Exciting early days in the PLE project that I’ve been writing about of late.  Recall that I’m exploring ways to leverage the power of Personal Learning Environments in a formal educational structure.  I’ve spent a good chunk of time this week getting clearance to move ahead with the project using the students at my school as collaborators and guinea pigs.  As frustrating as it can be to go through the process of ensuring that the school and the parents are comfortable with the students interacting online within a school-sanctioned activity, there is much to be thought about in terms of how we introduce our students to this world.  Some would argue that we, as adults, should be learning from the students and this, in some respects is certainly true.  But this is a short-lived phenomenon given that teachers are increasingly embracing social media for many purposes.  The students that I spoke to this week also admit that there use of social media is, well… social.  They don’t tend to leverage the networks and skills to further their education.  This is a skill that teachers, regardless of their comfort online, can offer expertise.  The questions that start to emerge in this process include those of:

  • at what age do we “take kids online?”
  • what does the scaffolding look like?
  • what is the scope and sequence of teaching skills?
  • what skills do we care about and what might simply be “passing fads?”

Perhaps more interesting than the actual logistics of getting administration and parents to “sign-off” on the student participation is the conversations that I had with students in an attempt to select the group that will work on the project.  Of most interest to me is what motivation the students have to participate.  Admittedly, there are students who simply want a school-endorsed way to spend more time hanging with their friends on Facebook.  But there are also some intriguing legitimate reasons to join in:

  • one student recognized that time learning in class is not usually effective for him.  More effective methods of self-directed learning are his primary interest.
  • more than one student had very specific academic interests that seemed to go beyond their grade level curriculum.  They are hoping that this project can help them learn what they are most interested in in school.
  • one student talked about his fascination with psychology.  He was particularly interested in the psychology of online behaviour.
  • a couple of boys had specific non-curricular passions that they wanted to pursue.
  • there were also a couple of boys who thought that this project could have a potential positive change on the structure of education at our school.

While many of these topics are not surprising in and of themselves – many are the main impetus behind the project – the fact that students, many as young as grade 8 are thinking along these lines unprompted by me.

This coming week begins the process of building the PLEs with the selected students.  I suspect that the beginning of the project will be staggered as students get on board, but the first group will certainly make headway this week.  The previous post addresses the steps to be taken.  Looking forward to learning with this particular learning community.  As always, comments from those that read these posts are always encouraged.  Hopefully insight from those outside of the project will have an impact on what occurs within the project.

Have a great week!

Note: In the spirit of Robbie Burns, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley.”  After publishing this post, I realized that the “previous” post mentioned had not, in fact, been published and was still in draft form!  Sorry for the skewed order of publication, but, Robbie Burns day was this week.  “To the Bard!”

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