For the first time in 20 years I do not have English classes to teach.
The principal has requested that I am ‘off the timetable’ and work with all students on digital citizenship and creating a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or, if you prefer, Personal Learning Network (PLN). This is another small step towards creating an environment at our school where student learning is personalised with the internet in mind.
Formal change, at a policy level, from brave, insightful leaders is desperately needed but all of us can do our bit to personalise learning and fan the flames of those student learning passions. I encourage you to explore Mark Treadwell‘s ideas on changing paradigms and personalised learning which excite me and seem so obviously the path on which to to journey for systems and schools, students and teachers. Mark presented at our NSW DP conference which led to him posting at the blog about paradigm shift as a follow-up. He opens with the basic reason that we need to change:
Test scores in maths, science reading and writing have remained largely unchanged for almost 50 years despite billions, if not trillions of additional dollars being poured into education. Why is that? Robert Branson suggests that we have reached an upper limit of efficiency and effectiveness within our book based, text centric, learning system we have been journeying on since the Renaissance period.
This why it was exciting to hear about Mark’s involvement with the PLANE project. This is an important opportunity and will, I am certain, be fruitful for Australian education.
Back to my classes. My opening question to students is presented, explored and discussed in a number of different guises and media (pairs, small groups, via survey monkey feedback and IWB resources):
What do you have a passion to learn?
I share some of my own interests, including recent efforts to learn photography (rather than to ‘be a photographer’). The responses are fascinating. Pretty much all of the older students, Year 10-12, predominately list a job rather than ‘interests’ but most students seem find it difficult to divorce learning from their practical needs for future employment. Of course, this makes sense on many levels but does feed my sense that we have lost our way in educating youth if their view becomes narrowed to school is ‘merely’ preparation for a job. Maybe I am reading too much into this and have a fondness for the romantic (?) notion that a liberal arts education is important for both the individual and society. In my presentation, I make it clear, by using examples, that you can talk about absolutely anything, nothing is too trite or ambitious and that I am not particularly looking for ‘jobs’ but ‘learning passions’. The younger students are more inclined to say what I can loosely describe as hobbies but still many focus on a job. You may like to read a few of Year 7‘s passions.
It is also interesting that very few students respond mentioning the internet. Of course, some of their passions do not need this medium but most certainly could have used online connections and resources. I believe that students find it difficult to think about learning as something that happens outside of school or away from the teacher. Once again, maybe I am seeing this less than clearly but feel we need to talk about learning much more than school or education in future visions of any system we devise. ‘Anywhere, anytime’ needs to be more than a slogan.
It is also interesting that Year 7, when I ask for their understandings of ‘digital citizenship’, have no clue what is being asked. When I reframe and ask what did you learn about the internet in primary school they all chant ‘cyber-safety’. Once again, this makes sense but considering our changed paradigm, the notion that the internet is as dangerous as a viper is so exaggerated to the point that I find it personally, well, ludicrous. As you know, the data confirms my viewpoint. I worry far more about students and my own children being in a car – as data confirms.
Q: How is the paradigm changing or learning being personalised at your school?