Learning, 21st Century style.

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to use Drupal. The motivation for this is my husband’s business that needs a web presence. I set something up in Google Sites but had a look at what some businesses had achieved with Drupal and thought that might be a better option. My problem was I have never used Drupal, knew nothing about it and needed to find out how to approach setting something up.


So what did I do? I went straight to twitter and asked people there to point me in the direction of tutorials that might help me.  Did I get help? Absolutely. Links were provided, twitter names were offered as go to people and I connected with some followers who I hadn’t  connected with before. So why am I telling you this?

I was in a PLP fellows meeting and we were discussing the successes and challenges we were having with teams in our cohorts. The discussion led by Sheryl and Will was centred around how we have to connect what we are trying to do to learning rather than focusing on teaching Web 2.0 tools acquisition.  The idea was that it isn’t the tool that should be the focus but rather how that tool can be the effective medium for the learning possibilities for our students. Now I totally agree with this, it’s the kind of thinking I believe and it’s what I try and focus on when I discuss adoption of new ideas in my school setting.  However, there is no avoiding the fact that at some point teaching the tools has to happen. Our teachers need to feel competent dealing with blogs, wikis, nings, voicethread, and any other web 2.0 app that has the ability to connect our kids with one another and the outside world. My feeling is if they don’t feel confident they will be less likely to adopt these ideas as permanent shifts in their classroom practice.

I was making the point that I could empathise with how some of our staff are feeling since I’ve started exploring drupal. I feel ‘dumb’ for want of a better word; I can’t figure out where best to start and it all seems a bit overwhelming. Similar to feelings I had just over a year or so ago when I started exploring new technologies.  Will countered me by suggesting that my learning is now different. He asked “Did I go and buy a manual or did I go to my network first”?  The point he was making was that I learn differently now and this is the kind of thing I need to impress upon the teachers and students I interact with. My community of learners has shaped my attitude and actions and this very powerful learning is something that our colleagues and students need to benefit from also.

There are many challenges ahead for us if we want  to see systemic change happen. I need to remember that small steps are OK   – they will muster support and allow us to start taking larger steps, maybe even leaps.   

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

11 Replies to “Learning, 21st Century style.”

  1. Jenny,

    I agree 100%. I’m particularly impressed by how effective twitter has become for me with respects to my PLN.

    I was a big fan of listservs but the quick and concise nature of twitter fits my style so much more.

    As for thoughts on systemic change, it seems that you, Alex Ragone, and I have articulated the baby step theme as the best approach within the past week. Uncanny? Or is this a realization and or acceptance that changes in school culture take time and need support from the inside out?

    I enjoyed the post.


    1. That is interesting isn’t it Hiram? I think when I started I thought I was going to be able to effect change easily, because I was so blown away by what was now possible. Like you, I’ve come to the realisation that I need to be happy with the small victories, because they will take us to the next step. What’s wonderful about PLP is having the learning community to support you. People like you, Susan, Alex and Elizabeth are enriching my learning and we are supporting one another. And that is important.

  2. Jenny
    Baby steps are great, I hope ed leaders actively engage as well. One thing saying or supporting and completely another to actually get in and do.

    The think global/act local approach is building. As participants expand PLNs there is more “cross pollination” so to speak, the network amplifies. The ‘us share’ is building, the ‘me or you’ in isolated silos is decreasing

    Locally one colleague has gone from never using/owing/ switching on a PC to using Netvibes, RSS and wikis with confidence, in 4 months. Thats awesome learning.

    My Twitterwork has helped me recently find quality faster and helps me think about the next thing I want to learn or improve and offers guidance. My SL mirrors your Drupal, just something I want to learn, the offers of assistance came thick and fast.

    Enjoyed your post, tweet you on Twitter


    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Tony. I agree that the leaders in our networks and at school admin level need to actively engage to support we staff working at ground level try to implement change. I feel lucky to have a supportive principal but would like to see him adopt some of the tools. I think they would expand his learning exponentionally. See you on Twitter!

  3. As someone who has always (since around the early 80s) valued the computer as a tool that motivated and supported my learning and someone who lives as an expat, I had an easy transition to a connected learning network. I am interested to see that some of the relative newcomers have been hooked to this way of learning recently.
    As a facillitator for teachers, I am interested to know what motivated newbees to use ICT for their learning network and thus got them over the peak of frustration with the use of a new tool?
    Also followed the link to the PLP. Keen to know more about getting onboard but my lack of a regular income from a school may be a problem.

    1. From my perspective Paul, it was taking the leap into writing this blog that helped me to form the connections I needed to establish a personal learning Network. I see joining the PLP as a means of introducing newbies to the benefits of immersion in a learning community that is using the tools to form the connections. We operate in a private ning and have the benefit of many expert voices to support those new to this type of learning. It’s really a very high entry point and newcomers who are unfamiliar with the names probably don’t realise how fortunate they are to be able to establish connections so easily. The cohort I am involved with is Sheryl and Will’s first foray into the international scene. We have 8 Australian schools, a group from New Zealand and 9 American Schools. Other cohorts operate in the United States.

  4. As usual you’re insightful and exactly right. I was running a Web 2.0 course yesterday and I think I mentioned ‘Web 2.0’ a couple of times at the beginning and about once at the end. I much prefer the far more technical term ‘stuff’. 😉

    The tools are almost irrelevant. The focus and the activity are what is important, and I spend all my teaching time trying to change the mindset. It’s not ‘this is how this tool works’ it’s much more ‘how can you use this tool – to make your life easier or to make you more effective, or to help your users better’. I think it also helps to suggest several tools that do the same job, so I’ll point out Pageflakes, Netvibes and iGoogle for example, we’ll talk about how a start page can do a useful job and then people can go off and look at which of the tools interests them. A focus on the tools is Sooooooooo Web 1.0 dahling! 😉

    Loved the point you made about learning and use of Twitter for that. I’ll be remembering to use that example when I’m talking about it.


    1. Thanks for the comment Phil. Very high praise indeed from someone I respect so much. And you are exactly right in what you say. It’s not the tools, it’s how they can change the way we do things and how this can then be of benefit to us. I’ll be quoting you!

Leave a Reply to jennylu Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: