[video] Personal Learning Environment of TU Graz – e-Learning Blog

Great example of a PLE.

Personal Learning Environment of TU Graz – e-Learning Blog.

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What’s your strategy for finishing the semester?

It’s Spring Break, what better time to ramp up a strategy for completing the semester?

I love academic life and culture. It’s a culture full of seasons and milestone moments. Start of semester, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas break, and Graduation all mark key moments during the academic year. One week that often goes underutilized by is Spring Break.

Why?

At Spring Break, there is still hope for recovering from missteps during the first months of the semester and it’s the prime resting point to gather up strength and mount a strategy for finishing the semester well. Here are some tips for maximizing the rest of the academic year:

Make a plan. Print out a calendar from the many online calendars available, get out your class syllabi, and map out your plan for the last few weeks. If you have multiple deadlines and final projects looming, be sure to block out adequate time to research, write, review, and complete those assignments. Be realistic about your time and your expectations. Write down key deadlines and make sure that nothing catches you by surprise.

Build in time to recharge. You need time to rest, even if you are sprinting to the finish and have to play catch-up from letting things go during the first few months of the semester. Make sure you don’t mistake recreation for rest–recharging means you are refreshing your energy stores, not expending them.

Talk to your professors. Are you in trouble in a class? Talk to your professors about your plan, take their advice, and then follow through and execute your plan. If you have lost your chance to make up work that you didn’t complete earlier in the semester, do all you can to achieve the best mark you can. Demonstrate to your professor that you are following through with your plan and have not wasted their time.

Be grateful and get things in perspective. Remember that most people on the planet would cut off a hand to have the educational opportunity you have. Make the most of the opportunity you have before you.

Your learning is your responsibility. You’re a grown-up now–your education is no longer anyone else’s responsibility–it’s your’s. Take responsibility and do whatever it takes to learn. Think of your classes, even the ones that you hate, as a period in time in which you are able to dedicate a set amount of time to research a subject.

Maximize your learning in the courses you hate. Do you disagree with the very concept of the course that you are forced to take to complete your general ed or major requirements? Then take that course as an opportunity to develop an alternative methodology or viewpoint. Research and articulate alternative theories on the subject including alternatives to your own predispositions–you may be wrong or have a shallow, one-sided perspective. Education is an opportunity for you to expand your perspective.

Talk to other students in your classes. Ask others about their a-ha moments in the class. Dig deeper and discuss what you agree and disagree about in your class.

Finally, have the courage to care. Caring is difficult in our culture. Choosing not to care (yes, you are making a choice) is the cowardly move. It takes courage to care about yourself and your learning. Care about the work that you’re doing during these last few weeks of the semester. If you do, you will have something to show for at the end of the semester, no matter what your grades are.

The 3 “R’s”: Rigor, Relevancy, Relationships

Diane Demée-Benoit from the George Lucas Foundation mentioned the 3 R’s today in her talk about Technology-Infused Project-Based Learning at the annual OTEN conference in Portland today.

She mentioned the importance of raising the bar in education. Instead of saying, “do a ‘PowerPoint’ on rain forests”, teachers need to ask questions and curriculum needs to be based on inquiry research, centered around critical questions, and deeper levels of thinking.

Problem-based or project-based learning provides opportunities for students to engage actively and self direct their learning. It provides connections with outside experts and resources. It is a cooperative learning environment where students are active in creating the learning activities around a project.

King Middle School, Maine

Diane showed a video about how Maine’s King Middle School used the laptops from their program to transform their curriculum. Instead of buying textbooks for students, they bought laptops for every 7th grade student in the state. The students at King Middle School developed multimedia reports, CDs, videos, and newsletters regarding field experience, and expedition learning projects they engaged in.

Every student had access to high quality learning and produced excellent products. Students were working together on collaborative projects and the curriculum was integrative of multiple subject areas. Art students produced scientifically accurate water color illustrations for the project, the orchestra produced the soundtrack for the project, and the media/film department developed a documentary about how the project was created. Summing up the experience at King Middle School, one of the students said, “No one around here feels like they are stupid any more.”

Nuuana Elementary, Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Let every kid, not just the “good kids” use the technology, otherwise everyone won’t have an opportunity to learn.
  • Students created autobiographies and histories of their families using multimedia tools. They were able to find ways to communicate about their family history using audio, pictures, and video, as well as writing.
  • The students at Nuuana engaged in a project where they collected data about a local stream’s health. They worked together with the city’s department that keeps track of water quality and captured and produced a video of the work that they did together. One of the city’s scientists commented that the kids who are participating in projects like this realize that “[These are] not just lessons, this is real life.”
  • It’s ok if there are technical issues in the midst of a project–let the kids work out and solve the problems themselves.

Union City, New Jersey

Turn around story. In 1989 they had the worst test scores. Today, they have the highest test scores in the state. They focused on the following principles:

  • Early literacy
  • Project based learning
  • Infusion of technology in every aspect of learning
  • All education should focus on the child

Made changes in how they spent money: they spent less on textbooks and spent more on computers and changed their curriculum to more project-based learning exercises. As the elementary students made their way into middle and high school, they became a force of change in the high school. Teachers who used traditional teaching methods were challenged by students who had spent their elementary and middle school years engaged in project based learning using the internet for research. Instead of relying on encyclopedias in the library, these students would engage in active research on the internet.

Thoughts on reflection

One of the most important tools you have as you pursue your education is the practice of reflection.

Your education is a “process by which [you] learn to become aware of and to evaluate [your] experience. [Furthermore, your] experience counts for as much as the teacher’s knowledge.” (Knowles 38-39) This marriage of the teacher’s knowledge and your experience provides a context in which you can reflect upon your experience and learn from that reflection. The connections you make between course content and your experience provide the foundation for new learning. As you build a web of connections, your understanding will grow and thus your ability to apply that understanding in your professional and personal life.

Reflection is not a complicated or academic process. It is what you do when you are reading an article or a book and you remember a little bit of history in which you did or experienced something similar to what is being written about. As you continue reading, you start looking at that past experience from a different perspective (that of the authors).

Thus, your education and growth are not “a process of ‘being shaped’ [by the teacher’s knowledge], but a process of becoming.” (Knowles 50)

Knowles, M. S., E. Holton, et al. (1998). The adult learner: the definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Houston, Tex., Gulf Pub. Co.