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Wk 2 - Agency in our learning

Today's world is marked by constant change. How do we prepare our students and even ourselves for a future world that is sure to be very different from today.

An important part of 21st century skills or habits of mind is being self-directed lifelong learners. We want our students to have agency as learners, to act independently in pursuing their own learning.

link for above video

Choose one or more of these discussion prompts to think and write about this week:

  • What does "learner agency" mean -- for our students and for us as teachers?
  • What "habits of mind" do we try to encourage in our students? Do those apply to us as teachers? How are we also learners?
  • How do we become the kinds of learners we seek in our students?
  • How can we create agency for ourselves as teachers?
  • How does passive learning (e.g. lurking in online spaces) differ from active learning (e.g. engaged participation)?
  • What role if any do peers and communities of practice have in this kind of self-directed learning process? 
  • Is there, in addition to habits of mind, some structure that is needed for self-directed learning to blossom? Could we create a template/table of contents of sorts, to help ourselves plan, carry out, and reflect on our own learning?

Task Discussion

  • Fred Haas   March 16, 2012, 12:54 p.m.

    So I am a little late in posting this, but after some serious pondering I have tried to address Karen's fascinating questions. It was kind of fun, actually. Here goes...

    On the most fundamental level learner agency means doing something, making something as a demonstration of learning or understanding. It is in the doing or making something where you are able to demonstrate understanding or even mastery. In the absence of action, it is hard to prove that you understand or know anything. passive or observational learning happens, but it is a kind of scaffolded or preparatory phase to the real learning that occurs in the application. Plus, I think many of us would agree that knowledge and understanding are always emergent, mercurial phenomena. Thus, there is a kind of discursive reciprocation that is at play.

    I sometimes think learning is a little like catching a fish barehanded. Knowledge, skill, patience, dare I say stillness, and a little technique are often needed to catch a fish barehanded. Yet fish are slippery critters, and sometimes just when you think you have a good hold on one it can wriggle in flash, leaving you humbled and needing to start all over.

    I have always loved the concept of cultivating "habits of mind," since the first time I came across the term. I wonder if they are not the only thing that as teachers we might truly be able to teach. We might think we teach content, but I am not sure if it is much more than a transferring process. We might believe we teach skills, but that too might be more transfer, although I think they might overlap with habits more. In teaching habits, we can see agency in a first-hand way, repeatedly. Even observation of skills can be misleading. Only by observing the repeated demonstrations can we be assured of skill mastery, but at what point does that mastery become a habit?

    We must model strong "habits of mind" and mastery for students if there is a chance that they might cultivate them for themselves. If not we run the risk of having little credibility, but more than that, how else can we help them. Teachers must gain learning expertise. In a sense that might be the greatest value we bring to the work, not content knowledge.

    I am convinced that the single best teaching and learning context is a 1:1 master-apprentice model. Almost everything we do in education seems to be an attempt to scale that relationship. Yet there are things about it that simply don't scale. Moreover, a 1:1 situation is not always the most practical or remotely efficient way to operate. Notice I say operate, not teach or learn. This is how we got guilds and workshops once upon a time. Even a parent likely has more than one child. A great teacher of mine once said, "You are never really teaching until you are one on one, anyway. You are just fooling yourself."

    How do we become the kind of learners we hope our students to be is kind of the most elusive question of all. It is one that I feel that I am endlessly pursuing. Participating in an effort like this is just one of the ways I hope that I chasing the answer. Participating in communities and communities of practice provides the kind of support and sharing that helps to strengthen my resolve to continue my self-directed learning journey. We are social after all, we need the lubrication of conversation for learning. It is a means of application, of agency, doing something with our emergent understanding.

    The only thing I think of when considering a structure for self-directed learning to blossom is the notion of a graduated release. Yet, that almost presupposes that the learning did not begin self-directed, and in almost all of our cases it has. So I am not sure. I have to think on it a while longer. I have, however, just begun reading Professor Gert Biesta's "Good Education: What It Is and Why We Need It," where she posits that, "Education, in its widest sense, is about how we welcome 'newcomers' into our worlds," a thought I believe which is pertinent to the question of structure in a self-directed learning context.

  • karen   March 18, 2012, 5:57 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Fred Haas   March 16, 2012, 12:54 p.m.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Fred. Lots to chew on here.

    I too believe that as teachers, our most important job is to teach (and learn) habits of mind, not content.

    On the subject of making and doing things, as a means of learning, I agree that this is at the heart of the learning process. I am puzzling over how to get teachers as professionals more engaged in this. Have tried several approaches on P2PU, and so far, have had more success with non-teacher peer groups.

    I think this has a lot to do with the current state of education....which is a bit dismal imo, but I am learning a lot and hoping for insight, new ideas, and experiments to try with all of you.

  • Liz Renshaw   March 14, 2012, 12:09 a.m.

    I really enjoyed your thought provoking post on the 1% but the real highlight for me was your tab 'sharing is good'.

    Whilst those of us, who are self directed, love professional learning and participating in online environments' sharing is like breathing.' But I agree with you that we are the 1% and for others, sharing is like having your vaccination needles, you know it's likely to do you good, but it really HURTS." I have found teachers to be okay in with the theory of sharing, but when it comes to the reality many factors mitigate against being open.

    It is also a long journey of cultural change, many teachers work in institutions in which competition for limited resources is the driving agenda so they are not acknowledged or rewarded for operating in a collaborative way. I just  came across a fascinating initiative ,The Australian Digital Futures Institute.   what was really interesting to me is that is a very creative response to working differently. It's imaginative, forward looking, and smart. Although it is still 'attached' to a university, there is no obvious branding to indicate which university and it does feel to have a separate identity. It also spoke to me very strongly about being a 'sharing mission'........ everyone was in the adventure together...... maybe we can take some ideas from this 'innovation' when trying to engage those other 99% .........


  • karen   March 13, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

    I love the conversation here! But at the same time, I worry for all the millions of mainstream teachers who aren't engaged in their own personal learning or in this conversation. I've been writing about this here. Please chime in with your thoughts.

  • Jonas Backelin   March 14, 2012, 10:32 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 13, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

    <Dong> I'm involved in teacher training for developing countries, where resources are scares and English language a barrier to sharing/access.  I’m still convinced that much is achieved when we can empower the ‘mind set’ towards personal learning.  The concept of leapfrogging is being used as a theory where developing countries move directly to more advanced strategies.  

  • Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 10:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 13, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

    So reading your post and the subsequent comment got me thinking about some related issues. I certainly don't know if I have answers to be sure. How we get the other 90+% engaged and interested in the brave new world of online/networked/edtech learning is kind of the billion dollar question, right. Just look at how many corporations and foundations are lining up to figure out an answer.

    Yet, I wonder if it will not always be an uphill problem in education as a field. For one, education can move so slowly. It is not like K12 is exactly noted for its risk taking, which makes sense if you consider it. Regardless of the implications of our current escalating testing regime, when dealing with children the stakes get kind of steep fast. If its public education there is the issue of taxpayer money being used in an era of hightened accountability.

    Plus, parents are not always too hip to new and different pedagogical approaches. Apart from the fact that the approaches might fail or not work particularly well, everyone has gone to school, so of course that renders some sense of expertise, real or imagined. That can embolden many. Look at how many disparate voices have the answers right now.

    I could go on, but all of this kind of creates a kind of conservatism that can be necessary for survival, both for individuals and institutions, and not altogether unwarranted. Throw in the fact that teachers often teach the way that they were taught, unless they have greater awareness and make an effort to avoid that outcome, and a laundry list of potential reasons why we are far from a tipping point start to arise. It would be hard to address all of them. Yet, I think the kind of change you would like to see tends to be more iterative then our patience likes to allow.

  • karen   March 12, 2012, 8:21 p.m.

    Perhaps a little off-topic, but I am toying with an idea to do "drop-in PD" in an online space. The idea would be to have live web-based support (Skype or Google hangout most likely) at a certain time each week, e.g. Wed. from 4:00 - 6:00, when teachers could drop in and ask or talk about anything they want.

    I know folks have done this successfully f2f but am not aware of anything like this online.


    • Would this be useful?
    • Would it help teachers (especially those new to self-directed learning) find some "agency"?
    • Could it lead to deeper, more meaningful self-directed learning for teachers?
  • Liz Renshaw   March 13, 2012, 11:28 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 12, 2012, 8:21 p.m.

    I love the idea of the 'drop in PD' and have played around with something similiar when I was an e learning mentor. I found that the teachers really liked to have a 'live warm body' to chat to.

    Im not sure abt your role or the levels of technical support in your schools but some thoughts :  

    1. Would you get talk about technical/administrative issues that were beyond your scope to resolve?

    2. How adept are your teachers at utlising Skype etc

    3. Would the sessions need to have a focus or are your teachers at the stage of utlising technology to asist with their learning?

    4. To what extend do your teachers already have a sense of agency that you would be building upon?



  • Cindy Minnich   March 14, 2012, 8 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 12, 2012, 8:21 p.m.

    I like this idea. But how do you get the word out to the people who need it most? 

  • karen   March 14, 2012, 10:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 13, 2012, 11:28 p.m.

    Good questions. Re: #1, I think that we could deal with technical issues through peer channels and just digging around. I worry more about administrative issues (blocking/filtering, policies, culture, etc.) that are beyond our control. There's only so much you can do though.

    Re: #2, this is something that most folks are fairly comfortable with, I think, mostly for personal reasons (same as FB).

    Re #3, my thought is that there would be no particular focus, other than what the individual teachers request. I suppose we could do some focused sessions though if it made sense.

    #4 is what keeps me up at night. I don't think that most teachers have a sense of agency in this regard. What do others think? And how do we build this? I guess that's what this group is all about!

  • Liz Renshaw   March 17, 2012, 12:25 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 14, 2012, 10:08 p.m.

    #Q3 in my experience teachers will engage if the 'open session' is directly related to their teaching. Teachers, are very practical people and if they are going to gain new knowledge/skills that can be immediately implemented and help them to work smarter they will engage.

    #Q4 teachers, in my experience the degree of agency that teachers demonstrate fits well along the continuum. One small strategy which has worked well for me is to identify a teachers interests/talents and work with them individually to build a sense of agency.  This involves developing a trusting relationship and working alongside the teacher to find creative options or outlets for their talents. I think it's hard to build agency in teachers unless you are working at the grass roots with them in some way.  

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:20 p.m.

    Thank you, Karen, for the Communities of Practice link. I like that he gets that it is a messy process and while there are root characteristics, there is no one entry or one exit point for communities of practice.

    I have been thinking about our dialogue here from a number of entry points personal to me:

    as a principal--how is my staff development working?

    as a reflective professional--how am I doing at developing my own personal learning?

    as a scholar--what do I want to learn about and how shall I go about it?

    Each of these ideas lead me down different paths of interest.  To some degree I am hoping my online learning experience becomes one that I begin to define and manage better... like creating a personal learning plan with areas defined in advance (so that I can sense, feel, measure, my learning accomplishments).  This would also help me to identify communities interested in the same things as me.  It would be great to identify topics of interest and establish a group of online friends that want to go in the same direction with me, but the more I think about it, the less that seems likely.  We all have our own personal directions that we wish to go.

    One way I was thinking about in terms of addressing this, was that I would create my own plan of attack (brainstorming and creating a mind map of things I want to learn about, do better, etc) and then pose online questions within communities of learners who might share the same question.

    So, I know my thinking on this is fuzzy. But I am wondering if others are planning, thinking in this way as well and to what degree?  How do you all go about deciding what you want to learn and where, how you will find a group of like-minded learners?


  • Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    How does passive learning (e.g. lurking in online spaces) differ from active learning (e.g. engaged participation)?

     This is an interesting question and one which there seems to be much debate at the moment.

    Christy Tucker in a very readable blog post Lurking or  Legitimate Peripheral Participation points out that sometimes lurking is a way people might act when they first join an online group. Much the same way as some of us might in engaging with a group for the first time. We might stay on the edges, checking things out, looking for what is expected, and finding out the rules.  This might be a temporary phase from which learners might move to become active participants.

    For me, with some online groups I am a resident lurker, eg Youtube, Flickr, or Slideshare, and in other contexts such as P2PU I am more active. I seem to have different levels of participation, at different times in different spaces.

    The other challenge for me is how would we go about describing 'passive learning'- how do we know what or how the lurkers are learning? I am wondering if the words passive learning and lurking are not synonymous?

  • Jonas Backelin   March 11, 2012, 7:15 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    Will just try to correct the link to, but it was then re-posted on the 'One Change A Day' blog calendar.

    I also loved this post and my reply was:

    Hi Christy,
      Your post got me thinking about apprentice learning in teacher training. I remember my work experience as the first time ‘behind the scene’. In a ‘community of practice’ or ‘knowledge domain’ there is silent knowledge that can be uncovered when you are immersed. I don’t believe a Lurker is the passive participant as it might appear. They are engaged in growing strength and increasing their repertoire. I also believe when we share, our knowledge get a new meaning and hopefully resonates with other peers – Backpropagation.
      If I make an analogy of my undertaking as rock climbing instructor – Deep Water Soloing (DWS). The beginner has to build muscles and learn techniques in order to perform on a basic level. When he/she has reproduced the practice route, it is possible to find a new path and evaluate what ‘grip’ that will make sense for the upward movement – know your limits and abilities.

  • tofubeth   March 11, 2012, 10:07 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    I think that level of engagement of lurkers/passive learners is difficult to assess...

    There are many places I lurk, some with more "passionate lurking" than others. For example, an online PD course I signed up for was covering many things I had learned before, so I checked out. I think this is common in the classroom as well. If you start somewhere the students are too comfortable, they tend to check out. Then when it's time to check back in, they are lost.

    I know this has happened to me many times.

    I keep telling my elementary students that they don't get to be great soccer players/basketball players/guitar players/whatever-other-skill-you-want-to-insert by observing. You become great by jumping in. With both feet. And that's why they need to actually read. Not pretend to read. Not pretend to be involved.

    I currently am getting nothing out of that PD course I signed up for. I get the emails, and I continually think I'll get back to them. But I don't. I think that for passive learning to be productive, the learner needs to be a passionate learner, and be discussing that information in other places.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 11:59 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    Hi Liz,

    I remember my first listserv like it was yesterday!  I think it is called the High School English Teacher's listserv. I was an elementary teacher when I happened upon it.  It was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced.  Here were these incredibly passionate educators who spoke, argued, presented, and connected online regarding literature and literacy, and they had been doing so for more than 5 years when I ran into them (understand this was long before Facebook, Twitter, chatting, or the like). I was mesmerized and read EVERY posting.  I did not teach high school English and felt almost like I had accidentally been given access to a private club, but I did not leave. For at least two years I "listened in" and learned heaps.  They sent me to authors, workshops, conferences.  They had me trying out all sorts of things in my elementary classroom.  They were my heroes and I believe I learned a ton, even though I did not jump in and participate until 2 years or more had passed, and even then only intermittently. I think my whole life I have learned a great deal by sitting beside the conversations of people I would deem as experts. I even remember listening to my parents speak with friends, or moving closer when two professors interacted in my college halls. I do not believe that participation is leader of learning, I believe attention is the leader of learning.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jonas Backelin   March 11, 2012, 7:15 a.m.

    Hi Jonas,

    I think this is true, there is some aspect of being a beginner where lurking, or observing is the way to start.  I also think my learning is messier in that I am sometimes a lurker even when it is an area of expertise, like I am honing skills by simply listening to what others have to say. Certainly participation can be a more intense sort of learning experience, so maybe lurking is a way of learning that requires less intensity, or is allowing for some sort of processing downtime?


  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   tofubeth   March 11, 2012, 10:07 a.m.

    I love your term "passionate lurking"!

  • Jonas Backelin   March 11, 2012, 2:26 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:04 p.m.

    Hi Bonita,

      I just created a post in Mapping my learning plan and as so many time while formulating my thoughts (active participation) there was an insight about Peer-2-Peer learning.  The relationship or connection can be either strong or weak and the weight determin the state of participation.  Now I need to figure out how this affect Personal Learning...  

  • Joe Dillon   March 11, 2012, 5:05 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 11:49 p.m.


    I'm also intersted in lurking and learning. Since I feel I've been a productive lurker in the past, I struggle with the idea that lurking is passive. I thought of some possible reasons why learners lurk-

    Lurkers might be reading:

    Lurkers read web content without creating content. So lurking can amount to independent professional reading. While my professional reading typically involves formal content- books and articles- I have had occasion to read transcripts of informal professional discourse about instructional methods and found it very supportive.

    Lurking might have a more introverted participation style:
    This one connects closely with the idea of lurking as reading. I think the participatory culture online definitely helps people feel like they can take small risks to connect, informally publish and, in many cases, experience rewards from those small risks. Afterward, excited by our learning and anxious to share, we might want others to see active online participation the way we do. Even in open spaces that we deem safe, some participants will choose to engage less frequently.

    Lurking might be learning to navigate and filter:
    People get lost. There are literacy skills involved in navigating a course like this, which I tend to forget until I work with learners in a physical audience with web content much less complex than P2PU and see the amount of support they seek from peers and facilitators. If someone is reading the content of this course, but not entirely sure about how the website works or the requirements of the course, they might lurk out of a sense of politeness, or a desire to have complete confidence they are “doing it right” before they participate.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:05 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jonas Backelin   March 11, 2012, 2:26 p.m.

    Right.  I think maybe we are thinking along the same lines, Jonas. If the personal learning plan comes from the individual, than the linkages and such will vary greatly based upon the plan as designed by the individual.  Is there a benefit to an individual signing on to a learning plan designed by a group?  or an organization? Should we all be working in our own individual bubbles or working together or a little of both somehow organized by what? not sure.

    I have a friend who is studying oxugen producing bacteria with CIT.  His research group as a whole focuses on these bacteria as an area of study.  They design their own (and sometimes partnered) experiments and studies focusing on specific aspects of the bacteria.  Then they come together and cross-pollinate their ideas and learnings. Seems like a highly stimulating environment to work and learn. This is how I envision the best in PD.  There would be content/topic areas and groups would come together to explore (much like we are) and then they would pick aspects to study in depth individually or in small groups and then come back to share and pollinate.  So the 21st century skills have great emphasis in such a learning endeavor, but are not the learning (simply the tools and skills needed--the habits and qualities such a learning environment requires).

    Thinking, thinking...

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:05 p.m.

    Now here I am responding to myself.  Sorry folks, I do talk in my own head sometimes.

    I am thinking what is needed in courses like this is a synthesis page.  The introductions google doc does that (to some degree) for our reasons for coming, but perhaps each weeks activity needs a synthesis document where we try to enclose our shared learning in some sort of statement.  What do ya'll think?


  • Liz Renshaw   March 11, 2012, 8:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:08 p.m.

    I think this is a very good idea. It would be helpful to my thinking to have some shared synthesis of the issues for each topic. Gold star idea. :)

  • Paul Oh   March 12, 2012, 8:28 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:08 p.m.

    I really like this idea of a synthesis doc, too, Bonita.

  • Jonas Backelin   March 14, 2012, 10:58 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:08 p.m.

    Hi Bonita, I'll also give a gold star to the idea.  Howard Rheingold had a blackboard webinar in the Change11 MOOC and requested the participants to take on accountabilities:

    -Aggregate the links posted in the back-channel

    -Concluding remarks

    -Questions that was not covered during the webinar

  • Liz Renshaw   March 10, 2012, 7:30 p.m.

     Thanks Karen, this is a great resource. Lotsa food for thought.

  • karen   March 10, 2012, 1:19 p.m.

    I'm not sure exactly where this fits in, but on our web connect call last Wed., Cindy brought up the continuum of personal learning. This blog post talks more about it.

    I like this idea and think it is a great way to begin to reflect on personal learning and how we move from point A to point B, etc.

    I'm going to use this as the basis for a "writing together" activity in a formal PD workshop tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

    By the way, I have found these "writing together" activities in Google Docs (credit: Bud Hunt) to be a very effective way to get sometimes reluctant folks to reflect on practice and even collaborate with each other through comments.

  • tofubeth   March 11, 2012, 11:19 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 10, 2012, 1:19 p.m.

    Karen, thanks for this graphic! it's very cool. I think I'll be bringing it up at my PLC meeting on Monday.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 11:49 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 10, 2012, 1:19 p.m.

    Hi Karen,

    That is an interesting continuum.  I find it particularly interesting that it is based upon visible participation, rather than actual learning.  I know that participation can matter, and that working in groups can lead to rich results, but I am wondering at labeling levels of learning through participation.  What do folks think?  Is it possible to have personal learning without others?


  • karen   March 12, 2012, 11:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 11:49 a.m.

    "Visible participation vs. actual learning"...interesting point.

    Of course, you can have actual personal learning without others. (Just go read the encyclopedia.:) But in the context of social learning, visible participation is likely to raise the actual learning level of everyone, which presumably is what communities of practice are all about.

    Also, in a "team" environment, such as at a school or in an online community, isolated personal learning is not necessarily the goal. We all have to work and learn together to be successful. Or do we?

  • karen   March 12, 2012, 12:03 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 10, 2012, 1:19 p.m.

    Using this as an activity at my f2f workshop yesterday was useful. Here are the "writing" results.

    The actual discussion was even more interesting.

    A couple particularly interesting things that came out:

    - Choice makes people more participative. [I didn't get much comment on why teachers don't always express themselves to make a choice when they are offered one. :)]

    - Some of this is related to personal comfort level and style. There was a discussion about a person who is very uncomfortable collaborating f2f because of his need to slowly and deliberately think out his position on things (and by the time this is done, the conversation has often moved on, leaving him looking unparticipative, which he was become). The same person is eager to converse in online conversations. [I often think of the opposite situation -- people who are comfortable f2f with peers they know, but unfomcortable online.]

    - Not exactly related to this, but there was a strong feeling that a) administration often stifles collaboration and that b) much district PD is really "district propaganda" about various initiatives and not geared to personal learning.

  • Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 8:32 p.m.

    I work with a networked group curating a blog called One Change a Day. We have just recently received a couple of unsolicited emails,from 'people' looking to network with us.  The emails which have been extremely convincing and personalised are maleware.Such trojans could cause enormous damage.

    I was thinking that one core skill for building teachers agency will be to ensure they understand some basic principles about risk management. 

    I checked the learning outcomes examples as suggested by Jonas and dont see it mentioned, although it would sit within the 21c skills domains.

    I reckon its going to be critical to building all learners agency that they are aware of the risks, know what signals to look out for, and  have some coping strategies.  What are your thoughts?


  • Jonas Backelin   March 10, 2012, 2:10 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 8:32 p.m.

    Hi Liz,

    Erin's list has not been updated for some time and was intended as a starting tool for the development of P2PU courses.  In our investigation of agency, your point about risk management is very important.

    The link to 21st century skills that Karen listed in the introduction to the task is a good resource for 21c skills.  I found the section of Media Literacy (the ability to access, understand, analyze, evaluate and create media messages):

    Analyze Media

    • Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what purposes
    • Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors
    • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media
  • Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 9:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 8:32 p.m.

    Liz & Jonas:

    This notion of risk managment made me think of Howard Rheingold's "Crap Detection 101." He is a pretty smart guy and has been at this networked learning thing for quite a long time. It is definitely worth a read, if you have never seen it.

  • Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 1:48 a.m.

     These learning objectives are a very useful starting point. They seem to range between the more simple to the more complex objective. Some eg ask a question,  could be applied quickly to a specific context whilst others would need a bit of unpacking to determine the specific self directed learning skill I am also wondering how self monitoring and self evaluation would fit within these learning objectives? Or would they be distinct entities? some overarching framework?

  • Jonas Backelin   March 9, 2012, 3:10 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 1:48 a.m.

    Hi Liz,

    Good question smiley, if you look at the link you will find 'Example Strategies' to give ideas:

    Ask a question, get assistance

    Forum  ask about a concept or assignment and allow all the members to view and contribute responses
      Wiki create an FAQ document where peer questions are compiled and answers are available to all
      Chat have office hours or peer-to-peer time in the chatroom where course members can ask/answer questions


    I also agree that the more complex skills are hard to self-evaluate and also in assessment:

    21st Century Skill:

    Learn how to be accountable for information

    Blog, Forum, Wiki, or Social Bookmarking course members write posts or add resources knowing other peers will read and learn from them

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:26 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jonas Backelin   March 9, 2012, 3:10 a.m.

    Hi Jonas,

    I like the FAQ Wiki idea.  That could work well with the way that I learn and interact.  I was thinking the same about P2PU, that I could create short courses based upon a single or a set of questions and then open it up to the world that is interested.  Together we could post blogs, articles, resources, videos and interact in an attempt to address the question.

    It would be fun to do that here as part of this course--at the end to open up a topic based upon a single or a set of questions we design, and then see where it goes.

    I would love my teachers (and ultimately my students) to do some learning work like this.


  • Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   March 9, 2012, 1:48 a.m.

    Self-monitoring and self-evaluation are increasingly critical efforts considering the speed at which lfe seems to move at present. It is so easy to get seduced by this notion of fast knowledge, the world at our fingertips, and all. Yet deep understanding and wisdom, things that can at times be in terribly short supply, require a slowing down, even stillness. We need all must take the time to reflect. It is an essential aspect of all authentic and genuine learning.

    It seems that is in the reflection where all of the sefl-evaluation and self-monitoring takes place. It may even be the basis for the self-direction too.

    On a related note regarding Jonas' FAQ, I am wondering if something like Quora wouldn't make a lot of sense, even for a smaller community of learners, at least as a starting point. The great thing about it is that the questions kind of live in that space for some time and can solicit answers from all over the place. Plus, I think the voting on answers aspect is a fascinating wrinkle. I think it is something worth considering for an emerging group like ours.

  • Jonas Backelin   March 8, 2012, 8:48 a.m.

    I’m assisting as co-facilitator during ‘Week 2’ and one definition is ‘A person who helps a group to have an effective dialog without taking any side of the argument’.  I also find it important to be a critical peer or disruptive agent to plant the seed of doubt and get us to think outside the box.  

      In the video with Arthur Costa he put self-directed learning together with self-evaluative and self-modifying skills.  My own quest at the moment is focused on ‘Networked Learning’ with an idea that “Knowing where to find information is more important than the content”.  Erin Knight wrote one year ago in the P2PU toolbox about some ‘Common Learning Objectives’ for our courses and suggested ‘Example Strategies’.  I think this type of rubric can give ideas for agency in our learning and in the future also connect to the idea of ‘Open Badges’.

    Some of the common learning objectives are:

    1. Express clear, coherent thoughts through writing
    2. Collaboratively write or build documents
    3. Analyze or critique existing work
    4. Connect course topics with current events or personal experience
    5. Debate and discuss issues in the field topic
    6. Conduct research, contribute to course content repository
    7. Synthesize various perspectives about the topic or concept
    8. Reflect on learning, metacognition
    9. Teach others about topics and course content
    10. Review the work of classmates
    11. Take class notes
    12. Ask a question / get assistance
    13. Share work / learn by social example
    14. Create community
    15. Learn discipline language; Develop information organization skills
    16. 21st Century Skill: Develop information-filtering skills
    17. 21st Century Skill: Learn how to be accountable for information
    18. 21st Century Skill: Develop technical capacity
  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jonas Backelin   March 8, 2012, 8:48 a.m.

    Hi Jonas,

    For me, when I read this list, I don't get excited about learning and jumping in.  Is it just me?  These feel like processes that are important but not what get my juices flowing.  I like to express clear writing in order to communicate ABOUT SOMETHING.  I like to review work that is about something.  I like to reflect on my learning about something. It is content that gets my juices flowing and process that helps me get there. 

    So, for example, if I were going to create learning objectives for myself personally, I might have some that look like this:

    1.  Design PD that can help my teachers move along a trajectory of understanding themselves (and thus their students) as learning beings.

    2.  Design PD that addresses my district and school needs, has some sort of alignment, but also allows for teacher entry and exit points.

    3.  Write my own learning plan for the next 5 years including skills, knowledge, questions, and targets.

    4.  Paint combining both figurative and abstract elements into an expression that pleases and prompts me.

    5.  Write a fun to read novel.


    Do other people get excited about the common learning objectives as listed?  Maybe they are meant to be used as vehicles toward personal content?  Could that be it?


  • Joe Dillon   March 11, 2012, 2:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:36 p.m.

    Bonita’s list seems like goal statements, while Jonas' list seems like strategies for engaging productively with a network. Taking just Bonita’s first objective, designing PD for teachers, I see many of the items in Jonas’ list as fundamental to meet Bonita’s goal. For example, you would likely have to analyze the existing work (#3) , synthesize various perspectives ( #7), and create community (#14), to help them understand themselves as learners.  In fact, if you planned to work on any of Bonita’s goals over time, I think Jonas’ list shows how essential a network would be toward the successful achievement of these goals.

    So maybe I see Jonas’ list as the “how” of network learning and Bonita’s commentary helps me reflect on the participant’s need to establish a “why.”

  • Jonas Backelin   March 11, 2012, 4:24 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:36 p.m.

      I love your thoughts Bonita and as a critical peer you inspire me to formulate this model in a clear way smiley

      The perspective that I've tried to illustrate with this list was a "template/table of contents of sorts, to help ourselves plan, carry out, and reflect on our own learning".  I think that if we want to develop fruitful Peer-2-Peer collaboration the content we learn about something is adapted to your context and teaching practise.  The key for me is that complex and fluid knowledge has to be navigated (maybe objectives and strategies is one way) and the Personal Learning Network (PLN) is linked to multiple communities.  Corinne Weisgerber formulated this in a good way:

    PLNs are deliberately formed networks of people and resources capable of guiding our interdependent learning goals and professional development needs 

      I don't claim to know how we empower our personal learning, but I'm intrigued about how we organize our own learning.  Formal education is recognized by institutions, but informal learning is often unaccredited.  My Master of Arts and Social Science determin the agency for my Personal Learning, but what would happen if we had assesment badges linked to our ePortfolio.

      Your description of common learning objectives as vehicles is very useful.  Then the PLN would be a portal to the world, where learners explore and create according to their own interest and directions. 

      This is where Erin's list can act as a template to help ourselves reflect on our own learning:



    Analyze and critique work/discipline  Blog  write a reading response to critique organizer-provided readings or published works 
      Wiki  summarize and categorize reviews of material; collaboratively build a review or summary of an opposing or another perspective 
      Forum  discuss/debate issues, topics, readings with others; generate questions to ask organizer or peers 
  • Paul Oh   March 11, 2012, 4:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 12:36 p.m.

    This is a little off the topic of this particular weekly task, but the first two items on your list helped crystallize a question for me, Bonita, that has to do with my own questions re: personal agency in learning as it relates to communities of practice. And that is, what responsibllity, if any, do we have while engaging in our own professional learning to create professional learning opportunities for our colleagues?

    My guess is many of us in this course have facilitated professional development and we are of course educators so we believe in facilitating learning opportunities for others. But what does that look like in this peer-to-peer model? Is it always a p2pu course? Is participation the key? What role does leadership development play, if any?

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   March 11, 2012, 4:37 p.m.

    So I read this Paul, and what I want to do is create a learning story where I link this to other miniconversations from our work here, like sub-outlines or something.  Wouldn't it be great if like in the program inspiration we had the abiltiy to link and doouble link ideas in a course/conversation to create a different sort of path of thinking? Is there anything out there online that offers that sort of flexibilty?

  • Paul Oh   March 12, 2012, 8:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

    I love the idea of a learning story, Bonita. I'll have to keep thinking about the kind of tool or tools that would allow for the kind of linking and looping you seem to have in mind.

  • Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 5:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jonas Backelin   March 8, 2012, 8:48 a.m.

    In reading this original post for the thread and subsequent comments, I am reminded of a notion that has been emerging in my head probably over the last year and half or so, which concerns the use of lists. This may get really abstract, but please bare with me as I try to articulate and do some wayfinding.

    I think that lists are kind of paradoxical. So often we need them as agents of order and structure for a myriad of disparate data. It is one of the simplest ways we make information out of data. They represent one of our most basic impulses to create meaning out of mess, including things like selecting, discerning, prioritizing, separating, and so on. They are important thinking tools, especially for the list creator. Even as a basic writing technique it has so many applications.

    Yet lists are so rarely compelling for anyone else other than the list creator or keeper. Rarely, does a list inspire anyone. In fact, I would argue that apart from the creator or keeper most people have an impulse to reject lists as prescriptive, limiting, over-simplification, onerous, unnecessary, and more. It brings to mind the idea of death by PowerPoint even. I, for one, have witnessed enough bullet points to outfit an army. Combine these uneasy feelings with the issue of length and it is compounded. The longer the list the more these turgid the feelings triggered.

    On some level, I think this contributed to Bonita's response, at least in part. I am reminded of some insights from Atul Gwande's The Checklist Manifesto. When advancing the idea of using a checklist for surgical preparations, most of the doctors rejected the idea of using one. Yet, when the same doctors were asked if they were to become patients would they want their surgeon to use a checklist, they almost unanimously replied with a "Yes."

    Obviously, we need lists and they can be really effective starting tools, but we don't like them so much unless we have created them. Yet, I always bristle at the notion that anything be reduced to a simple list, no matter how long. A list, for me, is simply a platform for beginning, a point of departure for more sophisticated and nuanced exploration. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for humans to feel inhibited or even mildly oppressed by a list, even the ones who create them.

    We can't avoid them but they never feel quite right.

    All that being said, the list you have created is a pretty impressive one. I am still mulling over how I might ponder the items and fashion one of my own, only to probably grow to despise it later.

  • karen   March 14, 2012, 7:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 11, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

    Would a concept mapping tool with web links and added notes work? If so, there are several.

    Here's a free one I like:

    I'm going to try this for mapping my own personal learning.

  • karen   March 14, 2012, 7:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 5:39 p.m.

    Very interesting, Fred.

    I must confess that I *love* lists. Evernote is one of my fav apps ever.

    In fact, now that you mention it, I always have a running list of ideas and things related to my personal learning. I guess for me, lists are one of the ways I brainstorm.

    And yes, sometimes I look at old lists and wonder "What was I thinking?" :)

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 15, 2012, 12:44 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Fred Haas   March 14, 2012, 5:39 p.m.

    "only to probably grow to despise it later." haha. Love your voice in writing, Fred. Giggling over your apt description of what lists do to us (and creating yet another list as I do.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 15, 2012, 12:46 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 14, 2012, 7:51 p.m.

    Yes, Karen!  That is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about.  So, for instance, if I put PD in one and started mapping, then others could jump in and map, too, right?  And it would be like a synthesis of ideas, perhaps?  Should we try it on the topic of PD since so many of us are interested in that here?

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   March 15, 2012, 12:47 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   March 14, 2012, 7:59 p.m.

    Haha.  Even lists I have written the day before can lead me to ask that question!