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.