Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting a grip on social and personal learning

I have just blogged on In Touch with a Flat World about Community Learning with ELGG. I have nearly 30 students now using ELGG as their primary blog for my classes. I am pleased with the way it provides an interface for community and social learning. In conjunction with our class wiki for ITGS as well as other digital tools for a socially networked classroom I feel that we are starting to now model and create a vibrant 21st century classroom. We still have a long way to go as the students have not quite 'got it' yet as to why this is a good thing to do. However those that have been blogging and interacting online with me in class for up to three years now are getting closer. For example, the Grade 11 class had a couple of new students arrive this year who had never blogged and were quite nervous even about using their laptop in class. They are struggling and have not achieved the fluidity of the more experienced and dedicated amongst the class.

I thoroughly recommend you watch the video of Miles Berry at the Curverider event in the UK recently where he talks about
'Personalisation, social learning and the e-strategy.'
I am inspired by his comments and the practice he has put into using ELGG with Primary students within a closed network. Our practice here at International School Dhaka is with senior students using the free online faciliy.

I have summarised the basics of what Miles (see bio) was saying about personalised and social learning using online tools:
  • For learning it is not always the destination that matters ….it is the people you travel with
  • Personalised learning focuses so much on getting to places as quickly as possible…actually we should be thinking about social and exploring the places enroute and talking to the people you are traveling with.
  • Moodle: freedom for the learner to choose the bits they want to explore, to engage with others.
  • ELGG could provide a personalized online learning space re UK plan to achieve this by 2008 for every student. Collaborative approach, not simply personalized learning, more of a social model.
  • Digital show and tell using ELGG space: ePortfolio
  • Moving towards something the students actually use rather that just for assessment purposes
  • ELGG provides the ability to find other learners who are enthusiastic and interested in the same things.
  • The idea of writing for an audience mattered a lot to the students…..the reflection they encouraged helped to take more responsibility for the learning they are engaged in.
  • ELGG says these are the resources and learning objects that other learners are interested in
  • The idea that it is not simply about content…about engaging in productive activities
  • ELGG and Moodle has a role in supporting teacher PD: being able to connect and share experiences
  • Concept and practice of what it means to be a person…adding to the value of content rather than taking from it.
  • Instructivist agenda…getting through the content still prevalent, however there is social learning and a constructivist approach in some schools…classrooms as learning communities, learning from one another.
  • Who personalizes the learning? Is it ‘the computer knows best?’
  • Role of the parent as well…contributing content and response via the blog. Role of the teacher of suggesting resources and content. Role of the pupil to personalize learning, make choices
  • Person the individual should be able to choose their learning journey, every person has a unique contribution to make.
What I really like about social learning is the ability to see a little bit further into the minds of my students. Through their blogs and interactions I can monitor what they are discovering each week, how they feel about it, when they are finding concepts difficult and how they support each other with their work. I can see who has not bothered to explore and reflect each week, who has participated in the learning process and who has not.

One reason why many teachers are not blogging or not encouraging blogging as part of what they do, I think, is that are intimidated by this more 'up close and personal' relationship with their immediate students. They are not willing to put themselves on the line either. My students read my blogs when they want to, they even post comments. I am prepared to share and be part of the learning community as well.

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