I grew up in the 80’s in a system where knowledge was bestowed or transferred to the learner. Lucky be the learner who assimilated to the system and gleaned high marks! Back then, I earned my first grade of 47 in high school history because I thought that listening was enough. I quickly learned that I had to employ many strategies to assimilate the new information in some way. Note taking, reading, inquiry. This was an ugly, uncomfortable, and memorable educational experience for me. Fortunately, I was quick-witted enough to turn around the trend and glean dean’s list for the rest of high school and college.
Today, I work in an environment where PLN is a buzzword acronym, spinning around and revisiting me in memos, list-servs, and other learning networks. I am not included in these exclusive meetings, but I can honestly say that I am seeing differences in teaching styles and learning inquiry during the past decade (my work in an educational environment).
Personal Learning Networks is a term that is seeped in self-advocacy and inquiry.
For me, education and work are seeped into one beautiful tangle. As a tech support specialist, I learn on the job. While, in my educational pursuits, I apply what I learn back to the field. My personal learning network extends from colleagues, student inquiry, grad school, conferences (leading and attending), tech troubleshooting, list-servs, and a multitude of tech newsletters that overfill my inbox (and frankly, I enjoy reading). Cliche’ as it may sound, I am a lifelong student, continuing to seek education in all forms (social, classical grad school, conferences, and personal inquiry) every day, all day.
I am seeing ‘signals’ of what education will look like in ten years’ time. I believe that there will be ample opportunities for students to advocate and create learning opportunities in their own areas of interest. My personal hesitation involves questioning the validity of the sources that our students may seek in their personal learning quest. How will students sift through the junk to get quality information? In the past, the encyclopedias and published authors were the resources for quality, vetted data. Today, there is no vetting, and anyone can publish on multiple platforms with the air of an expert in the field. This is a truly concerning prospect.
In the past week, I have had four students approach me to inquire about learning opportunities. This new inquiry-based learning is being facilitated by forward-thinking teachers and their students who are making bold to ask for more. The first student asked me if he could take apart a computer this year. (Note to self…) Literally two hours later, a technician was preparing to unscrew a laptop monitor for repair. “Hold it right there!” I lept at the opportunity to pull this student out for an opportunity of (his) lifetime. Behold the picture below. This student is in tech heaven.
A fifth grade teacher has recently implemented “Genius Hour”, which is technically a daily appointment to dream it, make it, present it over the course of a semester. A specific student asked about making a game on an app. The teacher squinted and quirked his head in doubt. Then he said, “this is a question for Mrs. Pius.” I am now working with this student first through Turtle Academy (Logo) and now Scratch.mit.edu to learn basic coding principles and create a real game that can be played by his peers. The best part of working with this student are the ‘lightbulb’ moments when he really gets it and connects what he is learning in coding to other learning in the classroom.