Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mix'n'Match Learning Environments

Teachers are joining the re-mix culture - in a bold way and at their own pace.

While some are thinking about which LMS the organisation should use from 2012 an increasing number of teachers are customising their own learning environments to suit their personal eLearning journey, learner needs and course requirements.

These teachers no longer feel bound to one system and are exploring different combinations of environments - often challenging themselves to take another step on their journey at a measured pace. In this way they are taking control of their own professional learning and having more say in the provision of ICT services for their learners.

In a surprising number of classes teachers are further customising their mix'n'match learning environments with components or services suggested by their students.
Some mix'n'match examples this year are:

Generally teachers have a learning 'base camp' which is often in a Moodle or Wiki with links from their directly to groups, channels or 'secret urls' in other services. Students are required to manage the different usernames/passwords but this has provided an opportunity to discuss password management systems and Open IDs - something many students are happy to learn about.

More tech-savvy teachers are integrating a range of services back to Moodle - usually through one of the many outside hosting services available which have become easier to use and cheaper.

Many of the above DIY learning environments are used for 'blended learning' and take advantage of student access to mobile computing and home broadband. In fact some components of the mix'n'match combinations are not accessible on campus due to bandwidth or firewall issues. This has not been a significant problem because either these components are optional or students access them through wired, wirelesss or USB broadband at home.

Teachers are also setting up student ICT support models - usually somewhere within the mix'n'match learning environment. For some it's a forum in Mahara, for others discussion pages on a Wiki or a closed group in Facebook. While visiting a class last week I over-heard students designing their own 'help network' independently of the teacher.

One interesting change I've noticed in classes where mix'n'match environments are used is in student attitude and ownership. Students are asking questions about the learning environment and the following discussion is often about learning and learning processes. Students have referred to "our" page/site/group and often come up with suggestions to customise it to make it easier to use.

There is also a new respect for the teacher who is clearly making an effort to construct a useful online learning environment and can be seen at times to be stretching themselves beyond their comfort zones - by choice.

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