Category Archives: Personalisation

The Power of Presence and Portability

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I’ve been reflecting a bit on my experiences here in Malaysia this morning – particularly in terms of what it has meant for me in terms of working away from my home and family for extended periods of time, and have realised just important a number of the technologies that I now take for granted are to me.

For instance, on my computer my Skype and iChat windows automatically open when my computer is switched on, thus I have to make a conscious decision NOT to work with them running rather than the other way around. This provides me with a “virtual presence” whenever I am online, and the ability to see which of my friends and colleagues are online. There’s seldom been a time when I’ve opened my computer during my time here that I haven’t been “interrupted” by someone wanting to connect for a variety of reasons – from friends simply inquiring how things are going through to colleagues with specific questions etc. This has allowed me to remain connected to and involved in the range of things I have on my programme back in NZ.

In our project here in Malaysia, we have used these same tools to provide synchronous opportunities for teachers and students in Malaysia to connect with peers in New Zealand, and it has been interesting to see how these first time users have adapted and adopted these new technologies very quickly – such that I now have an ever growing list of names on my contact list!

Another thing I’ve come to rely on is the ability to simply open my computer up wherever I am and be able to connect to the internet – whether by wireless (which is being implemented in a big way here in Perak) or by plugging into a cable in a school or hotel room. This relative ‘portablility’ allows me to remain connected and involved regardless of my physical location.

The combination then of the communications software that provides me with this sense of presence, the laptop I carry and the wireless access that allows for portability, and the fact that I can so easily personalise these tools provides me with an increasing sense of what a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is and can be.

It was of interest to read this morning news that Sony and British Telecom have joined forces to integrate the PSP with BT Broadband’s video and voice softphone VoIP software, meaning that calls will be free, with the customer only having to pay for the BT broadband subscription! This will certainly introduce a more mobile connectivity tool into the mix, and must certainly be a sign of things to come as we become more mobile!

Perspectives on Personalising Learning

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I’ve just been listening again to Evangeline Stefanakis and Helen Barrett at the CORE Breakfast session, speaking about the use of ePortfolios and the ways in which these can support the goals of personalising learning. While the idea of personalising learning sounds good in principle, there are many ways in which the idea may be manifest in practice. All of these require that we confront our existing ideas and understandings about schools, teaching and classroom practice.

The frame above is from a 9 minute video that comes from the The Consortium for School Networking’s 21th annual conference that kicked off March 28 in San Francisco. It features Chris Dede offering some thoughts on personalising learning and the challenges it brings. Chris interviews two speakers who are working to create personalised learning experiences for students:

  • Jean Johnson, the project director of NotSchool.net, and

  • Jack Dale, the superintendant of the Fairfax County Public School district where they are implementing an Individualised Learning Plan for every student!

In his introduction Dede compares education with the acts of sleeping, eating and bonding. Sleeping, according to Dede, is a relatively easy task whose outcome depends on relatively few variables. Bonding on the other hand is quite complex. Dede says that too often we treat learning as if it were sleeping, while everything we know about learning suggests that it is more like bonding – or at worst, like eating. But, says Dede, the very best of our education settings has less variety than a bad fast food restaurant!

The clip contributes some useful thoughts to the Personalising Learning discussion – I particularly appreciated the latter part where the panel engage in discussion around some of the issues about implementing a personalised approach within the existing school system. Dede’s final comment is worth noting – he points out that the major issue is with breaking down the social and political barriers – pointing out that technology will only ever take us part of the way towards the personalised learning dream.

A final point – although I was pointed to this clip through a link on personalising learning – the actual title of the session refers to individualised instruction – obviously the nomenclature issue is still to be resolved!