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This year, I am working with Mark Turner and the Building Futures (Airdrie) students on a project to build digital identity and social reputation in authentic online environments. The project was designed to support open educational practice (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts by creating a continuum that supports open readiness for all learners.
The K-12 Open Learning Continuum is an ongoing, iterative continuum that has formal learning on one end, non-formal learning on the other end and a pile of learning in between.
Because the learning environments include K-12 learners, there are ethical, policy, privacy and cognitive factors that influence every learner, from the teacher to the student. As such, the stages of open learning for K-12 learning environments include specific stages based on careful consideration of:
- the trust and relationship between the teacher and student,
- the digital literacy skills of the learner (learners can get too focused on a tool and lose sight of the intention to share their learning experiences),
- the cognitive and developmental level of the learner;
- the consideration of a learner’s digital identity in terms of future implications and;
- the school district policy and government privacy laws.
We needed to start by demonstrating what a learning design by a student, but facilitated by a teacher, could look like. So, we are using Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory as a lens in which to consider how to connect different learning cultures (formal and non-formal learning environments). Much of Vygotsky’s philosophical writing stems from observation of learners in realistic settings. He would watch “regular” Russian children learn by interacting with deaf children and children who spoke Russian as a second language. By watching how children interacted with each other, he could describe how they learned with each other as they tried to communicate.
Similarly, Vygotsky also watched children playing with sticks as toys. The children pivoted from one play scenario to the other by using the stick as a pivot to help them switch between different worlds (often known as Figured Worlds).
As I watch my own children playing and learning at home, they also constantly switch between different worlds, especially networked worlds in which they connect and learn with their peers. I started to consider some of the intentional learning opportunities that could be offered to K-12 learners and how we, as teachers, could create pivots in our classrooms – ultimately driven by the students.
The open learning design intervention (OLDI) Version 1 has been piloted throughout the year in various iterations. This is what the current OLDI model looks like:
The stages of OLDI occur in iterative cycles:
Stage 1: Focus on Learner Context – Build Relationships
Stage 2: Development of Digital Literacies
Stage 3: Find Your Yoda
Stage 4: Be a Yoda
Focus on Learner Context – Revisit Relationships
In order to consider how to support Open Educational Practice in K-12 learning contexts by developing pivots in our classrooms, I have been working in collaboration with teachers in my K-12 school district. We have been creating a learning design that describes how to bridge from formal to non-formal learning environments.
The first stage is all about developing relationships between all learners which includes student- teacher and student-student relationships.
The second stage includes a wide variety of activities to develop digital skills, abilities and knowledge with a focus on digital literacies. The topics ranged from basic digital skills like building and adding artifacts into google folders , completing the Power Searching with Google Course, webconferencing with the Centre for Global Education, completing the MediaSmarts lesson on Online Relationships: Respect and Consent and examining digital privacy by searching for holiday presents on Mozilla’s privacy not included list.
The third phase has focused on interactions, collaborations and connections between the learners and non-formal learning contexts (like building a house with tradesmen, community partners, connecting with other students around the world, connecting with other teachers, and talking to family members and other community experts). We like to call this phase the “Find your Yoda” phase, where students look out beyond their formal classroom learning environment to find and connect with people and other learning opportunities that are authentic to them.
The last phase (…of this iteration because you never stop learning)…. is an opportunity for student to reflect upon their learning pathway, and give back to others. This phase is called “Be a Yoda”. In this stage, the student will focus on exchanging, sharing and collecting learning artifacts and supporting other learners while building a sustainable Personal Learning Network/Environment This is the phase we are currently still working on as students transition from “finding” their passion to sharing it with others. I am REALLY excited about the possibilities of sustainable learning opportunities for K-12 learners.
It is important to note that many of the students have really struggled with phase 2 and might not enter phase 3 in a “timely” fashion. The fact that learners need their own time in which to learn is demonstrated daily by our learners who struggle with the idea of what the teacher expects as opposed to what the learner needs to figure out for themselves. In general, the students are still waiting for the teachers to hand over the learning as opposed to the students finding the learning for themselves. I wonder if this is actually an age thing – as many adult learners struggle with this concept as well.
In fact, their final reflections and projects may reveal what their “Be a Yoda and Personal Learning Network” plans are, instead of describing the process of “how I am becoming a Yoda or Developing a PLN ”. Mark and I have already considered some more collaborative designs which include some group “Find a Yoda” learning activities BEFORE considering individual Find a Yoda activities for next year. Vygotsky focused on collaborations and interactions before learners could reflect about their individual contexts and we obviously need to scaffold MORE collaborations, interactions and connections.
Overall, the experience of watching my fellow teachers and the students experience the opportunity to learn in the open has been tremendously successful. The students have had opportunities to consider other learning opportunities and they know how to pivot to those different nodes of learning themselves. I look forward to my more formal research in this project next year, as I take this time to reflect and consider the potential of open educational practice in K-12 learning environments.