Thursday, August 5, 2010

PLN's and Students

Copied from my blog: Suter's ED620 Class Blog

I have been toying with the idea of having my junior and senior environmental science students create their own personal learning network next year. I have put a lot of thought into this but am still at a loss for a way to make this happen. Keep in mind that I am talking about trying this with approximately 60 students. I also want to point out that I do not want to do this because I want to use the tools mentioned below in the classroom. They are just a means to an end. I think the “big idea” here is to find a way to connect students to people working and writing about environmental issues outside the classroom. How do we tear down the walls and connect our students to a world that is already globally connected and discussing the same issues? Below are a few of the ideas I am working with right now:
  1. Have the students create Twitter accounts and follow me and each other. This way not only would they have an account to receive my class updates, but would be able to connect with each other and others outside of school. It would be cool to require them to make relevant tweets each week. My main concern with this would be grading them. They could post links to relevant articles and websites but the reality is that it could be very difficult for me to grade this effectively. I love the idea of using Twitter at the end of a class period to have the students post about what they learned that day. I also used Twitter last year effectively on a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay in which the students used their cell phones to tweet what they were learning about to a Twitter hashtag. At the end of this post I embedded a great video on using Twitter in a college classroom.
  2. It would be interesting to have students create a blog just like we are doing for this class. They could blog about websites or current events that relate to what is being discussed in class or blog about the many green initiatives that they discover in their area. Again, as I go to the blog address page on D2L and click through 13 other blogs I wonder if it would be possible to grade student blogging on such a large scale. Today, I went through all the class blogs and added them to my Google Reader. I then filed them in a folder called ED620 Class Blogs. This makes seeing updates so much easier and leads me to believe managing numerous student blogs might actually be possible.
  3. I am hoping Google Apps for Educators adds Google Reader to the education suite soon. If they do I think it would be cool to have students find and follow a handful of blogs dealing with environmental issues. If this requirement was done in conjunction with a requirement to follow similar people on Twitter it could be even better. By following some blogs and twitter users the students would undoubtably hit on great references to items that deal with class discussions. In turn, giving them an abundance of material to blog about on a weekly or biweekly basis. Not to mention Google Reader could be used to follow their classmates blogs and aid them in posting comments.
I see some real benefits to having students set up personal learning networks. First of all, the potential for bringing in real world current events that relate to class is enormous. There is also the possibility that some of the students will hit on ideas and topics that really interest them and encourage them to take part in some serious self-directed learning. I love that by publishing their writing to a blog rather than handing it in, we move away from an audience of 1 (the teacher) to an audience of many (peers).

There has been a lot of conversation lately in the education world about how wonderful, necessary, and beneficial PLN’s are to educators. I wonder why I haven’t seen more discussion on how to have our students create their own. Would love to hear some comments and ideas on this!

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