Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Tweet or not to Tweet, and #PLENK2010

 I am one of those holdouts who does not use twitter. Despite people assuring me that I would "get it" once I took the plunge, and despite listening to presentations on the use of twitter, I could not see the relevance to me or the pedagogical usefulness of it in my teaching. Thanks to a fellow participant in #PLENK2010, I found this video that finally explains why I perceive twitter the way I do and validates (to some extent) my feelings on the topic:

The visitor vs resident analogy made by David White definitely appeals to me. I like it because it is not an either/or proposition and also because it does help me understand my own preferences for interacting with the technology. It is also takes account of the difference between professional/institutional and personal space on the internet. This is a distinction that I do try to maintain. Although I am on FB, this is mainly personal; a few colleagues who are also real friends, are also friends on FB, but that's because they are already in my personal life.

Friday, October 15, 2010


This week's readings opened a new can of worms; how do we evaluate learning that takes place within a PLE? I have to relate this to my own learning in #PLENK2010 and to other open, online courses that I have taken. If we end up knowing more than we did when we started, and if we have learned to use new tools, develop new artifacts, extend our own PLE, then we have had a successful experience. The trap is in in thinking we need to learn everything--NOW!

I keep coming back to the idea of learning as a journey, and it's not so much reaching the destination (in formal education that piece of paper) as in what we learn along the way. I'm sure that many of us have taken courses and programs in the past, earned a piece of paper, but ended up feeling disappointed because although we fulfilled some external objectives and goals, we didn't somehow experience what we expected to experience. Perhaps the challenge wasn't sufficient; if something comes too easily, we often don't appreciate it. However, in this course, I and many others (based on blog posts and discussions) find PLENK2010 very challenging. It stretches our minds and expands our understanding. Do I think I will get it "all" by the end of this course--no! I don't think our facilitators know it "all" either as they are exploring many of the related concepts with us, however, they have taken more steps on the journey than many of us. But after this course, I will have the resources to continue to think about PLEs and how to implement them in my own practice both as a learner and as a teacher. I may need to come back for a round 2 of this course, as there is just too much for me to get a handle on right now, but that's all right, too. The journey is proving interesting. I wish I had the time to become more involved with the blogs and discussions, but I don't.

The problem with evaluation is how to measure the success of a learning journey. Traditionally, this is where all of the testing has come into play; in part that is because many learners do not have the intellectual curiosity to want to learn just for the sake of learning. To them, the goal is important. However, we all the need those pieces of paper that say we are qualified to do whatever we end up doing.

Today's Elluminate discussion was interesting in part because of the point made about young children finding it easier to understand the PLE concept than older students who had already been indoctrinated in the good old system. There has to be a systematic introduction of change from these early levels to effect a thorough change, but at the same time, we, as educators, have to be careful that we continue to support methods that work for all students. Too often, new "methods" of teaching something or the other have been introduced into classrooms without the resounding success expected of them: the really capable students seem to learn no matter what, but less capable ones need a variety of supports and methods to also achieve success.

So how do we evaluate the journey? We all know what we have learned or not learned, but can we be relied on to report this accurately. I remember a HS class in which we were allowed to mark our own tests ...;-) The majority of us just wanted out with the least possible hassle. Evaluating the number of "contacts" in a network is too simplistic--the quality of the contacts must be more important than sheer number. How do we construct evaluation so as not coerce certain student behaviours? So how do we learn how to learn in our competitive world? Maybe it is something that motivated, engaged learners can participate in to a greater degree (no pun intended), but all learners should be exposed to learning how to learn and understand how to use a PLE.

I started out by calling this blog "Loose Ends", and I now seem to have more loose ends (questions) than ever before. Nevertheless, I feel that I am making progress on this journey, but in the same way--to extend Stephen's metaphor of the city--that one can learn new things about a place each time one visits, so it is with PLEs and Open Online Learning.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I managed to catch both of the Elluminate sessions this week for #PLENK2010, and they were helpful in reassuring me that I'm not alone in finding Learning Theories not so much a difficult topic but a frustrating one. The best analogy I can think of is that it's like being in a market; every "product" is calling out "Buy me!" However, I see things I like in each product; I like the colour of one, the texture of another, the price of a third, etc. I can also see that some products are enhancements of earlier product models, and that I could find the various products useful in different ways.
In my own teaching practice, I look for a methodology that best suits the particular learning situation; for that reason, I have always favoured an eclectic approach--I'm not so much interested in any one method but using an effective methodology in a particular situation. The bottom line for me is that they all have something to offer in terms of explaining how learning can occur. In some ways I think that maybe we are searching for equivalent of the Theory of Everything that phsysicists hope will reconcile some conflicting theoretical phsyics issues.
Trying to relate all of this to PLEs, however, does bring me to the more recent methodologies, and these are clearly the ones that I'm using in this current course --I'm definitely building on previous learning with this course; the connectivity is helping me to see things in different perspectives and expand my view of the concepts; and I have used scaffolding in other online learning situations to help me learn about the technology and tools in the online universe.
Loose ends persist as I recognize that I am all over the board with teaching and learning; I also recognize that my own online teaching environment is far more structured than the PLENK2010 course. I have been trying to build in a level of connectivism through social networking, but in the asynchronous online world this is not easy to do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Virtual Way Forward

I've finally got to Steve Wheeler's slide show of Web 3.0 the way forward for the PLENK2010 course--it's mind boggling to use the vernacular. It's fascinating at the same time--how to envision the future from the relatively small (future hindsight) steps we have taken so far. It's also depressing--I feel that although I'm running faster and faster to keep up with new technology, new concepts, etc.,. in reality I'm getting further and further behind.