Cobbling Together an LMS: Towards Self-Directed Learning

What is self-directed learning?

On several occasions, I've had the opportunity to share my perspective on which learning management system is the one to use. Of course, my response has changed over time and no longer is "Moodle!" my enthusiastic answer to this question. Unfortunately, the persons who have asked that question get a bit perplexed when I encourage them to consider using GoogleApps, Edmodo, video/audio to build an online learning experience...they still want what they consider easy, a SINGLE integrated tool, that albeit clunky, will match their vision of learning online needs to be. GoogleApps offers many phenomenal tools, which are reviewed in this blog entry, The Amazing Power of GoogleApps for Education, on the subject.

Ryan Bretag hits the nail on the head with his post, GoogleApps: Not Your Mom-and-Pop LMS, when he writes about the attitude inherent in those who adhere to a single LMS like Moodle, Instructure's Canvas, Sakai, etc. In his blog entry, he points out that it is...
...a belief in One Managed System that has Learning functionality...As I’ve said before, the full suite of Google Apps including Google+ makes an LMS like Moodle one dimensional at a bestAnd that one dimension takes us back to the key word: management...And let’s be honest, it all comes down to loss of control and the loss of that standardized package given to teachers. With Google, it is giving the learner and teacher an open suite that they build and structure as needed. It is malleable. It is fluid. It is non-linear.
As school district educators, we should be re-evaluating our teaching tools and approaches. Re-aligning the new approaches with our fundamental goals. And, I suppose that's where the problem may lie. We are caught up in our fundamental goals, goals that find it difficult to enhance teaching and learning as a community experience, a shared process made better by approaching learning as being in the connections instead of the knowledge-givers...of assessment being in what we create and share rather than what other projects define for us to complete alone or for limited audiences.

Research affirms the importance of Personal Motivation in changing behavior: People who thought deeply about their most important personal values committed 44% fewer errors in a button-pushing task than others, says a team at Clarkson University. Source: VitalSmarts

If self-directed learning is a value, what decisions would we make differently when it comes to choosing how approach learning platforms, LMSs, etc.?

We simply want to tell students what to learn. We are "the experts" but I want to change my approach and encourage others to as well.
“This issue of self-direction is absolutely essential,” he said. “The culture of education today is such that … only the most cutting-edge learning environments are really teaching and allowing kids to be self-directed. That’s a real misfire today.”
Jobs of the 21st century are fundamentally self-directed, and education—pedagogy in particular—must change in response to that, Kay said, adding: “We are going to need an educational system that encourages self-direction.” (Source: Education Week)

Make no mistake...cutting-edge learning environments that allow learners to be self-directed are where it is at. I sense a mountain of resentment when I'm told to learn something, to use ONE technology (e.g. paper-n-pencil, computer, iPad, whatever) but when I'm invited to explore, to make my own connections with a text, with ideas, I'm inclined to blog it, to curate content, to do more with various devices. We sacrifice self-directed learning on the altar of our perceived ignorance, though, because we feel we must sacrifice self-direction to someone who has more experience, knows more...but that's an old approach, isn't it? If one's commitment, passion to learn is present, the Web allows us to move more quickly to acquire ideas and information then, only then, is the wisdom of a community needed...and that community is global, our learning fate, so to speak, no longer in the hands of the one, but of the many.

You know, I would like to think I'm moving along a continuum away from what I've been to where I need to be as an educator, as a person who puts into place platforms that facilitate the transitions that need to be made. But, I wonder if this isn't a bit like playing god. 

Here are some possible examples of what I'm aiming for. Am I aiming high enough, or could my vision use correction? What do you think?

As a person who writes, I would like to see a virtual course addressing writing for staff. In all honesty, I imagined a MOOC (seen the site?) that would address writing/reading workshop, a topic I've often explored in this blog. I could easily build this kind of learning experience in a Moodle, but what about taking small easy to use components like a wiki for organizational framework for resources like videos, audio and text, Edmodo for discussions (e.g. Google Plus isn't quite available yet), and some tracking mechanism. The term "small bits loosely joined" comes to mind.

This online site would be organized as a virtual course featuring syllabus, organized resources (in Google Sites), as well as audio, video, text and discussion boards (to beEdmodo). The main benefit is that if you have access to content experts, you can build an online course fairly quickly.

The organization of the web site/course could look something like this:
  1. The Modules section of this Open Educational Resources (OER) course -
  2. Short Story Writing -
  3. More examples below....
Participants could earn credit by watching videos and completing an activity in our professional development tracking system. As a user, I'd start at the Google Sites wiki, participate in guided conversations about content when appropriate, and/or watch videos, review resources independently then complete an assessment via Eduphoria Workshops to earn CPE credit.

Here are some additional examples...try not to get caught up in the tools available (they are legion) and focus more on the organization of a course. You can see the course online by clicking on the link in small print below each image.

Some of my own work:

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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