Sunday, 15 November 2009

Decisions, decision, decisions - what, when, where and how do I want to learn

My learning journey, that touched-on: ePortfolios; Personal Learning and Thinking Skills; social software; Personal Learning Environments; Personal Learning Networks and Personalised Learning, kept bringing me back to the same problem; how will a learner, who is operating independently within their own Personal Learning Environment know what it is that they are ‘expected to’ or should learn?

A coincidence then, that I found that my sabbatical from teaching had put me into that very same position? A learner; a learner who is not being told what it is that he must do, or what he must learn. A learner, on his own, not following a course. A learner with no real aspiration to strive towards or goal to achieve. But I did want to finish-off/pursue some of the things that I was not able to progress while a full-time teacher; so had a motive or an excuse to wander and e-Lurk.

I had access to, and had some competence with, the evolving social, communications and collaborative tools that could support a Personalised Learning Environment. I had dipped my toe into/had developed something of a Personal Learning Network.

So what did a learner with a rudder, but without a course to sail, do? He retained his working routines, 6am start; monitored eMail; monitored Twitter …. He found himself e-Lurking in some ever so interesting places and discussions, completely ignoring the advice that he had pedalled to his students for many years; that they should Plan, Do and review. He was distracted and was wandering around.

But wandering and bumping into the same problem; no matter how much Open content or Open Educational Resources there are available, or how sophisticated the Open Tools are or how ubiquitous the enabling technology is; a learner must, somehow have a ‘plan’. A learning plan that he/she has some element of ‘ownership’ of. A learning plan that will require them to access the repositories of OER; to use the Tools; to develop the skills; to operate in their PLE; to engage and harness their PLN.

A plan that comes from - an Open Curriculum perhaps?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Breaking BlogFast – From Blogging to Beyond

Graham Attwell is to Blame. He convinced me that blogging was worthwhile, important and, the clincher for me, that it had something to do with the ePorfolio process.

Over the past four years I have given it a go; I posted too frequently; my posts were too long; I blogged into spaces that disappeared, that are no longer available; I overcame my concern that I was writing for an audience that either did not exist, or would not want to read my offerings.

During my blog sabbatical, that happened to coincide with my sabbatical from teaching, I have e-Lurked here, there and everywhere to provide nourishment for my learning need; I really must get out more. I have followed and participated in many excellent discussions enabled by Elluminate Live and FlashMeeting; I have followed conferences, remotely via Twitter streams including live video of the events. All for free, all from home, with me deciding what it was that I wanted to dip into and when I did it. A bit of a luxury, but without having a Personal Learning Plan or even a goal, I simply took advantage of the opportunities that were signposted by my Personal Learning Network and wandered through some rich learning experiences.

Many of the discussion that I found myself following focussed on Personal Learning Environments and Learning Networks; my learning auto-pilot was using my ‘interest lens’ to filter and sift the available learning opportunities.

During this time I have had hundreds of blog posts in my head but not had the motivation to share them. I have become a bit addicted to ‘watching’ Twitter and enjoyed following the ‘is Twitter killing Blogging’ debate. In many ways it was that debate that reinforced some of my thinking about Personalised Learning and Learning Environments, and that made me think more about ‘control’ in the context of a Learning Environment.

I watched as a cloud grew, but I realised that if Grainne/Matt had not planted the original seed, and if Grainne had not promoted/propagated it, it would not have grown. My PLN was watching, but needed someone, somehow to ‘push’ and encourage participation. Nothing new in that, the critical role of the facilitator in any Community of Practice is widely acknowledged. But how can we tell/ signpost/suggest, to a learner, who is operating ‘independently’ in his/her own PLE, what it is that they should/might experience or learn. Even with an established PLN around, ‘mature’ independent learners enjoy the ‘wander’ and exploration but ‘need’ someone to guide or mentor them.

From my work with web-based curriculum mapping I had concluded that, to support personalised learning, learners would need to be given access to an accessible, learner-facing learning menu. I need to think a bit more about the role of the learning guide, mentor, facilitator or teacher. Who ‘controls’ and independent learner? Does and independent learner need to be ‘controlled’? – a job for next week! ep2009