Saturday, November 10, 2012

PLEs vs. T(raditional)L(earning)E(nvironment)s

Our resources this week covered Personal Learning Environments and what learners can do to enhance their own understanding. Salman Khan discussed his cousins and the origin of Khan Academy, a 7th grader talked about what she wants to study, and the Xtranormal video pitted a digital learner against a traditional teacher (who happened to think he was appealing to digital learners by scanning in worksheets/information). The last resource I listened to was the Xtranormal and one of the YouTube choices that showed up on the side was: "Schools out - Personal Learning Environments."

In this video, the narrator talked about the powerful devices many students carry around - their smart phones - and the administrator/teacher reaction which was "turn it off." He also said, at the 2:30 mark (in case you don't want to watch all of it), that schools have lots of technology but much of it is designed to "manage learning, not to facilitate learning and not to share that learning." The video was made in 2008 and when confronted by technology that conflicted with the then current style of teaching and assessment, the trend was to back away from it or manage it.

It's been four years since the video was uploaded to YouTube and for many folks, the tendency is still to turn away or attempt to "manage" new technologies, lock them down or allow them in a substitution kind of way.  At times, in our Traditional Learning Environment (TLE), administrators, threatened by being "identified," will turn to "canned software" designed to raise scores, rather than encouraging tools that allow for sharing and collaboration. Perhaps the thinking is: if we're using this kind of software which is technology, we must be indulging our digital learners. If anything, this software is emphasizing the same types of learning that digital learners are trying to move away from - that of isolated, one size fits all type of learning. Even though students can move at their own rate and teachers can pick assignments from a list of topics, it's being presented in exactly the same way for each child. Students can't share this knowledge with others and experience "aha" moments as others take their ideas, expand upon them and share them back with new meaning. Canned software also doesn't allow for students to go elsewhere online just because they want to know. It provides knowledge about but it stops short of allowing for knowledge of.

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