Within higher educational spaces the ‘how and where’ learning occurs can vary dramatically. In physical learning environments, the places and spaces where you spend time and conduct your teaching and learning may or may not include a private office, current technologies, elements of the perfect classroom (The Perfect Classroom, According to Science), or even a personal computer. Within digital spaces, variances in available tools and technologies can also impact the direction your personal learning will go. Despite these inconsistencies or perceived barriers, there are many opportunities within your physical and digital environments to learn.
Participating and engaging in a variety of learning environments will shape your view of ‘best practice’. Through a process of using, understanding and creating, while critically analyzing through a teaching lens, your PLE will serve to support communication and building relationships. Reflect on the digital environments that shape your personal learning with the intention that there is a transfer into your teaching practice e.g. Twitter, Blogging, Hangouts, webinars (see guest post by Rusul Alrubail).
PLE’s within digital spaces include learning management systems (LMS), massive open online courses (MOOCs), web 2.0 tools, open educational resources (OER) and learning commons resources.
- Variances in the available LMS can determine how you share your learning with students and other educators. Each LMS and higher education provider will establish parameters in how, where, and when learning environments are opened, closed, shared, accessed and created. Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, Desire 2 Learn (D2L), Canvas or other LMS may be adopted as a means for teaching and learning within face to face (F2F), blended and online learning environments. As the teacher, your personal learning environment will be shaped by decisions made by others. But you are not alone. Support through your higher ed organization will help make this learning space more comfortable. Set a goal to learn how to do one new thing in your LMS this year. For me, this will be the creation and distribution of video feedback within D2L.
- When given time and space, participating in a MOOC can extend your personal learning. My recent experiences participating in SOOC2015 and the HumanMOOC certainly enhanced my understanding of universal design principles and how online learning can be humanized. Finding a MOOC to extend your personal learning from an extensive selection can be done through this searchable MOOC List. Set a goal to participate in one MOOC this year. I’ll continue to engage in MOOC experiences to support professional growth to help me provide quality online learning experiences for my students.
- Keeping a focus on personal learning to support your teaching practice can help manage the direction for learning about web 2.0 tools or apps. Since there is a vast array of tools available, careful selection and critical analysis is important. Finding tools and apps that support your content and context should be the priority. Relying on your PLN can help. Using, understanding and creating with some tried and true tools can be a starting point, e.g. Twitter, blogs and wikis. Thinking about enhancing communication and relationship with/for your students will help decision-making. Set a goal to learn how to apply five web 2.0 tools to your teaching practice this year.
- Examining and selecting OER for your PLE can be time consuming. Connecting with others in your field of study can be a good place to start. Sending out requests to your PLN can also help. Resource collections exist in a variety of spaces and places so the challenge is finding those the best suit your personal learning needs. Edudemic, iTunesU and edshelf can be starting points for your search. In Ontario contexts, Contact North has great resources to begin your work. Set a goal to tap into one resource from one of these OERs.
- The concept of a learning commons (library system) is applied differently at each higher education organization. Tapping into the commons is essential for every educator in higher ed. Building a relationship with one or two people in the commons will extend and enhance your personal learning. Ease of use, affordances and navigation are highlighted and streamlined when you find a guide into this digital environment. Set a goal to connect in a personal way to one individual in your organization’s learning commons.
With so many options and opportunities in these learning environments, it’s up to you to decide where to start and where to go next. But if your focus remains on building relationships and enhancing communication, your personal learning environment will suit your own learning needs.
References and Resources
Jensen, K., & West, Q. (2015) Open education resources and the higher education environment: A leadership opportunity for libraries. College & Research Libraries News. http://m.crln.acrl.org/content/76/4/215.full
Digital skills for collaborative OER development. Course DS4OER http://ds4oer.oeru.org/