So lately I’ve been talking and thinking more and more about this idea of a “performance standard” that reads something like “Students create, grow and navigate online personal learning networks in safe, effective and ethical ways” and what that would mean in a NETS type framework. For instance, students:
- locate, identify and evaluate potential mentors or teachers online
- communicate with co-learners clearly and effectively in a variety of modes
- share work online using a variety of media in appropriate and creative ways
- track, read, evaluate, organize, utilize and share relevant information effectively
And so on. It starts some interesting conversations among those who haven’t yet considered or been much exposed to the idea of online learning networks, and often, those conversations lead to “how do we assess that?” The only obvious answer is that it probably isn’t happening on a test.
I constantly struggle with my own work in this. The last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the nodes in my network, trying to think critically about diversity, reexamining the tools I use to access it, looking at the ways I interact and what I contribute. For all sorts of time-related reasons, I’m not happy with the scope of my work right now either; it feels too text heavy, too comfortable. And, for many of the same reasons and even though I have made some changes of late, my network seems static. I need to come up with some strategies for freshening things up around here.
I know assessing networks takes understanding networks, and that’s why I’m still very much into the “think about this in your own practice first” mode. But at some point, it would be interesting, and hopefully necessary, to think about ways in which we’d assess our students in this undertaking.
Robert Rowe says
“The only obvious answer is that it probably isnâ€™t happening on a test.”
Why can’t we look at digital literacy and network building the same way we assess fine arts? As a music educator, we have to assess with portfolios. Wouldn’t portfolio assessment work perfectly?
Paul C says
How do we assess online learning networks? Excellent question and topic for future blog posts.
I think the important criteria include:level of participation, critical thinking, synthesis, providing additional relevant information, succinct postings, and netiquette.
An invitation for a more detailed rubric…
Ashley Pelfrey says
I often find myself asking…how do assess that? Sometimes, I can’t seem to come up with an answer. In my experience (which is very little) I have found that regardless of the material or the activity, assessing is all about determining if the students are completing their tasks to the best of their ability. For this class, thankfully, we are not assessed through tests on how to create a blog or an office in tapped in, but how learned how to do these things. Sometimes, the best assessments are not those that are paper.
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Denise Olsen says
I think you raise an excellent point. I don’t think we can underestimate how important the ability to develop and use personal learning networks will be for our studnets. Unfortunately, I think in our educational society (I know this is a generalization) state assessments drive what is taught. Perhaps developing state assessments to measure 21st century skills will help bring them into the classroom.
Gary Stager says
What do you mean by diversity?
Why do you think that a student’s ability to make connections should be assessed?
Will popular kids get better grades?
Why not worry about what kids can DO rather than what they collect or can check-off on some new rubric? (Yeah, I know. You never precisely said this, but you did end with a yearning for a way to “assess students in this undertaking.”)
I believe personally in a post-assessment world. That would really be futuristic and consistent with Rousseau, Dewey and centuries of great thought in the past.
PS: As someone who has been online since 1983 and teaching online since the first term of President Clinton, I still have trouble understanding personal learning networks as being any more than an amplification of what learners always did.
Will Richardson says
Diversity means making sure we have people who push our thinking, who may not agree with us (ahem, ahem) in our network. And I agree we should worry about what students can DO, which in this case is know how to create learning opportunities of their own online.
Maybe this is an amplification, but it’s one, I think, that comes with some differences because of the scale involved and the asynchronous, virtual nature of it.
And I should probably have been more clear about “assessment.” I certainly don’t mean to imply that this should be tested, but if we are to teach it and model it, if we are to have expectations for it, which I really believe we should, then we need to see the evidence that they can DO it. No?
Gary Stager says
When you use school terms like assessment, others get to define its meaning.
I suppose there can be some commercial opportunity in all of this PLN stuff, but it strikes me a bit like offering (and measuring) a curriculum in making friends.
Nothing good results when we instituonalize natural processses.
Will Richardson says
Why does there have to be a commercial opportunity?
And so what, even as parents we shouldn’t meddle in our children’s friend making strategies?
I’m not sure why you constantly jump to the edge of the discussion.
Julia Osteen says
Isn’t the point of personal learning networks the learning? I mean, haven’t personal learning networks happened for years? I remember relying upon specific friends and classmates for help with subjects as I was going through school. The difference seems to me the medium through which I accessed my network. I used the telephone or met up with them in person after school.
Why do we feel the need for PLNs to be assessed? Shouldn’t we assess the learning that is a result of participation in the PLN?
I do agree that participation in PLNs on a global basis should be part of a “standard” so teachers know opportunities for that should be provided to students. But, really, that’s more for the benefit of my generation not our students’.
Will Richardson says
Isn’t there something really different about this? I mean, you knew the people you were calling on the phone or the people you met, right? In this environment, that’s not always the case. And maybe we do assess the PLN by the learning.
And I have to say, I think students can benefit a great deal from being in classrooms with teachers who not only know that the opportunities exist but who participate as well.
Thanks as always for the comment.
Julia Osteen says
The difference to me is that a PLN can now be global as opposed to local. And, yes, that means that sometimes you don’t know the people in your network.
“And I have to say, I think students can benefit a great deal from being in classrooms with teachers who not only know that the opportunities exist but who participate as well.”
I agree with your above statement. I just wrote a new blog post about one of our teachers and how she is using a class blog with her students. One of the things I highlight is that she is modeling for her students. I find that powerful.
I have to work very hard for folks to understand that it’s not about the tool but about the work the tool allows to happen. My above comment was a reflection of guarding against “toolishness” and keeping an eye on pedagogy.
http://www.micheldumais.com/2008/08/29/gros-connard/#comment-3136 – michel a toujours pas compris qu on l accuse de harcellement. Aidez-le a douter aussi de lui-mÃªme, Ã§a lui Ã©vitera un choc dans les mois Ã venir
It seems as though sometimes education bloggers get stuck in the theoretical. While I have learned a ton of things from you and many other education technology leaders and hope you continue to inspire us, maybe the challenge you desire is the mentoring of students.
As a first year technology director after eleven years of teaching, I am already finding the struggle to stay connected with what’s going on in the classroom. However, every time I step into one I am energized by what the students are doing and potentially where they could be with a little mentoring. Maybe you already visit class blogs and comment on their work. If you are not doing this maybe this would be the “challenge” you are looking for. It would also help those students in building their personal network and demonstrate to them what these connections could achieve for them. We all know that the students will “push our thinking” and that they are what all of this is for in the end.
Gary Stager says
You are correct. Kids need a lot more mentoring.
This is the precise opposite of assessment.
Will Richardson says
But Gary, we assess all the time. You are assessing me right now. You are not simply leaving me to my own (in your view) limited view of the world, are you? Aren’t you attempting to push my thinking? Under that orientation, you shouldn’t be engaging in this discussion at all, just making sure I’m aware of how good you are at it yourself so that I can model myself after you.
Good discussion everyone, I really like to think about this topic and what you all think as well.
i am just wondering does it have to come down to 2 options? Either teach it or dont, these things are going on reguardless of what we do as educators. Assessment is always the confusing part, but what is our point of assessment on the productivity of students using technology? It still seems as if students personal networks are the “Devil’s music” that we are trying to assume control of.
Not sure how to teach this topic yet, but i am excited to do it.
Susan Chast says
Remember Ivan Illich in DESCHOOLING SOCIETY? The test was, I believe, a quality of life one. Can we imagine an educational system that simply assesses that students are “ready to launch”–in other words “commence”–and then remain available for when anyone realizes they need something? (Some of my Juniors in High School are asking me how to make sure they are in the appropriate verb tense! I never thought I’d see the day. But then,I also asked them to teach me how to text.) As a result, I think we’d have to do a whole lot more modeling of the pleasures of reading and the triumphs of solving problems in training for harder onesand the persuasive power of knowing the past–sort of have many public olympics of the mind.
From an educational technology standpoint, I can see the advantages of online learning networks in the classroom. Based on some of the perimeters and suggested functions of the learning network in the article, it certainly sounds like an innovative technology that would make the lives of many easier. Developing and integrating the tool in a format that is clear, concise and user-friendly is vitally important and once appropriate evaluation has been conducted, the tool would search a great service.
Florida Atlantic University
FAU Boca Raton Alumna
I think the important criteria include:level of participation