Tuesday, 15 June 2010
A learning episode!
I want to describe a learning episode that has occurred today, not because it was particularly profound, but simply because I think it is a good example of how online networks can promote a deeper understanding of something in a way which may even be more effective than an equivalent face-to-face context.
Last week (Week 17) on the tutor group forum there was a discussion about a paper written by Noble which raised various concerns about the way in which online learning is being used in higher education. One of the concerns related to the commercial nature of established VLEs in higher education. I mentioned in my post that I could recall reading an article which proposed doing away with established VLEs and simply using the freely available online tools instead.
Both Andy and John responded to my post. Andy suggested that I might be referring to personal learning environments (PLEs) and John suggested that the article I had read may have been written by Martin Weller. I was not familiar with the concept of PLEs so I resolved to try to find out more about them. John's suggestion of Martin Weller's blog contained a link to a paper entitled "The Centralisation Dilemma in Educational IT" which also discussed in some detail the relative advantages and disadvantages of centralised VLEs and decentralised PLEs.
By coincidence this week (Week 18) the very first reading we looked at was by Martin Weller, and covered broadly similar issues to those in the paper which above. I posted my thoughts on the reading on my blog, and on the forum, and Andy kindly responded again and drew my attention to another article (Roder and Brown) which also dealt with PLEs but covered them primarily from the perspective of e-portfolios. Now whilst I hadn't previously come across PLEs, I was familiar (or so I thought) with e-portfolios. All our students produce e-portfolios as part of their personal development planning (PDP) but in most cases they are little more than online CVs and for the most part students do not like doing them because they feel that they get very little out of them. What I learned from this article (and from the context provided by the other papers) was that e-portfolios could actually be used as the basis for quite a sophisticated PLE which could provide students with a framework for maintaining their personal development long after they have graduated and moved on.
I know it may seem ridiculously simple, but something has really struck me about the way in which all these various sources have come together in the space of a few days from a variety of sources, and the result is that something has actually clicked for me. I recall a comment in one of the readings we have had recently that learning is all about making connections, and I think that is exactly what has happened here for me.