I have been looking at the terminology that describes what I do in the classroom with my students. Here are some of the things students will do in a typical course I teach:
- Get a twitter account, use tweet deck to follow different hashtags (#) as a way of doing research.
- Set up a wordpress blog, and post text, sketches and images to the blog.
- Join the class Facebook group and contribute (from the mobile).
- Use Tumbler to do research and post thoughts, images, drawings.
- Use Instagram, pinterest to do visual research/ visual ethnography.
- Use Delicious, citeulike, netnewswire to undertake textual research.
- Use RSS and StumbleUpon to read online journals/ diaries to do user research (Digital Enthnography).
Its ten years since I started using blogs and online tools as part of my design teaching. In recent years I have been using the smartphone/ with notifications as a component of the learning process.
NOW – In design studio projects the central learning happens through a process of visualisation and pin up reviews. So in class presentations and conversations are crucial. Within the discourse of/ terminology of PLE I am now referring to the class encounter as ESSENTIAL LEARNING. The learning that happens outside of class – through social media and digital ethnography – is OPTIONAL LEARNING. Though I wouldn’t do it so intensively if it were really Optional. Which means I need a new term for what PLE refers to as Optional-Learning. If you have a suggestion – for an alternative term – post me a suggestion in the comments section.
“Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience…has created not only promising changes but also disruptive moments in teaching.” EDUCAUSE Review, 2012
This quote from Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education (Bass, 2012), gives a good a reason as any for educators to develop a Personal learning Environment [PLE]; a space where we can keep up with the experimental modes of learning, instruction, changing pedagogy and instructional methods that surfaced in 2012. In a previous post I introduced the concept of PLEs and touched on why educators may want to consider developing a PLE for 2013. In this post I’ll outline how educators can develop their own PLE, where to start, and I’ll provide specific action steps, and what tools to use. First though, I’ll share three convincing reasons why we should get serious about PLEs—why they aren’t just for students.
Three Reasons Why Educators Need a PLE
Education is in a phase of disruption (not news to anyone)—and it’s not just a blip or a bump, but is what Harvard professor and author Clayton Christenson describes as disruptive innovation. This concept describes what is happening in higher education now. We can see disruption in the new forms of course delivery (i.e. Udacity, Cousera), teaching methods (i.e. flipped classrooms), and new learning models (i.e. competency based learning). These experimental forms of teaching (MOOCs) and assessing (peer review, assessment centers) are changing how educators teach, and impact the student/instructor relationship. Below are three [convincing] reasons why educators should consider creating a PLE:
- We need to disrupt ourselves: The model of higher education is at a turning point. PLEs provide a framework for us to expand our knowledge in our areas of expertise, and in teaching and instructional methods that are and will be appropriate and relevant for the digital era.
- The Instructor’s role has changed. The learner is moving to the center of the learning and teaching model, and relies upon a variety of sources for learning. PLEs will help instructors not only stay relevant in his or her field, but will provide an opportunity to learn how to use tools that will enhance instructional methods and adapt to the changing paradigm.
- Access to the Internet has changed how we teach and learn—forever. New tools devices, and applications are changing our culture and society. Education is not immune. We need to adapt and respond—PLEs will help us to do so appropriately by responding from a position of knowledge and understanding.
While emphasizing the active role of a learner, the PLE approach implies thatlearning is not located in a specific time and place, but is an ongoing, ubiquitous and multi-episodic process. As PLEs allow the collocation of diverse learning activities, tools, and resources, contexts permeate and learning becomes connected. In this sense, PLEs challenge some dominant paradigms in education and in the traditional understanding of borders, be it in view of learning places, educational roles or institutional policies.