20 August 2013

Narratives of Learning

The similarities of maps and learning often cross my mind. Not because learning is linear and there is a clear cut destination in sight - no. Maps offer exploration, maps offer open possibilities and that is what learning may often be about, i.e. the openness in learning. Obviously in any formal setting there will be a syllabus, a destination to accomplish; that is how formal learning has been established,  like building blocks, where there are steps to reach a destination. 

At the beginning of an academic year, one's mind may reflect on how best to connect with students, how to build communities of learning and the setting of course objectives. I think of maps and narratives, the narratives of learning.  I think of past lessons which I considered went well, and lessons which I considered that didn't go so well. I think of the learning that may have occurred or not. And whether I like it or not, there will be gaps in between. There will be gaps between what I had hoped that students learnt and what they actually liked/disliked in the lesson. And there will also be gaps between the measuring and the "performing" of something learnt. 

It is this space in between, this space of maps and explorations, this space of gaps,  that needs to be bridged and addressed in classrooms. 

Dave Cormier explains rhizomatic learning as never ending and e-portfolios are, to me, an example of rhizomatic learning in the sense that the "learning" does not end at the classroom door (that is, if it ever took place at all within the classroom).

E-portfolios extend learning, reflect an ongoing and developing process. They may be on a theme, a topic or a display of digital tools that students have learnt to use for digital storytelling or any other focus of work which interests them. It is not necessarily homework to be revised for the next day. Neither does it imply that writing students, for example,  post all their work publicly. E-portfolios are not diaries either, while there needs to be sensible options for every context and educational culture.

For example, LiveBinders is a great way for students to share their essays, write-ups and references only with who they wish. I tend to be a believer of using blogs for e-portfolios, which also brings me to explain that no, a teacher does not need to be a blogger him/herself. There are plenty of videos available, explaining how to set up a blog (whether with Blogger, Wordpress or another platform suitable for learners), though of course, it does help if the teacher is able to guide learners while setting up their first blog. 

Regardless of the platform (i.e. whether blogs, or curation or individual/shared binders such as LiveBinders), e-portfolios add to the elusive sense of creating an active learning environment beyond the classroom. We need to remember that we are living a hybrid life, i.e. today we are participants in both physical and virtual communities, and that this increasingly characterises modern life. Students too are part of that modernity and should have learning opportunities to match. 

Students also have their own personal talents and interests; these too need to be explored. In the words of Sir Ken Robinson: "Communities depend upon a diversity of talent; not a singular conception of ability". 

E-portfolios give this space to learners, a space to showcase their interests and passions, a space for mapping their own learning narratives. Using social media such as blogs and curation platforms is being coherent with our hybrid times, providing learners with further experience in media literacy, networking and a reflection of their own individualised map of learning.

How do you foster narratives of learning?

Further References:

Cormier, D.,  Rhizomatic Learning in Action

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