I was doing this all along?

So… thinking about the personal learning network and reviewing my career at UMW (well, MWC when I started). I’ve always been interesting in thinking about how to shift the responsibility for learning on to the learner, so the concept of shifting the responsibility for organization of that learning as well doesn’t seem much further off to me. But then I realized I’ve kind of been doing this at time. I just didn’t realize I was doing this, and it didn’t work that well when I did try it (since I didn’t really have the structure).

For example, in my Social Problems class years ago I had every choose the same social issue to write about. In one section, students wanted to look at housing discrimination, so we divided Fredericksburg up and students drove around looking at various neighborhoods, writing ethnographies of what they saw and whom that encountered. Some even took pictures. These accounts, along with scholarly literature on housing discrimination, was “data” accessible to all students via Blackboard. In the second case the students did ethnographies through eight hours of volunteering at schools, Bragg Hill, and other after school programs. They could use any or all of the accounts, which varied in quality from student, in their final papers on the topic. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, but stopped doing it, in part because I stopped teaching Social Problems, and in part because it seemed so much work for so little pay off. I was the one doing all the uploading (of course I would do it differently now), and student papers did not reflect that they had spend as much time as they could have with the material. I do appreciate the comment that the student’s ability to take responsibility for learning in this way does “requires self awareness and time to mature” and that may have been part of the problem here.

One thought on “I was doing this all along?

  1. Jim Groom

    I’m going through a similar struggle right now in the Internet course I am teaching. We’re having the students choose the readings and present on the various topics through weekly student-driven panels. I too struggle with that evolution of owning that learning, and I’m trying to recognize and be ok with how foreign it can be for everyone involved, including me.

    Seems to me a natural extension of this approach is having them building a learning community with their own tools and spaces (Domain of One’s Own anyone?) that can run across classes and through their college career and beyond. I think far more responsibility can be pushed on the students when it comes to this, and it gives them some freedom and power over their work. Why can;’ they have PLNs too? I jut have to work on my willingness to let go.


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