Table of contents for Personal Learning Environments
I currently teach in a K-12 learning center where we have a fair number of kids who are so scared of failing that they want you to just accept them at their word when they tell you they know something. To which we always say, “That’s great, kiddo. Show me.” And they fight us tooth and claw while showing whether or not they actually know the material. (About half the time, they really do, but that fear of failure just kills them.)
Today more than ever, we’ve become a society who looks for proof. This is why behind-the-scenes features and crew commentaries have become popular features on movie and television show DVDs. We want to be dazzled, and then we want to see the wizard behind the curtain. We want to know how the trick works. We want things deconstructed so we can better understand them. Autodidacts actually learn quite a bit from that deconstruction, simply by following a person in a related profession and learning how they work.
In our current education system, showing what we know has been boiled down to multiple-choice tests and formulaic essays, and we’re all realizing that isn’t the best way to show that someone has genuinely learned material. We’re actually taking a page from the Montessori and amateur online communities and realizing that creating an end product is a much better way to show off what’s been learned. In creating web sites, writing stories, creating analog or digital art, it becomes clear what the learner understands and what he or she still needs to learn. It shows the level at which the learner understands the concepts and processes. And creating a product is just more practical than killing trees and bytes in the name of recalling information.
Remember when I said at the beginning that the PLE begins with a learner-facing focus, but shifts to community-facing at the end? This is what I’m talking about. When we’ve mastered the concepts and processes we’re working on, we turn them into proof of what we’ve learned. Then we share that proof with others in our Personal Learning Network (PLN). Our PLN is our own little corner of the community of practice we’ve decided to be part of, or our own little intersection if we’ve engaged with multiple communities of practice.
When we demonstrate, we share our projects, our thoughts, our own procedures. We open ourselves to critique. We engage with others in discussions on our own projects or on others’ projects, further demonstrating our knowledge and skills, and opening ourselves to learning even more so we can refine our knowledge and processes in future projects. We also validate the work of other members of our PLN by saving or sharing it.
While this may be end of our series on Personal Learning Environments, it’s not the end of the PLE practice. There are always refinements to make on previously learned topics and new concepts and skills to learn, each in their own stage of the PLE. Learning and producing never end.