PLN

The Evolution of ELT: Sharing Our Experiences in the Field

Today concludes the 25th Anniversary of the BA in ELT at the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes. I am sharing the two presentations from the conference that focus on personal learning networks and professional learning and the importance of performance tasks.

Seldom do Teachers Become Lifelong Learners by Accident - September 10, 2018


When it comes to ELT, what makes a worthwhile performance? September 11, 2018



Disposition, Orientation, Cognition, and Socialness (DOCS): An Education Manifesto

Attribution

Purpose

The purpose of creating an educational manifesto is to attempt to collect and organize a set of ideas I hold true related to teaching and learning.  The rationale for sharing such an endeavor is to encourage others to think about the same and offer feedback that will continue to shape my opinions on my own educational philosophy and current teaching practice.

A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made.

Here, a manifesto is a written declaration of my intentions, motives, and views about teaching and learning, a personal education manifesto shared with the masses if you will.  I first thought about writing my own manifesto after having read, The 27 Principles to Teaching Yourself Anything (Scribd Scoopit, Blog - in the works at the time of this writing).  But what motivates me, even more, are my learners.  My intention is to present this manifesto the first day of class next semester (August 13, 2018) in hopes that it presents a personal philosophy and expectations that ultimately can compare with learners' expectations they have for the class. Secondly, having an education philosophy will serve as a basis for an upcoming talk I have in September regarding strategies successful learners employ to get the most out of their studies and throughout their professional careers as English language educators.  Although this manifesto addresses education in general, the intended audience are those interested in the teaching and learning of an additional language.

I use the acronym DOCS to categorize ideas around an education manifesto that I feel currently represents how teaching and learning emerge in both formal and informal education.  DOCS begins as a variation of The 27 Principles... because the bulk of any educative experience primarily has to do with what the individual learner does while the educator's job is to facilitate the process. I conclude by offering a slightly more nuanced viewpoint by expanding on disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness.

DOCS as a Variant of the 27 Principles...

Disposition

Having a good disposition is the most important tenet of DOCS since it relates to one's overall attitude.  Attitude relates to character and the will one has to keep an open mind, learn, and take action. To this end, having appreciation for what one has means not taking anything for granted. I would group the following three of the 27 principles as follows: 1) everything is a lesson, 2) nothing is certain, and 3) it never ends.

Orientation 

Orientation relates to metacognition, or learning how to learn.  Orientation relates to how a learner recognizes where they have been, where they are currently, and where they want to be in the future as it pertains to their own learning journey.  I group the following five of the 27 principles as follows: 1) learn who you are, 2) learn what you love, 3) learn what you hate, 4) don't assume anything, 5) what if everyone had it backwards.

Cognition

Cognition refers to how one makes relationships between theory (what others say about the topic) and practice (what you have to say about the topic).  Relying solely on what others say or ignoring what others say superficially frames cognition as shallow thinking or the opposite of critical thinking.  Thus, to think critically in a way that recognizes theory and practice as being at opposite ends of a single continuum is to distinguish between the abstract and concrete; analysis and synthesis; compare and contrast; logical and illogical arguments; persuasion and compliance, dissuasion, etc.; and the ability to resolve and ignore cognitive conflict. I reluctantly group only one of the 27 principles in this category since it places more emphasis on practical application: theory is optional, practical application is mandatory. Theory does not exist without practice and practice does not exist without theory.

Socialness

Socialness relates to how one recognizes the impact human relationships have on a personal learning network (PLN).  From a professional standpoint, the ability to recognize the value in connecting with others will depend on the type of engagement: 1) uni vs. bidirectional communication, 2) frequency, and 3) quality. Understanding social networking terms like prestige, centrality, and influence will also provide ways to evaluating the quality of the connections one has.  Based on this personal awareness, one can then make better decisions in paving a way to better educative experiences.  I loosely place the following 17 out of 27 principles in this category:
  1. showing up is just the beginning, 
  2. put yourself in situations where learning is required to survive and thrive,
  3. teach others,
  4. build things,
  5. break things,
  6. make money, 
  7. record everything,
  8. analyze every investment,
  9. efficient is not the same as effective,
  10. explore,
  11. try every medium,
  12. get in arguments,
  13. seek out different ways of doing things,
  14. be careful who you learn from,
  15. connections are EVERYTHING,
  16. find people who think you are crazy,
  17. most education happens outside of the classroom.
To understand any one of the four tenets of this education manifesto - disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness - requires a level of understanding of the other three as they all are causes and effects of each other.  Context will determine which of the four tenets provide the best "entry point" into a necessary nuanced discussion and reflective action pertaining to how these four collectively relate to the educative experience.  A teacher's role is to use this understanding of the four tenets to facilitate effective, efficient, and engaging educative experiences for each learner.

I have purposefully left this post short, realizing that further explanation of disposition, orientation, cognition, and socialness is necessary; for now, just wanted to present these ideas in hopes that others might offer feedback.

Does this education manifesto resonate with you?  What's missing?

Personalized vs. Individualized Learning

After having read Why Are We Still Personalizing Learning If It's Not Personal?, I felt compelled to offer a slightly different perspective of the term "personalized" and "individualized" learning. Today's views complement prior posts that I have made on the subject.

I agree with the underlying premise that, "personalized learning in practice often falls short..." when it comes to "personalization" of formal education (para. 2); however, I don't think that it's because there is a difference between the terms personalize and individualize.

Let's compare personalize with individualize (my personal favorite definitions)...

  • personalize: 1) to ascribe personal qualities to; personify; 2) to make personal, as by applying a general statement to oneself; 3) to design or tailor to meet an individual's specifications, needs, or preferences
  • individualize: to make individual or distinctive; give an individual or distinctive character to; 2) to mention, indicate, or consider individually; specify; particularize
Although I can appreciate the effort it takes to attempt to distinguish between the two terms, the complexity of what teaching and learning entail makes the practicalities of using these terms differently a bit futile.  So, for the purposes of this discussion, I will use the terms personalize and individualize interchangeably since I have yet to be convinced that there is a reason for separating these two semantically.  
As individualization increases, so does the potential for isolation (para. 4).
If individualize means to make individual or distinctive, I don't necessarily see this as only a social phenomenon.  Individualization (and personalization) is just as much cognitive (internal) as it is social.  Today's technology can use algorithms to approximate ways of facilitating teaching and learning (which I have no qualms about) but what really matters is how educators assist learners in how to become better... well, learners.  Educators can help learners become more aware of how to better personalize their own learning experiences for particular purposes - educators can differentiate instruction but they cannot personalize learning. 

Learning is inherently personalized, there is no escaping it.  Take a group of 40 students who sit in the same class for 50 minutes and each will leave having had a personal experience.  In order to leave with a personal experience, each student personalized automatically (for better or worse) thoughts, behaviors, materials and technologies, etc. in order to realize the experience.  This act of individually personalizing his/her learning could have occurred implicitly or explicitly, but the awareness of how one personalizes learning is where the benefit of understanding a personal learning network (an aggregate of ideas, materials/technologies, and personal relationships) comes into play. 
... if we over-individualize, learning can quickly become impersonal..." (para. 7).
Nothing about teaching and learning is "impersonal".  This is like accusing someone of "having no personality".  Everyone has a personality because... well, everyone is a person.  Since everyone is a person, the act of learning can only be personal.  Therefore, learning is a result of one having personalized certain behaviors, thoughts, and materials for a particular purpose.
 "...I think [we use a web-based, adaptive tool for math instruction] because then our parents don't have to help us with our homework" (para. 12).
In this case, the student is being forced to use a technology without understanding why, how, and to what end.  This is the opposite of personalization.  Any time a discussion or decision is made about using technology without considering other factors like rationales, objectives, higher order of thinking, human relationships, etc., then personalization becomes an afterthought.  The problem here might not have anything to do with the technology but how, why, and/or to what end the technology is being used.

It is impossible to "put the person back in personalized learning" (para. 21) because it's impossible to remove the person from personalized learning in the first place.  As educators, let's learn better ways to empower learners to understand their respective personal learning networks and why, how, and to what end a personal learning network emerges and dwindles (as it never stays the same) over time. If we can achieve this, then learners are personalizing or individualizing their own learning in a more relevant and meaningful way.

Photo attribution
 

Teaching Learning Cast (TLC) #3: Personal Learning Networks and PeerLearning Communities

TLC Socials

First segment: Personal Learning Networks

  • Cultivating and Growing Your Personal Learning Network
    • “Do you have a PLN?”
    • “Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant”
    • “A PLN can help you find a curate the best ideas and resources, and build a network of supportive peers in a time of constant change.”
    • “To maintain relevancy in the classroom, we need to maintain relevance ourselves”
    • 15% (now more like 25%) of teachers are connected (The Connected Educator) - These percentages should not be the focus, however.
    • How can we help more educators cultivate and grow a PLN?
    • Districts need to see a PLN as a viable means for professional development.
    • We need to provide credit for educators to make the extra effort to build a PLN.
    • Teachers need more time.
  • Personal Learning Network at Google Trends
  • Connectivism at Google Trends

Second segment: The teacher outside the classroom

  • Is there a moment to take the “teacher suit” off?
    What kind of impact do teachers cause outside the classroom?

    Chapter two of this book mentions a project in which teacher extended beyond the classroom to transform education in their community. It is a proper example of how important can be teacher’s roles outside the classroom. Reflection raises on the impact that teacher can cause outside the classroom, whether intentional or not.
    Guilles, R., Ashman, A.,Terwel, J. (2008). The Teacher’s Role in Implementing Cooperative Learning in the Classroom. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


    Beyond the classroom and into the community

    GI model

    Four new features of GI: investigation, interaction, interpretation, and intrinsic motivation

    Six stages of GI model

    1. Class determines sub-tooi a and organized into resource groups
    2. ‎groups plan their investigation
    3. ‎Groups carry out their investigation
    4. ‎groups plan their presentation/feedback
    5. ‎Groups make their presentation
    6. ‎teacher and students evaluate their project.

    Six mirrors of the classroom

    1. Mirror one: the physical organization of the learning and teaching space.
    2. ‎Mirror two: Learning tasks - Using peers and computers as thinking and investigation resources
    3. ‎Mirror three: teacher's instruction
    4. ‎Mirror four: Teacher's communication
    5. ‎Mirror five: Pupil's academic behavior
    6. ‎Mirror six: Pupil's social behavior

    Teachers' role in school-family partnership


    Literacy-related activities (first graders): meetings and workshops with both cultures (Arab and Jewish participants)
    Family storytelling as cooperative writing each month,

Shared Teaching Experience

  • (Benjamin): Academic Writing: Self-Assessment PROPE

    • Assessing Academic Writing (Student) Survey
  • (Piry): Making class decisions for the right reasons.

  • Raising awareness on the idea of why we decide to do something in the classroom: material selection, context, discipline, topic, vocabulary, projects, technology, etc.

What is a Personal Learning Network?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVmBNNHcxPc]

A personal learning network (or PLN) consists of ideas, materials, and social relationships.  Each of these three elements cannot be described in the absence of the other two.  For example, I cannot talk about Twitter being part of my PLN without understanding the relationship Twitter has with the ideas I share and to whom I share those ideas.

How many times have you heard educators of 1:1 schools ask, "Now that I have an iPad, what do I do with it?" Any one of the three elements of a PLN cannot be taken out of context when determining its meaning.  Materials, such as technologies, can be  expressed in terms of environments, places, and spaces, as well as any related objects that make up those environments, places, and spaces.  New technologies are constantly being introduced to the public, but they become no more or less important than the ideas and social relationships that make up the holistic set of associations.  Thus, there is an iterative and reciprocal dynamic between ideas, materials, and individuals that continually impact each other to the degree they remain connected.  Being connected emerges when a change or the existence of one (ideational, material, or human) node causes a synchronous or asynchronous change in another.  To understand any one of the three elements of a PLN (an idea, technologies, or human relationship) is to understand this three-way association from both a diachronic and synchronic standpoint. 

A PLN is not constructed, built, nor created. Nor does it grow, develop, nor flourish.  It does not start from nothing to become something.  It is and will always be present. 

What has changed over the years is the way individuals communicate, and how they communicate can best be described as having an understanding of the complexity of a PLN.  This understanding emerges by asking two separate but related questions: 1) How has my PLN changed over time? And 2) What does my PLN currently look like?

A PLN is inherently personal to the degree the individual has autonomy in making decisions about how ideas, materials, and human relationships come together.  Any barriers that hinder ideas, materials, and human relationships will ultimately impede one's PLN.

The ideational, material, and social relationships that connectively form a PLN are both causes and effects.  Each is a result of something happening before it and each is a potential cause for something happening after it.  Similarly, a PLN as a connective whole acts as both a cause and an effect.

A PLN is both intentional and incidental.  An individual will purposefully use a PLN for some sought after goal, but will also recognize the frequency of ideas, materials, and social interactions that cannot be anticipated.  An awareness of one's situated PLN leverages the potentiality of intentional and incidental learning, and offers insights into how they each relate to one another. 

Earlier, I mentioned that a PLN is not constructed, built, nor created. Nor does it grow, develop, nor flourish.  But what a PLN does do is adopt and adapt to a degree on its own and to a degree based on autonomous decision-making that occurs from the individual.  The individual sets out to  _adopt_ and _adapt_ a PLN in order to become more _adept_.

You Can (And Do) Have A PLN Of One

I just read You Can't Have a PLN of One, an oxymoron, which concludes that a PLN is "a journey that shouldn’t be taken alone".  Well, it is impossible to cultivate a PLN alone: my thoughts on a PLN.

Some view a PLN as more ideational...

http://youtu.be/KVsapdwo50M

Others discuss a PLN in terms of tools and individuals...

http://youtu.be/q6WVEFE-oZA

So, a PLN is a relationship between ideas, materials (technologies), and human relationships.  To understand any one idea, material, or individual (relationship) is to understand the other two and how trace associations aggregate to each individual node.  A node is any idea, material, or individual who connects to some other network node.  There's one network, but many nodes: ideas, materials, and individual relationships. So, perhaps you can have a PLN of one ... as in one personal learning network.

You Can (And Do) Have A PLN Of One

I just read You Can't Have a PLN of One, an oxymoron, which concludes that a PLN is "a journey that shouldn’t be taken alone".  Well, it is impossible to cultivate a PLN alone: my thoughts on a PLN.

Some view a PLN as more ideational...

http://youtu.be/KVsapdwo50M

Others discuss a PLN in terms of tools and individuals...

http://youtu.be/q6WVEFE-oZA

So, a PLN is a relationship between ideas, materials (technologies), and human relationships.  To understand any one idea, material, or individual (relationship) is to understand the other two and how trace associations aggregate to each individual node.  A node is any idea, material, or individual who connects to some other network node.  There's one network, but many nodes: ideas, materials, and individual relationships. So, perhaps you can have a PLN of one ... as in one personal learning network.

A PLN...We All Already Have One

I've spoken about PLNs before (Five points about PLNs, A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner, Is it a PLN..., and PLNs aren’t built, but cultivated)  but again feel compelled to add to my current "definition"...

Whitby's (2013) How do I get a PLN? characterizes the notion of a personal learning network (PLN) as if the individual constructs one out of nothing.  I don't see it this way.

I do agree with Whitby, sort of, when he states (buzzwords emphasized):
We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information (see the linked resources at the end of this post) and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.

Few would argue with buzzwords like lifelong learning, student commitment, openness to learn, expanding one's knowledge, and PLN, but what do these terms really mean?  I'll try to unpack what I mean by PLN by accepting the fact that how one defines the term will depend greatly on how one defines the aforementioned buzzwords (i.e., lifelong learning, etc.).
Each individual educator becomes a potential source of information.

In a PLN, ideas, materials (e.g., technologies), and social interactions collectively become a potential source of opportunity.  A PLN is not just about the individual and some potentiality of information.
PLNs develop thought leaders.

No, individuals (including leaders) impact PLNs (their own as well as others), the PLNs impact the individual(s), and the PLN itself can take on a life of its own.
Barriers to mass adoption

...mass adoption...buzzword alert.  Their are no barriers to a PLN because there is no starting point when it comes to a concept that already exists for each person.  As a result, PLNs have already reached "mass adoption".  If there are any barriers, its how a PLN currently hinders achieving one's goals, objectives, etc...; this is different than thinking of technology separate from specific ideas and human relationships, as Whitby suggests when listing a PLN as a mindset, overwhelming others with techno-babble (?), and digital literacy.
...all these articles and ballyhoo about connectedness have manifested limited adoption by educators.

Again, connectiveness is inescapable.  "Connective adoption" does little to describe the potentiality of an individual´s PLN unless described as a matter of degree, relationships between human and non-human devices, and value in achieving goals.
PLNs are collaboration.

I would say, "PLNs are cooperation."
What Can PLNs Do for You?

I get the impression that this means that once one has something (a PLN defined as being nonrelational), that it will enable one to do something else (access materials, etc.).  Having a Twitter account in and of itself does very little.  Having a Twitter account, following others, having followers, and interacting with ideas around some mutual relationship may (or may not) provide a degree of potential for impacting one's professional/personal learning.
How to Build a PLN

Let's shift metaphors ... Individuals cultivate, grow, maintain, trim, and augment a PLN based on situational goals and objectives, both intentional and incidental.  There are no x amount of steps that each person can follow for achieving a PLN based on situational goals.  There is no magic number of technologies that one should use, no set number of minutes they should adhere to, etc.
You determine your needs and goals, and then acquire the sources that you need in order to attain them.

Again, a very deterministic point of view here.  It's not difficult to image that goals and objectives might emerge as an effect of one's PLN.  In others words, situational goals and PLNs are iterative, reciprocal, and mutual as both continue to morph and transition to something new.

Let's share how PLNs help (or do not help) to achieve situational goals and objectives, both intentionally and incidentally (i.e., self-define a PLN) instead of depending on others (including me) to define the term as some abstract (and simplified) truth.

A PLN...We All Already Have One

I've spoken about PLNs before (Five points about PLNs, A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner, Is it a PLN..., and PLNs aren’t built, but cultivated)  but again feel compelled to add to my current "definition"...

Whitby's (2013) How do I get a PLN? characterizes the notion of a personal learning network (PLN) as if the individual constructs one out of nothing.  I don't see it this way.

I do agree with Whitby, sort of, when he states (buzzwords emphasized):
We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information (see the linked resources at the end of this post) and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.

Few would argue with buzzwords like lifelong learning, student commitment, openness to learn, expanding one's knowledge, and PLN, but what do these terms really mean?  I'll try to unpack what I mean by PLN by accepting the fact that how one defines the term will depend greatly on how one defines the aforementioned buzzwords (i.e., lifelong learning, etc.).
Each individual educator becomes a potential source of information.

In a PLN, ideas, materials (e.g., technologies), and social interactions collectively become a potential source of opportunity.  A PLN is not just about the individual and some potentiality of information.
PLNs develop thought leaders.

No, individuals (including leaders) impact PLNs (their own as well as others), the PLNs impact the individual(s), and the PLN itself can take on a life of its own.
Barriers to mass adoption

...mass adoption...buzzword alert.  Their are no barriers to a PLN because there is no starting point when it comes to a concept that already exists for each person.  As a result, PLNs have already reached "mass adoption".  If there are any barriers, its how a PLN currently hinders achieving one's goals, objectives, etc...; this is different than thinking of technology separate from specific ideas and human relationships, as Whitby suggests when listing a PLN as a mindset, overwhelming others with techno-babble (?), and digital literacy.
...all these articles and ballyhoo about connectedness have manifested limited adoption by educators.

Again, connectiveness is inescapable.  "Connective adoption" does little to describe the potentiality of an individual´s PLN unless described as a matter of degree, relationships between human and non-human devices, and value in achieving goals.
PLNs are collaboration.

I would say, "PLNs are cooperation."
What Can PLNs Do for You?

I get the impression that this means that once one has something (a PLN defined as being nonrelational), that it will enable one to do something else (access materials, etc.).  Having a Twitter account in and of itself does very little.  Having a Twitter account, following others, having followers, and interacting with ideas around some mutual relationship may (or may not) provide a degree of potential for impacting one's professional/personal learning.
How to Build a PLN

Let's shift metaphors ... Individuals cultivate, grow, maintain, trim, and augment a PLN based on situational goals and objectives, both intentional and incidental.  There are no x amount of steps that each person can follow for achieving a PLN based on situational goals.  There is no magic number of technologies that one should use, no set number of minutes they should adhere to, etc.
You determine your needs and goals, and then acquire the sources that you need in order to attain them.

Again, a very deterministic point of view here.  It's not difficult to image that goals and objectives might emerge as an effect of one's PLN.  In others words, situational goals and PLNs are iterative, reciprocal, and mutual as both continue to morph and transition to something new.

Let's share how PLNs help (or do not help) to achieve situational goals and objectives, both intentionally and incidentally (i.e., self-define a PLN) instead of depending on others (including me) to define the term as some abstract (and simplified) truth.

EFL Educators Share or Perish

Today I'll be putting together some thoughts for a talk I'm giving next week, EFL Educators Share or Perish. To view document below in full screen. Link to PowerPoint.

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What does sharing mean to you?  Feel free to leave comments in Google Drive or below.

Cultivating Personal Learning Networks through Participatory Action Research in ELT

Tomorrow, I'm presenting a talk on PLNs and action research at UPTC 2011 and wanted to include a link here for those who were interested. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below!
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