The project that I discussed last post is on the eve of launch. We are in the process of gathering some interested students to embark on an exploration of how PLEs inconnect with each other and with other learning and resource platforms to, ultimately, create a truly student-centered approach to education. The students, at minimum, will come away with improved social media skills and a more pro-active approach to their own education, where I will get a chance to explore the key issues in developing an educational system that puts the student in as much control of his learning as possible.
The approach will be to model work within a PLE myself and this blog is a central piece of that equation. You will likely see more detailed approaches to assignments. Please don’t be shy about commenting on material that is clearly intended as an assignment for my students. If we can improve the learning as we go, great. And sometimes, that might mean that I’m told that my assignment idea is WAY off the mark and needs to be re-written.
I will, hopefully have plenty to report back as we go and I will be eager to hear ideas and questions as we go. With luck, your questions will be incorporated in the discussions with the students.
The first step in this process, once students are gathered and school-based administrative details are dealt with, will be to create a basic PLE. In my mind, this will be Facebook, a blog and Twitter. I will guess that most, if not all, of the students will have a Facebook account and some will have a Twitter account. I doubt that very many will have a personal blog. There will need to be some discussion about how to build a learning based PLN in Facebook and Twitter and they will be asked to write introductory blog posts. Once we have these pieces in place, we can start looking at their personal interests and continue to refine their PLNs based on those interests. I expect that when the personal learning is begun, then we can look at ways of leveraging the PLEs to improve school based learning and organization. It is at this point that I anticipate the greatest learning about the role of PLEs in formal education to occur.
Now, some would argue that I’m missing the point entirely. They might ask why I’m trying to fit a great, student-centered concept into the old industrial-era model of education. I agree that for PLEs to be truly effective in formal education will have to change significantly. Some are saying that education doesn’t need to change, it needs to be thrown out and rebuilt from scratch. Whatever your thinking is, I believe that direction will still need to come from adults, whether teachers, learning coaches, tutors or whatever they are called. There is a role for physical spaces where learners meet face-to-face to discuss ideas and build knowledge together (whether that be physical, virtual or conceptual manifestations of that knowledge.) There will also need to be some sort of curriculum that is required of students to gain expertise in what society deems essential skills and knowledge. I think students, particularly more mature students, should have far more input into how they address that curriculum, but the curriculum still needs to provide the framework. It is in this context that I want to explore how PLEs are able to support a student-centred approach to learning. It is here that I want to explore how these ideas connect and what is needed to achieve an effective learning environment. Hopefully, you’ll come along for the ride!