Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Solution #1 for managing student PLEs

Fans by Claire Cook.
A couple of weeks ago I started thinking more about how to manage the personalized learning environments (PLEs) going on in my classes. No doubt K-12 education will increasingly integrate more individualized approaches, but what does this mean for those of us who are customizing learning in traditional schools right now? Consider this excerpt from the NMC Horizon Report, 2012 K-12 edition:
While the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it does seem to be clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person. Widespread adoption of PLEs may require shifts in policy, as well as attitudes, toward technology for teaching, and learning.
"adoption may require shifts in policy, as well as attitudes toward technology for teaching and learning"... As I see it, these are "shifts" of seismic proportions; adopting them isn't just a pedagogical or curricular issue, it also calls for looking at the situation as a design problem. In The Reflective Practitioner, design guru Donald Schön shows how architecture students learn through reflective conversations; he highlights the value of having an expert unpack their thinking for the novice. But what becomes even more apparent to me is how including the novice in the discussion benefits the expert as well because this "back-talk" is integral to the solution. After all, without the novice, the expert has no occasion for conversation. Designer Nigel Cross gave me another insight when he emphasized the importance of personal experience in Designerly Ways of Knowing

Taken together, Schön and Cross provide a strategy that helped me begin to manage the personal learning environments – by engaging my students in reflective conversations about their personal experiences in my classroom. A number of things came out of these conversations; I'll mention one as an example.

Problem: Where's everybody's stuff?

A chronic problem is when some students want to remix other students' media or collaborate on a project, but can't find each other's stuff. If I had my students put all their work in a learning management system like Blackboard or Angel, this really wouldn't be an issue. But since I want my students to work in authentic spaces, their products are scattered all over the Internet – Flickr Photostreams, Youth Voices discussions, YouTube channels, shared Google Docs, personal websites, etc.

Solution: 1) Create a Google Form where students input the URLs to their various online spaces. 2) Share the resulting spreadsheet with the group. Here's how the output looks to users:

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