Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Personal Learning Networks in my class: an assessment

Will Richardson has written a post on the importance of PLN's in the classroom. This really got my interest as I have a classroom blog and at times, I am very proud of what the kids have accomplished with it. At other times, I am discouraged with it's progress.

Our goals for our blogging are:
  1. to pick a topic which is of interest to them. (they need to have a well developed web of ideas and sub-topics to explore)
  2. to read each day to learn about their topic
  3. to communicate what they have learned by blog writing (we talk a lot about effective writing, not just mechanics but how to write with a point to make and how to attract comments and opinions)
  4. to build a personal learning network on-line
For what it's worth, I thought I would do a mid-year assessment for our blogging. I thought I would try to pick ten things I am happy about and ten challenges for the future of blogging in our class.

Here is what I think we have accomplished:
  1. all but a few have a topic that they are very interested in
  2. all students have commented on others' blogs and have received comments from others
  3. many "non-writers" like blogging more than traditional writing
  4. students have not focused on widgets as much as years past
  5. we have co-generated rubrics which help guide us towards great writing
  6. many have RSS or google reader accounts to keep up to date on their reading
  7. blogging has resulted in more regular writing and many conversations with students about writing
  8. blogging has allowed students to become experts in their field
  9. we have looked at numerous examples of blogs, some "better" than ours, some worse
  10. we realize that our blogging is a work in progress and that we are working towards something better
Here are the challenges:
  1. some students write in one dimension, reluctant to explore a wide range of sub-topics
  2. many comments they make on others' blogs do not invite deeper thought and the development of a PLN
  3. because you blog doesn't make you a writer
  4. many students don't like to plan their posts
  5. shallow or little reading to make the posts interesting
  6. finding time to blog regularly enough to make it fruitful
  7. few blog at home
  8. networks are superficial, don't lead to deeper learning
  9. we don't have a partner class who we blog with regularly
  10. finding people for your PLN who are interested in their topic
I have also given some thought to changing how we blog next year. I might change the focus from becoming an expert and doing deep learning on a topic to "metacognition". (Kim Cofino and others) The way I understand this type of blogging is that the kids describe what they have learned in class and extend that learning within their PLN. Even though this type of blogging would be very effective I believe very strongly that blogging should not be just another assignment and that student choice and differentiated learning is the main advantage.

Another idea I have had is that we need to brainstorm ways to build effective PLN's. From what I've read, once the kids are motivated, they will do this themselves. We need to look at the possibilities of using Twitter and Facebook to build our PLN's. Students should be using their Facebook accounts to direct readers to their blog.

I have thought for a long time of the possibilities of using a different platform for our blogs such as Wordpress. My goal here is to allow them more control over the look and content of their blog. Perhaps a summer project!

After reading his post, I am looking forward to reading Richardson's new book (Personal Learning Networks, coming in May). Many of the founding principles of our blogging are based on his ideas and I could use some help in taking them to the next level.

Of course, I would be happy for you to join my network and comment on this post with your ideas in the meantime!

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