Sunday, January 27, 2008

Let's Not Just Do Things The Way We're Used To Because That's All We Know...

There is a group of us who gather regularly in Second Life (come join us in Bam) to talk about a lot of things, but most things of an educational nature. lately we have been talking a lot about learning communities, tools for reaching learners, and what's important to us as adult educators as we and our learners move forward.

In one of these recent conversations one of my colleagues made the following statement:

"let's not just do things the way we're used to because that's all we know"

As educators we are a the cusp of a whole new paradigm of learning - the classrooms that have been around since the time of Victorian England (Dickens and Nietzsche would not feel out of place in our classrooms - can tat be said of just about any other part of our modern society?) and before are becoming the least popular way for our learners to learn - they are looking for convenience, mobility, and flexibility. For many learning is just another product or commodity to be purchased and consumed where and when they want to, not where a brick institution or an old lecturer tells them too.

We have to meet our learners where they are - so keeping this quote in mind we have to know what it is they are using to get their information, when they want to learn, and how they want to learn - knowing these things is critical for the future of post-secondary education.

Will the classroom ever go away completely - probably not, but the regularly scheduled class in a brick classroom may - replaced by mobile learning that can happen anywhere and the PLE that meets the learners needs. We will need to be better at engaging our learners and giving them a larger voice in what exactly their learning looks like. There will have to be options - where you learn, how you learn, when you learn.

So keep in mind my friend's quote - "let's not just do things the way we're used to because that's all we know" - let's do things because they are best for learning and best for our learners. Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Eight Things You Don't Know About Me...

My friend randommind sent me this post - "8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me". It's part of an internet meme making the rounds of the blogosphere. The idea is that you list eight things that people didn't know about you then "tag" eight other people. Sort of an internet chain letter. Well. I'm going to play along, sort of, and list eight things that most don't know about me. I'm not going to tag eight others as it seems that my friends have already been taggedin this process.

So here goes - eight things that you didn't know about me:
  1. I was awarded the RMC Club of Canada scholarship in 1974 to attend the Royal Military College of Canada - I turned it down because that summer I did basic officer training at CFB Shilo and I didn't want to end up like my platoon commander, a recent RMC graduate. I went on to serve 28 years in the Canadian Army Reserve, retiring as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 2001
  2. I've always wanted to jump out of an airplane (with a parachute) but have never had the courage to do it - mind over matter and right now mind is still winning and keeping my feet firmly on the ground
  3. I'm allergic to cats but love (I love dogs more but live in an apartment building that is not dog friendly) them and an still thinking of getting a Maine Coon cat
  4. I'm not afraid of heights but I get the willies if I look up from a high place (what's that all about?). I have no problem looking down from a great height (of course I'm 6'6", so that might have something to do with it)
  5. I love military history, particularly World War II - the strategy, tactics and politics of the era
  6. I have never gotten lost, temporarily misplaced, but never lost. When I travel to a strange place I love getting a map and just exploring - it's the best way to see the sights.
  7. I spent the equivalent of grades 2-4 at a British school operated by the British Embassy in Bonn, West Germany (Dad was posted to the Canadian Embassy) and the PNEU. I learned things in those three years (math, biology, geography, economics...)that I didn't see again until I was in high school in Canada and I sailed through school because of what I learned and the study habits and skills I developed as a 7-9 year old - what's that all about, and what does it say about our education system?
  8. Like many educators, I am an introvert - do not put me in a social situation with a room full of strangers - I hate it. Put me in a classroom with a room full of strangers who are there to learn and I love it...
So there you have it - eight things you didn't know (but might have suspected) about me...

(Picture - "8 Mosaic" - by Leo Reynolds)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Personal Living Networks... AHA!!!

One of the best education blogs out there is Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed. It's one of my regular stops in the blogosphere and should be one of yours too.

In a recent post he talks about "Personal Living Networks", and I had an AHA! moment. He quotes Chris Lott:

“In the emerging model, students learn to navigate, assess, construct and participate in a living network that comprises the heart of their learning network and they take that with them when their time as part of any particular institution’s offerings come to a change…’Going to school’ is an activity that has a life and dies; learning is a continuing process. Enrollments and degree programs terminate; personal living networks accompany learners through life– the ultimate educational institution– serving as companion, confidante, and oracle alike.” Chris Lott

Chris Lott is another must read for educators, and he in fact uses the term "personal living environment", feeling that limiting it personal learning environment is too narrow a focus.

Anyone who has read my blog know that I personally believe that PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) are the future of education - they will get us out of our neat rows of desks in classrooms, away from one-way lectures, and allow us to deliver education when, where, how, and why, learners want it. They will place more responsibility on learners to become engaged in their learning, to collaborate with each other and their facilitators, to use mobile devices to get learning when and where they are at and to participate in an open educational environment. In other words what I have coined as ECMO - Engagement, Collaboration, Mobility, and Openness.

What Will Richardson and Chris Lott are saying makes so much sense - it is more than just personal learning - it has to be personal living, that education is a life-long process that they have to manage along with the rest of their life.

I love what Chris Lott says:

"“Going to school” is an activity that has a life and dies; learning is a continuing process. Enrollments and degree programs terminate; personal living networks accompany learners through life– the ultimate educational institution– serving as companion, confidante, and oracle alike."

This is what we as educators have to instill in our learners - if we do nothing else, we must do this...

(Photo - "Collaborative Technology Labs"- by MSU Libraries)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I Just Like The Picture...

No particular reason to post this, I just like the picture - lots of noise if you look closely, but the tree at dawn just looks mysterious and brooding somehow. I took this last Thursday out the front of my building on my way to work: