Time magazine touted “the School of One” as one of the 50 top innovations of 2009—the only educational innovation to be given that honor. As described in Time, “each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a ‘daily playlist’— tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games.” I stopped by to see the folks putting together the School of One at a New York City middle school last week to see how new technologies that help teachers adapt to each student’s learning level actually work in practice.
School of One provides an opportunity to see a system that teaches to what I have called the student’s “price point.” I got the idea of price point by going to a convention of designers who are in the business of finding and packaging attractive products for their customers. In my Education Week “Commentary,” I compared adaptive learning to their standard sales technique of finding a customer’s price point before pitching a particular piece of merchandise. If the designer promotes a product the customer cannot afford, the opportunity for a sale is immediately lost. If the designer suggests a product that is too cheap, the customer may feel they are being shown only what’s available in a second-hand store.