The Impact of Well-Designed PLEs

I was very interested in the readings in week #8 as they are providing me with much needed information for my LT#3.  For LT#3, I am creating a personal learning environment (PLE) with the help of my colleagues.  The PLE will be created with the intention of helping teachers integrate a new technology tool, the iPad2, into their teaching.

Atwell opens with a good question when discussing PLEs.  How do we learn?  This is crucial for me to understand where my learners, the teachers, are coming from and how to best approach the support and learning environment I want to create.  Most people will learn 80% of what they know and understand in an informal learning environment (Atwell, 2007).  This tells me the website I want to create must have an informal component to it.  This is very well modeled in one of the greatest informal learning environment ever created, Facebook.  I intend to model this environment by allowing teachers to interact with one another in an informal way to share ideas and ask questions of whomever they choose.  Why should the only person they have access to for support be me or the technology mentor teacher (TMT)?  Personally, I know that in an online learning environment, such as the one for this course, I learn best when I am able to interact with my classmates and I see their comments and reflect on what they have to say.

Communication is the key to any PLE.  This may entail blogging, instant messaging, file sharing or simple email.  In this way, we learn from each other in an informal way and this is how most of us prefer to learn.  This is not based on an outcome or a goal derived by someone else but is rather something we may need an answer to in order to move forward with the formal goal or outcome.  It is also important to share our successes with one another.  In one way it shows attainment of a formal outcome but in a much more meaningful way, it shows our fellow learners a successful approach they may want to use in their own way.  In LT#3, we are going to ask teachers to post a video of a lesson or an assignment they feel was successful when using the iPad for this very reason.

In the Youtube video, Personal Learning Networks, Will Richardson explains everyone learns in their own way online.  Many turn to social media to learn informally and we should not ignore the potential seen here.  This reinforces the idea the PLE I intend to create must have these components.  Instant messaging, posts, blogs, media imports, etc. must be included for my PLE to be successful.

Attwell, G. (2007). Personal learning environments – the future of eLearning? eLearning Papers, 2(1). Retrieved from http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:ptS3B7qa2z4J:scholar.google.com/+personal+learning+networks&hl=en&as_sdt 0,5&as_vis=1

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3 Responses to The Impact of Well-Designed PLEs

  1. rslobodian says:

    Great post Rob! I agree with you that informal learning has merit and often is the learning that “sticks” best. I find the term “informal” a bit of a misnomer as it seems to imply a “lesser than” feel to formal learning. I can’t help but imagine a t-shirt and shorts classroom versus a suit and tie one; Learning is learning to me, no matter where or how it happens. I was reading Dr. Eaton’s (2012) 10 Characteristics of Informal Learning, and one of her characteristics is that learners are highly motivated to learn. I imagine that your teachers who are piloting the use of iPads will be motivated to learn how to use the technology in order to assist students. But, I was wondering if you have thought about how you will motivate teachers to use the informal learning aspect of your project? . I completely agree with you that in our cohort for this university program, such rich learning experiences happen via our interactions, but we are forced because of distance to use them. Your teachers will be within a short walk to your office and might forgo attempts at reading blogs or using instant messaging to learn in an informal way. I guess it is the million dollar question…how do we highly motivate learners? When you figure this out, please let me know!

    Resources

    Eaton, S. (2012, February). 10 Characteristics of Informal Learning [blog post]. Retrieved from http://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/characteristics-informal-learning/

  2. teedee says:

    Hi Rob,

    I want to apologize for missing your last post in the last commenting round – I think I must have accidentally missed it in my reader. I think that this week’s post kind of builds on the ideas you mentioned in your last one, so I’ll just combine my comments into one for this week.

    In both posts, you mentioned the need to consider specific learning needs before building any learning tools – especially websites. I really enjoyed your discussion on that topic in your last post – how important it was to consider exactly what your learners needed to know. It reminded me of one of my favourite webcomics (http://xkcd.com/773/) – I actually printed this comic and posted it to my office door for a while when our College was thinking about doing a website redesign. (I really wanted to embed the comic as a graphic – but I can’t figure out how to do that in WordPress comments…sorry). I think that it really reflects how many companies don’t consider their population when designing – they overload the page with shiny, promotional information, rather than highlighting the information people really need or want. When we want to communicate with our students, it is even more important to consider their needs and the best way to clearly communicate that information!

    I also liked your comments this week about creating informal learning opportunities rather than a structured learning environment. I think, way back in our course last summer, we discussed the difference between talking about an concept in a peer group in class, and posting about it on a formal discussion board. I can’t remember who mentioned it, but we talked about how one felt more informal and casual, while the other felt more scholarly and measured – even though we were still sharing ideas and doing the same thing. Being able to just IM someone a quick question, or watch a YouTube video to see how something is done may open up more opportunities for learning – it creates opportunities for “just in time” learning rather than making teachers take the time to learn something “just in case” they need it later.

    I do think that this also highlights the difference between PLEs and most PD opportunities – PLEs are personal – they are about learning something that you are personally interested in. If you are interested in a PD session, then you will be motivated to learn – and you are more likely to go beyond the PD session and learn more. You are likely to ask question about it, and be one of the first to experiment with it in your classroom. But if it isn’t a topic you are personally curious about, you may find the information interesting enough, but after the hour is over, you won’t go on to use it or learn more about it. Perhaps we need to look at PD like a PLE – rather than holding “formal” sessions on a topic, teachers can instead investigate areas they are interested in, gather together as a group and learn about a topic together?

    Great post Rob – and good luck with your website project! It sounds ambitious, but will hopefully help you and the teachers at your school!

    Resources:
    Munroe, R. (n.d.). University Website [Comic]. Retrieved from: http://xkcd.com/773/,

  3. monicachung7 says:

    Thanks for sharing your post Rob!
    I like where you are going with your idea on creating a PLE for teachers on integrating iPad2 in their classroom. I agree communication is key and it is interesting to see how you are able to notice Facebook’s success with informal learning. You are right that in our cohort group we are able to communicate regularly and learn so many different tools, strategies and resources to use in our classroom and we have found the value in doing so. But we have also complained and whined about the amount of work in communications that we needed to do which in the long run, we have discovered we are grateful for it.

    I agree with Roberta’s issue on how to motivate learners. Even with Facebook there are teachers out there that do have an account. If they are resistant to that social media, will they not be resistant to others. Will you be enforcing it on the teachers where they will need to share what they have done?
    Being an elementary teacher I was wondering if the collaboration does not occur with D2L or even with google docs in the high schools? Thanks!

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