Personal Learning Networks/Environments via the work of Wendy Drexler

May 26, 2010

I’ve been following Wendy Drexler for a while, but just took the time this morning to pull together a few of her resources that are relevant to the concept of the PLN/PLE that’s been put forth for ISWO learners I’ve been “connecting” with.  These ideas are valuable throughout education.

The first video is from a couple of years ago, and presents a vision of the connected learner. One comment on the YouTube site was that it would be useful to dig deeper and explore the gaps in this idea.

This has happened.

The next video is about a year later when a Grade 7 student has “lived it”. You’ll notice there are some gaps – the student hasn’t received the expert feedback yet, etc. This link will take you to it:

Finally, Drexler’s scholarly article on the topic:

Here’s a quote focusing on the role of the teacher in this:

“A student’s success depended upon his or her motivation but also greatly on the strategic guidance of the teacher. The teacher’s ability to gauge students’ understanding and progress were key to achieving a balance between student autonomy and teacher intervention.”

Neophyte Bloggers

May 19, 2010

I’ve had the opportunity to observe and mentor a cohort of learners who’ve been assigned a reflective task using blogging as the medium and it’s been interesting to observe how the participants are unpacking their experiences. This group has also used threaded discussions and wikis in their course, and for some, it’s really all pretty new. As could be expected, there is both confusion and “aha” moments.

They are living the theory. It’s one thing to read about how a wiki generates a type of collaboration that is different from a blog or a forum, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. It’s a lot to take in and we don’t know the final verdict yet: Will these adult educators be inspired to continue using social media and form a broad Personal Learning Network, or will they feel overwhelmed and abandon this as soon as the course ends?

The range of social media tools has come into existence because each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and it’s really interesting to watch how these play out. And it’s hard to structure a gradual entry into this world because everything is so interconnected. We deliberately didn’t add Twitter, and yet I feel that without it, there’s something very important missing — Twitter would have allowed an easy broadcasting of new blog posts and perhaps prevented folks from having to “go look”. RSS is used in what’s sort of a “central-organizer” blog which hopefully everyone goes to. We’re about halfway through, so…. more to come.

“Emerging Technologies in Distance Education” and blog commenting

May 17, 2010

It is getting close to the publication date for “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education” (edited by George Veletsianos and including a chapter I’ve written with my colleague BJ Eib) so I went to George’s blog to see if he had any updates regarding whether June was still the target date. What I found was a really interesting conversation that shows that even blog posts that are seven or eight months old can spring to life with new comments.

In this case, it is some back and forth related to an early posting of the draft conclusions from the book — generally on the topic of balance…. while we celebrate the emerging technologies in Distance Ed, “we should also remain cognizant of the fact that resistance and failures are possible, and, if documented in the literature, helpful.”

I’m really looking forward to seeing the kinds of conversations that emerge once the complete book is available. My understanding is that it will, like others in the Terry Anderson series, be freely available for download and also available for purchase in print. With this kind of accessibility, I expect that the book will be discussed by a few of the folks in my Personal Learning Network (I follow a lot of wonderful educators on Twitter, for example) and it could be an opportunity for lots of new ideas to bubble forth. is the Athabasca University link to the information currently available about this book.

Promoting creativity in schools

May 11, 2010

Today’s #edchat (via Twitter) is on the topic: What are we, as educators, doing to promote creativity in our schools?

So, because I am such a fan of Sir Ken Robinson, I wanted to be sure that I had something to contribute to #edchat that related to him. I’ll be tweeting the link to this posting, which in turn has the following link to information about a Video of Sir Ken talking about his book “The Element” that may not be as well known as his TED talk but is certainly worth watching for anyone who’s interested in fostering creativity in education (at any level).

And, bonus, my search for new links related to Sir Ken led me to a blogger that I find to be kind of a kindred spirit. She’s Director of Board Governance at the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and she’s posted ideas like:

“Adaptive challenges require that people with the problem are part of the solution…” and “Today’s leaders do not solve problems for people.  Instead, they provide opportunities for people to confront challenges and learn new methods”

Here’s her blog link:

Learning and Web 2.0 – supportive research from Europe

May 4, 2010

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently working with a group of (mainly) post-secondary educators in an “Instructional Skills Workshop – Online” course as a sort of Web 2.0 cheerleader. The group is showing lots of interest in social media, but also some skepticism.

So this publication, very research-based and very supportive of  Web 2.0 as a factor in both creativity and lifelong learning is just what I was looking for as a solid rationale for use of the new tools. And of course I found this through my own social media sources (my PLN), in this case, via Twitter (thanks @carlosjmedina).

One important finding in the report is the way in which informal learning through social media is outpacing the use of such media in formal situations. My thoughts on this are that even the most radical ideas (like Seth Godin’s meltdown posting) need to be considered because there is a real risk that students and employers will find traditional institutions (and credentialing processes) to be less and less relevant if those institutions don’t embrace the tools that are becoming ubiquitous outside of their walls.

So here’s the title, author and link information:

Learning 2.0 – The Impact of Social Media on Learning in Europe. Policy Brief

Authors: Christine Redecker, Kirsti Ala-Mutka and Yves Punie

Publication date: 3/2010

Here’s a quote from the abstract.

Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS research suggests that social media can contribute to enhancing and innovating learning and teaching opportunities by supporting learning and professional development in a lifelong learning continuum; by contributing to equity and inclusion; and by improving the quality and availability of their learning material. Social media furthermore encourage more active and pro-active approaches to learning; open up new sources for information; and support collaboration between learners and teachers.
The findings indicate that learning strategies that make use of social media can contribute to innovation in Education and Training in Europe by facilitating technological, pedagogical and organisational innovation. These learning strategies can also help address the four strategic challenges of European Education and Training policies in the years leading up to 2020, thus contributing to the modernisation of Education and Training in Europe

And here are some very relevant bullet points from p.8 of the document itself:

IPTS research findings (Redecker et al., 2009) indicate that Learning 2.0 gives rise to
technological innovation in Education and Training by:
• increasing the accessibility and availability of learning content;
• providing new formats for knowledge dissemination, acquisition and management;
• allowing for the production of dynamic learning resources and environments of high
quality and interoperability;
• embedding learning in more engaging and activating multimedia environments;
• supporting individualised learning processes by allowing learner preferences to be
accounted for; and
• equipping learners and teachers with versatile tools for knowledge exchange and
collaboration, which overcome the limitations of face-to-face instruction.
Learning approaches using social media furthermore promote pedagogical innovation by encouraging teaching and learning processes that are based on personalisation and

And I guess I’d like to know whether this is inspiring or overwhelming.

Ruth Reynard article: Facilitation to Constructive Partnerships

May 3, 2010

For the next month or so, I’m taking the role of ‘blog steward’ to a group of learners at Royal Roads University (RRU) in a course called ISWO (Instructional Skills Workshop Online) so my postings here for the next while may tend to relate to issues that come up in that environment.

RRU is relatively young and has always had a learning model emphasizing team-based online learning. So it’s no surprise that enhancing the skills for developing a supportive and connected online learning community is an important learning outcome for ISWO.

I’m very aware of how the online community has blossomed over the past few years with web 2.0 and I thought I’d share a recent article that explores this.

Ruth Reynard’s view at

includes the following statement.

“The challenge this time is that facilitation is not enough–the challenge for the future of instruction is that we stand side-by-side with our students and all contribute equally and actively to a learning community. The learning community is also redefined as not confined to one class but open to anyone who connects.”

So — Open it is! And here I am, partnering with the designated instructors and learners in ISWO and inviting them (and others) to ponder over the ways that such partnerships might enhance learning.