Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where a PLN and an LMS Become One (#PLENK2010)

I'm wondering if a blog post from nearly six years ago holds a similar perspective in today's terms which is central to topics being covered in PLENK2010.

Anderson lists some Advantages of an LMS which to me actually seem like disadvantages or at the very least, have no advantage at all.

  • Purposefully designed: Is this specific to an LMS?  It seems to me that a purposeful design has more to do with what the teacher does than the tool itself.

  • The capacity and functionality of tools designed to facilitate a net enabled class are now commonly understood by both learners and teachers and fit well with a cohort model of formal teaching and learning. Perhaps a cohort model of formal teaching and learning should not be the objective.

  • Institutional, teacher and student concerns over IP, privacy and support have been largely been addressed in current LMS systems. But does this equate to a more rigorous, relevant, and meaningful learning experience for the student?

  • Mature. There are many mature sites outside an LMS.

  • LMS systems have been around for about ten years and the primary interaction tools – threaded discussion groups for an additional 20 years, They are reliable, well supported by both vendors, development communities and typically institutional IT staff. There are many ways to communicate outside an LMS.

  • UniversalAdapative technologies are often available within LMS with little configuration required by learners or teachers. There are many adaptive technologies outside an LMS.

  • Safe and Secure Is being "safe and secure" really preparing the learner for the real world?

  • Educational institutions have long developed traditions of being safe places for the pursuit of learning and scholarship. One can reasonably expect to be treated fairly (or at least openly) and there are formal and informal norms adopted and enforced within contexts controlled by the institution. Such security is not provided on the open Net. This is redundant.  See comments above.

  • Learning at its best is personal and transformational. To accomplish this may require a sense of security whereby ideas, tones and emotions can be developed and shared. Learners have expectations that their comments, images and ideas are created and shared within this protected environment and are not available on the Open web, nor capable of being archived for decades and brought back to haunt the future. This will depend on the age and maturity level of the individual, but a capacity that is essential for all learners is to understand how to build a digital identity.  There are ways to prepare the "tones and emotions" beforehand while still having learners contribute to an open web.  Also, many spaces on the web allow for open and closed environments.  Finally, framing bad (online) experiences as haunting the learner in the future is the same as saying making mistakes is a bad thing.  It's all about preparing, guiding, and reflecting as the student contributions to the open web.

  • Ease of Use Same as above, is "ease of use" really preparing the learner for the real world?  There is a difference between ease of use and feasibility.

  • While developments in syndication technologies are rapidly improving, the challenge for a teacher or a learner to read through postings and their responses, in threaded or time stamped formats remains a challenge. Modern LMS systems default to easily support search, sort and organize postings in multiple formats. There are ways to do this outside the LMS.

  • Providing support to students for a single LMS system is relatively easy for learning services support staff. Such service can often be outsourced to 7*24 help desks if required. Ease of use argument.

  • Categories for postings are easily made, edited and expanded by teachers (for example typical LMS systems allow creation of informal coffee-room chats and threaded discussion areas, workspaces for teams and theme or chronological ordering of discourse. Categorization of blog posting even for those designed for a particular class are problematic, but become greater when a single PLE is used to contribute to personal, educational and vocational entries. There are technologies that exist today that enable the teacher to work smarter not harder.  There are ways to organize information in a public way.

  • Storing, uploading, archiving, editing and retrieval of course content is relatively easy in full featured LMS systems and usually undertaken by someone else – a prime requirement for effective backup! Storing, uploading, archiving, etc. can be done by teachers, students, and the community (i.e., anyone) in the open web.

  • LMS are the educational tools of today. The busy teacher or learner needs to invest little personal time and energy, but can ‘fall into” the supportive routines provided by educational support systems and expend their innovation energy in other directions. Are LMSs still the "educational tools of today"?  Plus, the tendency might be to set up a class in an LMS and then do little to contribute to it in the future.

  • My thoughts regarding the essential questions for this week follow.

    Can PLEs be seen as institutional level software?

    In part, yes.  If a course is offered in Moodle to degree-seeking students within an institution, that course more-than-likely will make up part of the learner's PLN (you say PLE, I say PLN).  I say more-than-likely because it depends on whether the student is getting anything out of the course, specifically what the student gets from the interaction of content and individuals that originate from the course offered in Moodle.  What the learner learns outside of the Moodle course constitutes the rest of the learner's PLE.

    Do PLEs require dramatic reform of the education system?

    Not in Mexico.  Even though we have courses in Moodle (blended and distance) and have restrictions to some websites when accessing the web at the university, the learners still have access to the web outside of the university which still contributes to their PLN in productive ways.  And although training teachers, admins. etc. to think in terms of a PLN is an ongoing process, I don't consider this as being a "dramatic reform of the education system".

    Must PLEs and LMS be seen as antagonistic to each other? Why can't they just get along?

    In my world, an "LMS" is just a part of a PLN (i.e., PLE) ; they are extensions of each other.  It's like those who just know me at school may or may not have the same understanding of who I am outside of school.  Even though I'm the same person, each network influences each other while maintaining some level of overlap between the two as well.

    This is why I don't like the term LMS and I avoid discussing whether an "LMS" is a good or bad thing.  It has little to do with the tool itself (or collection of tools) and more to do with how the tool is being used at any given moment.