Saturday, September 18, 2010

PLNs....not just for teachers.

To state the obvious, Web 2.0 has paved the way for more professional development than I could have ever imagined back when I was starting out as an educator. (Did I just date myself or what?) I'm self-motivated, I'm applying and synthesizing my knowledge, and I have complete control of how my involvement is progressing and in what direction I want to take. I don't get any of the traditional rewards (cold hard cash, pretty grade letters near the beginning o the alphabet), yet that isn't a consideration at all. I have numerous opportunities for self-reflection and collaboration. Meanwhile, I'm writing more than ever before, I'm feeling more comfortable about sharing my writing, and I've learned how to use a heap of web 2.0 tools.

After that jargon filled, cliche ridden, Bloom's taxonomy flavored introduction, you must see where I'm going with this.
Woman Computer Scientist/Kobieta informatykIllustration : Anna Borska, « Woman Computer Scientist/Kobieta Informatyk », 18.7.2009, Flickr (licence Creative Commons).

Note all words that make a student cringe are identified in quotations.
What if my highschool English students were given the opportunity to pursue a passion of theirs as a "unit" of study? What if the "assignment" were simply to pursue their passion? Take a topic and research it, compile information about it, reflect on it, create on it, share it, act on it. What would the "criteria" be. How would it be "assessed"?

Would this cause them, as I am now, to write a blog post on a Saturday night and peruse their RSS feed for hours while simultaneously taking part in a free online course instead of watching the movie they'd rented earlier? I'm getting silly, but you get my drift (and for the record, I don't do this every Saturday night).


  1. I wonder how much structure we would have to provide most of our students to make a unit like this work? If it could get them turned on to learning in this way it would be really worth it. I also wonder how many of our students already do have a good PLN and how does the structure of their PLN differ from that of our generation. Food for thought...

  2. What a great study that would be! Hmmm...Masters here I come?

  3. Jodie - I'm with you on this. I often find myself following my passion/interest like you do, and sometimes it's at the weekend.

    If this was offered in the right way to the student's, and they could see the perceptable benefits to them (and scheduling it around other activities and responsibilities) then I could see this taking off ... but I can't see the Institution(s) either understanding it or being interested in it.

    Pity, we might get better work and results from everyone involved if we centred it around their interest/passion instead of greed or need.

    Thanks, and all the best.


  4. I like the way Google approaches this with the 20% rule. They give all of their employees 20% to think about and do whatever they want. There are no guidelines. In that 20% a lot of really great innovations and new thinking has occurred. We use our 20% to write and reflect and enrich our practice. I think this is a necessity for students and unfortunately we aren't providing time for it.

  5. I didn't know that about Google employees. Very interesting. I wonder if many of my students would know what to do with themselves for that time, or would they be waiting for someone to tell them what to do?