Learning is Messy Business… and Other Reflections

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Learning is Messy Business

(The Liminal Learning Space)

After reflecting on the past couple weeks of my study, I’ve been made aware, yet again, that learning is a messy (but glorious) business (Didau, 2016, February 10). Learning often entails taking a risk, moving into the liminal, and making many mistakes. Whether it be a conceptual misunderstanding or a blatant mistake (like accidentally tweeting a draft PLN post!), experiences such as these are all a necessary part of learning. We don’t learn perfectly. Mistakes WILL be made. But we will come out the other side wiser and with a greater understanding. Trying to insulate ourselves from making a mess limits our potential and stunts our learning.

Which leads to the question… Do we allow and encourage our students to make mistakes? Do we focus on the process or the product? Do we support them emotionally and encourage them to take risks? Or do we scaffold them so heavily that their learning is smothered?

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We’re All Wired Differently to Learn

(The Personal Learning Space)

While considering how to provide personalized learning spaces for students, I have reflected on my own preferred learning space. Like it or not, I learn through writing. Whether it be typing notes from readings, or writing drafts for assignments, concepts “click”, the lights go on, and understandings are made when I write.  Writing can be time-consuming and tedious, but I did not get to choose my own learning style or “intelligence” (Gardner, 2011) – it’s just how I’m wired. As an adult, I often have the freedom to engineer my learning spaces to accommodate my need to write. I usually have the liberty of organizing my schedule so that I can carve out some time, select a quiet place, and grab an instrument for writing (usually my laptop).

Are we doing the same for our students? Do we recognize their different learning styles and spaces and do our best to accommodate them?

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The Power of the e-Space

(The e-Space)

We all know that the internet has caused the world to be a smaller place and that it now allows the knowledge of combined humanity to be at our fingertips, but do we remember to utilize its power? As shared before, digital dexterity and literacy are two of my reoccurring challenges this semester. I began keeping a file of Web 2.0 apps I would like to explore, only to discover this excellent website (posted by @kylieoloughlin) with a ready-made compilation of lists. It reminded me again that I was grossly under-utilizing the incredible power of the e-Space. If a Web 2.0 app list was something I wished I had, it has no doubt crossed the mind of someone else in cyberspace too. Why reinvent the wheel?

What about our students? Do we encourage them to Google resources, or do we hand them to them on a platter? Do we model and coax the use of this powerful resource, or do we neglect this robust learning space?

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Group Work Needs to Be Engineered

(The Group Learning Space)

Educational outcomes are an important factor in group work. Unless the focus is on personal development (e.g. learning to cope with group dynamics, overcoming shyness or enhancing articulation or self-assertion skills), careful and intentional structuring of group work is essential (TVOparents, 2010). This has finally “clicked” for me. I have never been a real fan of group work. In my own experiences as a student, parent, and teacher, I was often frustrated by the lack of equitability in group tasks, but after further exploring the ideas of Dr. Spencer Kagan (http://www.kaganonline.com), I can now see the merits of using group work as a valid and effective pedagogy. I am now realizing that the key is in how it is structured.

Do we as educators utilize the power of the group learning space? Do we intentionally select the form of group work we employ as a reflection of our desired outcomes? 

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The Necessity of a LMS (Learning Management System)

(The Classroom Learning Space)

The classroom learning space in the home-school context is an interesting one! More often than not, the home educator is faced with simultaneously educating multiple students in multiple grades. Upon reflection of my own home-schooling journey, I realized that I had in essence developed my own personal learning management system (LMS) in order to organize and facilitate my students’ schooling. The LMS I created had been a critical factor in ensuring all educational outcomes were achieved while simultaneously managing the students’ learning spaces. Daily tasks, WIP (current assignments), legal documentation and correspondence with state authorities, record keeping, and student work portfolios can all be expertly and efficiently tracked, executed, monitored and stored in a LMS created by the home educator. A learning management system is surprisingly easy to set up on platforms such as Google Docs and Google Drive and for me, it was a critical factor in successfully coordinating the home-school classroom learning space.

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Beyond the Classroom Space: It’s A Mindset!

(Beyond the Classroom Learning Space)

Sometime during the past couple of weeks, it dawned on me that utilizing the learning space beyond the home-school classroom is a matter of mindset! Furthermore, home educators have the unique opportunity to extend learning and education beyond the four walls or the school-time hours all day, every day. By simply resolving to use every ounce of life as a learning experience, this learning space’s parameters are infinitely extended. Activities such as involving the students in day-to-day family activities like budgeting or enlisting their help in a home-based business can present opportunities for situated learning where students apply their knowledge, understandings, and skills to novel, real-life situations (Bentley, 2012).

Click here to watch a quick, fun, inspirational slideshow regarding the utilization of the “beyond the classroom” learning space via our own home business, KM Hawaii Stand-up Paddle Boards.  

Still learning and reflecting…

Judy

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