23andMoodle? Retail Genetic Testing In Personalized Learning’s Horizon

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23andMoodle Retail Genetic Testing In Personalized Learning’s Horizon
“DNA kit!” by Geoff Stearns is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Let’s imagine we live in a spy thriller novel. It is easier to do when you have mysterious actors with names like the Manton Foundation. It also helps a lot that this organization, with no official website, is at the helm of what is now termed as “precision education”. To define it as a step up from personalized learning would be mild. In its current, early stage, it customizes interventions targeted at a pilot group of students with cognitive diagnoses in the spectrum of dyslexic disorders.

Who knows, maybe Manton is onto something and all the ultimate engagement solution takes is for Moodlers to spit on a test tube.

Early detection of developmental issues in cognition and learning is an established line of research in psychology and neuroscience. Today, an agreement persists on genetic basis of at least a share of cognitive conditions diagnosed today, as well as the potential benefits for learning, especially at an early age.

An ancillary field, often shipped indiscriminately with genetics, is the potentially more relevant epigenetics. While disorders rooted at damaged DNA can merely be anticipated and dealt with through specialized interventions —advances in gene therapy notwithstanding—, the environmental factors that can negatively affect cognitive development at the womb can be largely fended off through proven measures, such as proper nutrition or prevention of toxins and pollution at the enzyme level. The nervous system is particularly sensitive to the environmental context in which it first evolves, a link scientific and medical research continues to elucidate further. In this case, genetic screening would do little to compensate for issues of epigenetic origin, with effective action best taking place at the parental and institutional level.

So while the consumer genetic screening products available today cannot be considered a solution for structural threats to learning, they could be useful to inform a learning intervention. At the very least, they can rule out presence or predisposition to conditions associated to focus, processing speed, motor skills, even personality traits, risk aversion and empathy.

It may not be out of the question that genetic screening techniques become at least another datapoint in the larger learning sample, particularly supplying to LMS data.

Read “What If a DNA Test Could Show How to Teach a Student With Dyslexia?” at edweek.org.■


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