Trust The Children

Friday, January 02, 2009

Personal Learning in 2009

When I was a little boy, and the space program was in full bloom, I used to stay up all night waiting for the launch of a rocket into space. An image that always intrigued me was an astronaut surrounded by switches and gauges and knobs. He had all this control and information at his fingertips. It was all very fascinating to me then. this picture of a Boeing Cockpit will have to do, but you get the picture.

I partially fulfilled the dream of experiencing this myself when I became a pilot. While I think that world of a private pilot is still way to complicated with too many knobs and instruments, learning to combine all the information from all the instruments into my mind to help me travel safely from one place to another was fulfilling and satisfying. I guess that is why I miss it so much right now.

In a similar way, there is an idea for personal learning that I have been introduced to this last few months that has some of the same thrill and feeling of control I felt flying.

The idea is having your own personal learning environment and the giving it a bit of time each day.

Here is a link to a movie about 10 things you can do in 10 minutes that can help you in your personal learning quests. []

Here are some links to maps others have made that describe their own virtual personal learning environment. Before you go there, please please understand that mine isn't as complete or complicated as theirs, nor will it ever be. So think of the idea more than needing to "be like mike".

I think what inspired me here, is taking the step as an adult, to promoting personal learning and growing, without needing a school, or a formal teacher or tests or evaluation or grades. I can start simple, with a blog, and facebook, and a few RSS feeds. And that can teach me a lot.

I do understand that there are many people who have given up on learning. It was like school was finally out for the last time and any form of formal learning went out the window too.

It was never that way for me. I just enjoy learning, mostly from others who are older, more experienced and smarter than I am. I was reminded recently, and painfully that for many, their circle of learning is unfortunately small and limited to like minded people and ideas. These are rarely stretched in their thinking and imagination and are comfortably "excluding" in their vision of "harmony" and group dynamics. Such people are very uncomfortable with different points of view, discussion, and the idea that others, older and wiser, could contribute to their lives in meaningful ways. Afraid I think. Did they get that fear from public schooling? I don't know, but that attitude is "I am pretty self sufficient thank you". So sad. All of us are more complete with the ideas of others.

I am in a happier place now, with others who are stretching and growing, and willing to risk sharing their ideas knowing that sometimes we are right, and sometimes we are wrong. Either way, we continue to learn in rich and deep ways. Is there exclusion here too? Sure. I think that is part of the "natural man" to hurt others through exclusion. Images of PS playgrounds, choosing teams, the new kid a school, cliques pointing and laughing come to mind. It does carry forward into adulthood. The good news is that there is less of it here, slightly. That "slightly" makes all the difference.

This idea of having a Personal Learning Environment is more available now than ever before. Instead of surrounding our selves with switches and knobs and instruments, we surround ourselves with blogs and wikis and relationships on Facebook and Ning where we can expose our ideas to others and receive their comments. Read the ideas of others and "comment" to them wanting to know more. All in all, a very inexpensive learning classroom which we make for ourselves.

Recently, I reached out for ideas from one of the social networks I belong to and had two very meaningful responses. Two people, much smarter and wiser, led me closer to finding the information I was seeking.

For me, having a PLE is important, because, of two quotes that continue to impact my life. I have blogged about them before. James Ferrell, author of "The Peacegiver" said, "Children learn more watching other people learn, than from watching other people teach." The other is from the Harvard Business School, "HOW we teach is WHAT we teach." The common thread for me is the impact of a "teacher" who demonstrates more excitement for personal learning to students, than for expounding and explaining. Having a personal learning environment, often brings to my consciousness, new ideas and perspectives about which I get very excited and animated. This personal excitement and animation is infectious. Also, my students get to see me learning about "teaching" as I try different approaches. When they observe this enthusiasm for not only the topic but the delivery of the topic, they are impacted.

So let's talk more about creating PLE's in 2009. I am preparing a presentation about PLE's and Using Technology to drive learning deeper mostly for my family, but I hope it eventually becomes good enough to post here as well.

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