textbooks, CD-ROM resources, or tutorials. Online interactions and discussions occupy about half the students' time, with predetermined content filling the other half. `Acharya,' an intelligent tutoring system . provided an "intelligent problem-solving environment" where students can try out solutions to problems. "The essential differences between n intelligent-tutoring system and a computer-based tutoring system are in the level and detail with which the subject is represented and the use of a student model." The `Acharya’ program is based on guided discovery where students can explore for themselves, rather than being told about things."

Learner profiles--that take into account the family and also out-of-school experiences--have discovered deficiencies, cognitive strengths and attitude patterns that could help uncover outstanding but relatively untapped potential of underachievers; interests that might spark the unmotivated, and enhance learning as well as provide testing adapted to the unique learner An individual’s profile might be based on a `template’ as the basis for developing a continually enlarging model of the individual’s kinds of intelligences and learning abilities and habits. A person with  `reflective’ or an `intuitive style might be expected to show those characteristics in many areas, “from language, to music, to social analysis.” However, a learner may be reflective in music but not in math. Gardner (1999) proposed that kinds of intelligence  “need to be worked out empirically on a style-by-style basis.” Also, he pointed out, the word style means different things to various experts. Also, other characteristics come to play within a learning style or intelligence, for example inverted people might operate differently than the extroverted. Gardner’s research first proposed seven different kinds of intelligence and the uniqueness of each learner also involves different combinations of intelligences:. 

The linguistic and mathematical are two most valued by traditional education and therefore in I. Q. tests.

Logical-mathematical intelligence “involves the capacity” for logical analysis and scientific examination.

Musical intelligence  “entails skill in performance, composition and appreciation of musical patterns.”

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, seen for example in dancers and athletes, is also “important for crafts persons, surgeons, mechanics and is seen in many other skills."

Spatial intelligence is seen in the abilities of sculptors, graphic artists, and architects to manipulate patterns in wide space. (include visual intelligence here.)

Later Gardner’s criteria--for using research that validates an intelligence—led him to define at least three more:  Moral intelligence, natural intelligence (an easy ability to see the differences of species and be comfortable in the world of organisms and their care) and existential intelligence (a gift to discern ultimate issues and “to locate oneself in the cosmos.”) Many aspects of these nine intelligences are not adequately included in `content-centered' schooling.

Noting this variety of intelligences can be helpful in defining an individually different profile for each separate learner. Gardner said “that human minds do not all work in the same way, and human beings do not have the same strengths and weaknesses.” Those who teach and those who seek to learn need to note that we “do not exhibit similar profiles.” Some people “are strong in one intelligence and weak in others, and strength in a particular intelligence does not necessarily predict strength (or weakness) in others.” Some other scholars have suggested that to have a balanced ability in all intelligences would be boringly normal, that it is having abnormal gifts in one area that enable outstanding work, and sometimes genius.

What about confidentiality? A great deal of information about intellectual, psychological, artistic, and other kinds of growth and development is in fact collected during a learner's lifetime. In its present disorganized, scattered, and poorly managed form it is incomplete and may be abused (see Cookson 1989). Such emerging tools are forcing a fundamental reexamination of the way information about people is co­ordinated and used in health care, religious education, government records, and business and insurance as well as in education. Confidentiality  in a global computer system must be protected.

Once the more comprehensive record of an individual is begun, then parents and others can add information from and about such activities as private dancing lessons and club activieis. Dertouzos (1997) has proposed that much of the process can begin first by scanning paper documents.  We worry then about privacy and the misuse of medical information learned from X-rays, CAT and fMRI scans, ultrasound images, genetic data and much more. So there will be more worry about comprehensive data records. But as parents must trust physicians with essential information if proper medical care can be given, so also those who wish superior education must also trust the master teachers/counselors with comprehensive, essential information – even though all of it remains in a form accessible only to parents or guardians until the child is old enough to take control of her or his own computerized profile records. Much is yet to be done.

On one hand, professional educators must find ways to use pejorative information as carefully as physicians do. This is both possible and essential. In France 130,000 patients have been involved in experimentation to determine how to computerize records without endangering privacy. Each patient’s updated “smart card” with all-important medical information is the patient' s private property, presentable only on a voluntary basis. Cryptology is needed that releases only the permitted information. Physicians and others who used such records would “have access only to that part of the information necessary” for them to do their jobs “but the carrier of the card could check the entire contents of his file at any time at a public terminal.” Anyone who has a reason to do so should have the right to withhold information, but should also understand that this may significantly weaken the effectiveness of education, much as withholding medical records could seriously affect the quality of health care. The technology that many feared would depersonalize education can thus open up alternative possibilities.

Dertouzos (2000) proposed that privacy could not be assured with existing technology, at least enough for the development of such comprehensive profiles to begin now. Wherever one’s personal data is stored—on diskette, CD or `smart card’—it can be book marked and indexed to supply or withhold any information that might be detrimental to the learner, yet also crucially important for the development of a tailored learning program.  Dertouzos reported a personal data scheme called P3P. Developed by the World Wide Web consortium, it made it possible for a learner to have a P3P personal profile on a computer that specifies which personal information is to be made available, along with prohibitions on what outsiders are allowed to do with it.

The adequate understanding of the individual, as a basis for better education, needs to take account of many factors and differences, such as personal and family mental health. But can psychological insights about individual differences in strengths and modes of representation be a basis “for creating reliable educational approaches? An individual's self-perception is involved, the way young people are creating an identity, who they think they are and what they think they can do. They may be one person in the art room and another on the football field.


Sometime can there be a "living" profile with built it capacity to continually review that personal profile to point out deficiencies, needs and opportunities? Also a profile can include increasingly more scientific data on how and where people really learn?  

In existing learning systems much of what has been learned through periodic evaluations is lost. It has not been possible to cross-index all of the data to provide a unique educational plan and program tailored to the unique learning styles, gifts and intelligences of each unique individual. Perhaps increasingly powerful technology will make this possible by the middle of the 21st century; for example, electronic textbooks that study the user while the user is studying the book. With computer-empowered diagnosis, more significant insights into the potential of each learner could be developed. Meanwhile the fact that there are too many variables and complexities to make it possible yet to cope with the uniqueness of each individual, there is no reason why–as in medicine—there should not be a bringing together of all that we can and do know about each individual learner. And we now have adequate technology to begin the process.

More adequate medical records are also going to require the digitalization of all the data that now is on paper. As learners move from town to town (and country to country) and from school to school, it is as important for their learning records to follow them, and grow increasingly comprehensive, as medical records do. This is such a mammoth project so as much as possible of it must be automated, just as the Human Genome project was facilitated and sped up with automation.  As there are computerized models of different kinds of human bodies –and of organs in the body --so also there can be computerized models of different kinds of learning individuals. There can be templates to facilitate the storing, indexing and cross-indexing of data to free the teacher from the task of keeping more comprehensive records. Perhaps an automated template for each individual can in time know what questions to ask and what to record.

A unique, ever-enlarging profile of each individual learner and his or her social context and experiences—even in its early, limited stages--may turn out to be one of the most helpful and crucial developments in helping people learn. Medical research will be greatly facilitated by the cross-indexing of millions of medical cases. So also, education systems could also become more aware of the value of the most comprehensive records possible on each individual; and the research value of millions of cases for global-scale education research. With millions of cross-indexed cases, automated and anonymous, there can be a scale of research that is much more honest about the failures of specific programs and experiments.

For decades, if ever, perhaps we cannot really develop a comprehensive record and profile of each individual as an adequate basis for a uniquely `tailored’ education plan and program for each learner at all ages.  However, to gather what we do know and make it more available to decision makers—and to the individual—can greatly help. It will be possible to plan more adequately for groups of learners—those with certain kinds or combinations of intelligences, for those with certain kinds or combinations of learning styles, and so forth. A Carnegie Mellon University research team “developed a Cognitive Tutor that was programmed to build a profile of the learning patterns of its users.” It tracked a student’s learning style and also pinpointed flaws in reasoning, giving learners clues to rethink a problem after making a mistake. (Girod 2000).

Such effort can begin to change education profoundly at all levels as master teachers—who mentor other instructors—become more expert on individual learning styles and have at hand a growing body of information on each learner. Perhaps there also will be `master counselors’ who will advise instructors much as a  physician would do on health matters. While many scorn the thought that much drill work—learning math, foreign language, etc—will be automated, such records can be automated. And perhaps all testing and `grading’ will be done in a more professional way by the counselors who keep the comprehensive records.  This will require new kinds of diagnosis—much of it automated--to discover how learners study problems, learn to think and develop skills. It can be much more sophisticated than present testing, especially I.Q. tests.

On security. The software infrastructure of the Helsinki Virtual Village in Finland in 2001 enabled residents "to update and control their personal data, minute by minute." (Shaw 2001)  Once a user's profile was established "personalized software kicks in,' tracking all the user's activity online, allowing this data to be added to the profile."  This is similar to the process `amazon.com' uses to produce lists of books you might like to buy, based on the record of your previous purchases. Learners or parents will be able to release what is needed or hold back what is confidential with future technology suggested by Franklin (2004)

Much more brain/mind research is needed to under gird such a system (3.5)so that parents and educators can know as much about the mind as physicians know about the body. University students will have been thoroughly studied in pre-school and kindergarten. Already more effort is made to group children, not by age, but as each moves ahead in each subject at different speeds. As teaching tools and program move further ahead in this direction, it will become easier for one eight year old to be doing remedial reading while the child in the next seat reads on the 10th grade level (and the slow reader may be doing math at the 8th grade level._ SXo the whole idea of `grades by age’—for reporting evaluations and dividing learners into groups—must be replaced by better systems not yet clearly apparent.  Electronic textbooks will quickly adapt to the stage of each learner and monitor and guide each learner’s progress while at the same time studying and evaluating unique gifts, problems, learning styles and so forth.  In recent decades there has been very helpful research on cognition and learning and the social and cultural contexts of education.  Since research finds that young children find learning exciting, why do so many become bored and fall behind within a few years?  To solve that problem will require that a great deal be known about the individual who becomes disinterested in a century of exciting discoveries, as well as more about peer culture.

We have discussed small children because the foundation of all later education begins there, and advanced learning cannot be what it must be, in an information age, until this foundation is individualized and is based on a much more thorough understanding of the talents, needs, strengths and problems of each unique individual. At present, educators have only `bits and pieces' of the needed whole picture that brings vast amounts of data together.


Now how can educators begin to bring together more comprehensive information about each individual? Probably by `piggy-backing’ on medical records. To help a learner do good work, a physical fitness profile is also important. Some individual medical records already begin to include much more than illnesses and cures in order to provide a more holistic view.  Why? In some places a majority of people in hospitals are not there because of disease, but because of auto accidents, because of tobacco, drug or alcohol abuse; because of child or wife beatings or other abuse, because of stress at work or because of personal problems and so forth. Delinquency and falling behind in school are caused, more often than many educators seem to realize, by difficulty in hearing, seeing; by dyslexia, poverty and hunger, family abuse, neglect and so forth. Physicians are often the first to see the evidence for such problems. A more adequate, holistic understanding of each learner, and preventive health programs for each person, are going to require much more cooperation and coordination in records of physicians and others.

The profile would include information on special interests and hobbies, on values, on core strengths and on personality assets. A valuable component can be an electronic portfolio created and revised by the learner herself. (Herman and Morrell 1999). That can start a process in which the learner’s own initiative can continue across a lifetime with information to prepare for a job application readily available at any time.  A portfolio can also be an instrument for continuing self-assessment. When it is based on an existing software program it will move learners beyond issues that are important for them to chart their achievements and progress in areas important to a particular course or education plan.  Education will thus no longer be “a passive experience for the student’ but can become “an active and personal one.”

The profile would include all educational records as they enlarge across the years with a record of mastery and success with earlier materials and programs. New kinds of regular testing and diagnosis—often automatic and built into electronic textbooks--are essential to the process. For example there can be more comprehensive tests that involve much more than facts and knowledge retained for a time. Tests could examine physical and mental conditions that might affect the results at a particular testing time; they could include neural-based exams which can test problem-solving skills against a model of expert research techniques. (Wired Sept. 1998, “The Quest for the Perfect Test.”) Brain-mapping scientists, philosophers and others collaborate to create a general theory of cognition. Teams of educators can collaborate around learning styles.  New Mexico State University has used ‘cognitive style mapping inventories’ to help students get more insight into their individual learning strengths; for example, whether they are audio,r visual or other kinds of learners.  Learning styles are for the most part individual preferences, not the only way a student can learn. And many learners probably can use a combination of `styles,’ often from one field of study to another and how one learns from sports, religious and many other kinds of experiences. A long-term goal of education will be to enlarge a learner’s skills and styles for use in many different situations.

A learner's personal electronic portfolio is now found to be a vital profile component. The kind of profile being recommended--and for which software was being created in 2002--is more than what is needed for a job application, although it can simplify that process when it is needed. A portfolio includes a student's resume, samples of creative work--for example, if the student is an artist or musician (with graphics and sound--with pictures of experiences, such as studies abroad, volunteer activities, internships or other job experience. By `graduation,' it should demonstrate skills and--an advance over ordinary resumes or portfolios, an electronic portfolio has Internet connections to online data that can be both available as needed and sheltered from misuse. <http://www.cetis.ac.uk/content2/20031010103508/20040611161734>.

Young (2002) reported how colleges have been developing specialized software for profile-building so that when applying for a job, instead of submitting a resume, a graduate can give a prospective employer 'a CD-ROM the size of a credit card that contains a multimedia presentation of her skills and experiences." The e-portfolio links  to an electronic database which contains papers, photo reports of overseas experiences, jobs held, and anything else that might be helpful. Colleges have long helped many students--such as in art--prepare print-copy portfolios. Portfolios have also added to education by helping students reflect upon what they need to do and present. As a student's contribution to the profile that others are helping create, the continually revised and growing portfolio helps students evaluate their educational and other experiences.  

Profile information will be used in many different ways. Dertouzos (2000) described how doctors “confer around a hyperfile of one’s medical records, X-rays, MIG scans and laboratory results; for remotely monitoring and giving advice on surgical procedures and for remote examination and diagnosis.”   Better diagnosis of problems is needed in education also so that personalized education will finally be possible and `active hands-on learning for students all over the world.’ (Gardner 2000).  What educators need to know about each individual will perhaps be as complex as what weather forecasters need. (Dertouzos 2000): “The Jupiter Weather System goes beyond converting into text what the user says. It understands what the user wants to know about the weather and responds accordingly.” It can tell you something you forgot to ask.

More information about a learner can be obtained--on how brains work--(Smith 1987) with the use of an electroencephalogram. Jon Franklin (1987) reported how scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, using a scanner similar to the PET, discovered highly individualistic brain patterns that could help “monitor the progress of students and suggest to professors which points should be covered next.” (Lederson (2002), however, that learning is localized  in the brain "asnd it seems unlikely that current imaging techniques can be very illuminating.") 

Restak (2001) has discussed differences in body rhythms; for example some learners work better in the morning, others at night. He has recommended the construction of a profile which records a learner’s best and worst times of the day so that students can plan to do their most important study or work at times of peak energy and mood, leaving less important work to other times. Some people may also find changes in diet and times of eating may affect best and worst hours.


One’s individual records/profile is also related to a family profile, an ethic and cultural profile, and often to a profile of a neighborhood, village or other sort of community. So much that ought to be known for a tailored educational plan—the value of much of which yet has to be discovered—will involve many related computerized profiles.  Educators might in time make use of information that is everywhere being gathered about us. Fortune magazine in March, 2001, reported on how much information is now being commercially gathered about individuals from smart credit cards, Internet use, surveillance cameras and much more. (Each use of this online book is tabulated according to when, where, how much and so forth.)

As medical and preventive health data must be part of a holistic approach to understanding each unique individual, so also must be other dimensions of personal and family history.  Educators can as yet only begin to know what each unique profile should and ultimately will contain. Next it may take into account the fact that each learner has heart and spirit, as well as mind. Perhaps there should be mega‑research on how humanity might better empower moral and ethical dimensions of the profile, how to increase commitment and compassionate willingness to help others learn.

Vanniver Bush (1967) proposed recording intimate thoughts and “associative trails.’ He suggested that this, along with genes, might be another contribution to generations ahead. “The son will inherit from his father the trails his father followed as his thoughts matured, with his father’s comments and criticisms along the way.” (Zachary 1997)   Scholars have long valued navigation maps left by earlier travelers along their investigative trail. While present tools for aiding learning are as yet `incredibly primitive’—compared to what is yet going to be possible-- they are first steps toward a much more sophisticated system for navigating the previous experience of each learner, as well as organizing the flood of information in which individuals are now drowning.  Such a profile of each unique learner is one answer to serious problems facing universities. http://www.globallearning.org.

Are our present thoughts about lifelong blueprints too small? To the demographic context must be added an overall educational organizational and institutional context. The line between school, university and life experiences is increasingly blurred, with many schools giving their students direct access to university programs, while universities in the English-speaking world are operating remedial programs in basic literacy, and dismantling once cherished assumptions about what students will be presumed to know when they begin higher education. These changes are also broadening the range of educational and other experiences and expectations new students bring to university.

Map of Learning. Jeff Cooper, <http://bcis.pacificu.edu/journal/2002/08/cooper.php#.05> who has been bringing together his education research in "a living book," has reported how each learner can develop an electronic " portfolio." There could be online software, available to anyone free of charge to help build such a portfolio which gradually would include and integrate all that individual's learning in an area which could lead to certification in skills, as in Oregon. This idea is worth elaborating and experiment.  


Perhaps everyone has some undiscovered `special needs’ as well as undiscovered talents. The worst failure of existing education systems may be not discovering and developing the abilities of most learners. As the president of Columbia University Teacher's College once proposed, perhaps more research will show that so-called learning disabilities really should be seen as learning differences. A tailored profile should include—in addition to detailed information about special needs and problems and what has already been done to compensate or prepare for such problems—much about what needs to be done yet in the future to develop body, spirit and mind. Also we are just beginning to see the value of technology like iPods as learning instruments, making it possible to record lectures for playing over and over at home until essential information is found and mastered. Also iPods--and similar forthcoming inexpensive instruments- can be used for tutorials, or class notes, for language learning, access to a library of pertinent materials and more..

As many more drugs are developed—like Ritalin for over-active children—they may not be needed if a profile provides much more information about body needs. Schotter (2002) proposed that  "the main unsolved problem in learning and teaching is the spontaneous, expressive responsiveness of our bodies to events that matter to us in our surroundings." A person's acts, he says, are always `shaped' by the acts of others around them" that are unpredictable and unanticipated aspects of any learning situation.

Perhaps some learners will do better at different room temperatures, with difference kinds of supportive or stimulating electronic environments. Biometrics may greatly aid a learning individual by providing much more specific information about body traits and capabilities. And along side technologies to increase intelligence there also may be drugs that can increase intelligence of those who have very low I.Q. and paralyzed learners are operating computers by using facial muscles or even brain wave connections. Those who scorn giving a computer to every school child need to pay more attention to the exciting things such tools can do for people with special needs and handicaps, and next for those with special gifts.

While not anticipating robots as teachers, automated processes and tutoring can be developed to monitor automatically a learner’s boredom, withdrawal from participation, anxieties at not keeping up and many other aids for classrooms and individual study. Dertouzos (2000) also noted that the Mercury System for booking airline flights asks for the user’s name, so that it can put in play that person’s `profile” which has gathered together all the wishes and needs of the traveler from previous trips.  Several other suggestive systems are under development at the MIT computer lab. Dertouzos (1997) also pointed out that on a limited scale businesses already profile individual tastes; for example the books you buy suggest other books that you might want. The films you rent suggest others you might enjoy.  This, he says, can be extended to a far more ambitious level.  Several dimensions of interest--types of music, art, drama, and hundreds of others--could be brought together to provide another type of picture of individual learners.  As more and more feedback is automatically provided, learners may be surprised at what they can learn about themselves that can be important for lifelong continuing education.  Also a comprehensive profile of each unique person may be an important step in the discovery of ways to enhance individual intelligence and creativity. (3.5)


Education plans and programs founded on such a software-managed computer profile of each person may at present seem a remote possibility for distance students, especially those in the developing world, but actually they will be more essential.  Physicist Bork’s `automated tutors’ can automatically keep a record of each learner’s development and progress, and once they are mass-produced for the industrialized nations, the software can then become available at reasonable cost to the rest of the world also. Not only can essential new information be gained about each distant learner, but also much data that has been lost can be preserved. With computer-empowered analysis/diagnosis, more sophisticated insights into the needs and potential of each distant learner can also be enlarged so that enriched plans can be proposed for every learner’s future. A beginning effort at this was in 2003 seen in an online tutoring system that began by efforts to discover each learner's unique problems and needs.<http://www.distance-educator.com/dnews/Article9731.phtml>.

Garcia (2007) reported research that found that understanding the learner at more depth is crucial to creating learning environments that "optimize learner strengths and minimize weaknesses." This can be possible--and learners can be helped to take responsibiliy for their own learning--in distance education also.

Return to Chapter 3.2  |  Go to Chapter 3.4

Bibliographical Notes

Alexander, Bryan. 2004. "Going Nomadic." Educause, Sept./Oct.

Bender, Walter.  2002. "Twenty Years of Personalization. Educause, Sept./Oct.

Buzan, Tony et al. 1994. Mind Map Book. London: Penguin/Plume. 

Cookson, Peter. 1989. “Research on Learners.” American Journal on Distance Education, 3 (2). 

Dertouzos, M. 1999. “The Future of Computing.” Scientific American, August.

Dertouzos    2000. The Unfinished Revolution. New York: Harper/Collins.

Franklin, Jon. 1987. Molecules of the Mind.  New York:  Atheneum.

Franklin, Mark et al. 2004. "PKI: A Security) Technology Whose Time Has Come." Educause, Mar./Apr.

Frazier, D. 2006. "Taking a Journey W ith Today[s Digital Kid." Innovate, Jan., 2006.

Gardner, Howard. 1999. Intelligence Reframed. New York: Basic Books.

Barnes, K. et al. (2997) "Teach and Learn in the Net Generation" Innovate, March-April

Gardner, Howard. 2000. “The Virtualizing of Education.” Futurist , Mar./Apr.

Gardner, John W. 2002. "The World is Your Classroom." Futurist, May/June.

Gilder, George.  1990. Life After Television. Knoxville TN: Whittle Books.   

Girod, Mark and Shane Cavanaugh. 2000. “Technology as an Agent of Change.” T. H. E. Journal, Oct.

Herman, LP. and Mark Morrell. 1999. “Electronic Portfolios in a Virtual Classroom.” T.H E. Journal, June.

Hirshon, Arnold.  2005. "A Diamond in the Rough; Divining the Future of Content." Educause, Jan./Feb.

Huffaker, D. A. et al, .2005. Gender, Identity and Language Use in Teenage Blogs." Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 10 (<http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/huffaker.html>.

Janik, D. 2005. . Unlock the Genius Within: Neurobiological Trauma, Teaching, and Transformative Learning

Jonassen, David. 2001. Computers As Mindtools for Schools: Engaging Critical Thinking. Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall.

Jonassen, David et al. 1999. Learning With Technology: A Constructionist Approach.” Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lederman, Leon. 2002. "Can We Know Too Much? The Book of Problems. <http://www.learndev.org>.

Metros, Susan et al. 2006. "Visual Literacy: An Institutional Imperative." Educause, May/June.

Moore, A. H., Moore, J. F., and Fowler S.B. 2005: "Faculty Development for the Net Generation." Chapter 11 in Educating the Net Generation in the New Educause E-Book: http://www.educause.edu/EducatingtheNetGeneration/5989.Quoted by Professor Fan Yifong.

Noronha, Frederick.  2003. In A World Where Those Who Can't Teach, I.T. Can. Online, www.phoenix.edc.ort, December 10

Norris, Donald et al. 2008. "Action Analysis." Educause,  Jan./Feb.

Oblinger, Diane. 2005. ""Learning, Learners, Technology." Educause, September.

Restak, Richard. 2001. Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot.”  New York: Harmony/Crown.

Shaw, William. 2001. "In Helsinki Virtual Village." Wired, March.

Schotter, John. 2002. "Joint Action, and the Chiasmic Inter-relating of Spontaneously Responsive, Bodily Activities."  Association for Educational Communications and Technology Conference, November. 

Singer, Emily. 2006. "Still Waiting for Personalized Medicine." MIT Technology Review, November'December.

Smith, Eleanor. 1987. “Windows on the mind.” Omni, May.

Snyder, David. 2005. E-mail on games in education to DEOS, October 19.

Spinrad, Robert. 1997. “World in Your Pocket.” Wired, April.

Strikeman, Alexandra. 2002. "The State of Innovation: Biomedicine." Technology Review, June.

Sunstein, Cass R 2002. Personalized Education and Personalized News. Educause, Sept./Oct.

Twigg, Carol. 2003, "New Models for Online Learning." Educause, Sept./Oct.

Wagne, Ellen. 2005. ""Enabling Mobile Learning." Educause, May/June.

Young, J. R. 2002. "`E-Portfolios Could Give Students a New Sense of Their Accomplishments." Chronicle of Higher Education, Mar. 8.

Zachary 1997.



The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View
For more information contact Parker Rossman
July 12, 2006 -- Copyright © 2002-2005 Parker Rossman