Monday, August 10, 2009

Participatory Learning…intrinsic motivation

WOW! I’m overwhelmed!

I just viewed, re-viewed, and viewed again and again, this website to learn all about Participatory Learning. It is  a college (mostly)/high school (some) class that starts Sept 9, 2009…ONLINE. It is best that you go to the site and learn all about it on your own. (Too much information to be explained here!)

Though I will say a few words about it, mostly what I am thinking is how does this apply to elementary school – my area of expertise?

From the website, this class strives to, “… create a learning environment more conducive to producing the types of questions that create lifelong learners rather than savvy test-takers.”{my bold, color, and underlining} 

In this class, a college professor/teacher travels around South America, starting in Peru for sure. Then by votes of the class participants, he travels to 3 other South American countries.  This class continues for 4 college quarters – one country per quarter. Students participate by asking questions, requesting information, visits, and interviews, etc., which will be provided by various sources, partly through the intervention of the college professor traveling in the country and then ultimately the students will make projects (of various types via an e-portfolio, in essence).

For those of you who will not go to the site to read more, another (rather long, SORRY!) quote from the site:

”this class seeks to use well-being and sustainability issues for the provision of meaning and significance–always in a framework where cooperative behavior is more valued than competitive behavior. In today’s schools, the joy of working together and helping others achieve a common goal becomes nearly impossible under the competitive philosophy that predominates. Under the banner of competitive education, other learners become opponents. Helping fellow students learn becomes a losing strategy when students compete for class rank. At this learning space, by framing group behavior differently, learners benefit from each other’s success. Cooperative behavior becomes more valuable than competitive behavior. Sharing is beneficial. Learners get to practice and learn how to work toward common goals. In an age where our biggest challenges are globally interconnected (i.e. climate change, global markets, environmental degradation, communicable diseases like AIDS, SARS, spread of violent ideologies…) it would seem that learning how to work effectively with others–as opposed to against others– would be in great demand.”

The teacher/facilitator, Bill Ferren, touts Will Richardson and his ideas when he states that Will,

"who writes extensively on these matters, believes that, “One of the biggest challenges educators face right now is figuring out how to help students create, navigate, and grow the powerful, individualized networks of learning that bloom on the Web and helping them do this effectively, ethically, and safely.”(see article) {Once again --my bold, color, and underlining} 

He feels that his online Participatory Learning class will accomplish this challenge for his (mostly) college/high school (some) students.  This goal/challenge quoted above by Will Richardson, is something that can be taught/facilitated and the beginnings of accomplishment earned at the elementary level as well.

Bill Ferren, the author/professor, also uses an interview with Mike Wesch, US Professor of the Year to enlighten the viewer about what he is trying to accomplish in his Participatory Learning class. Michael Wesch’s interview video is quite stimulating (as those of you have ever watched Michael Wesch before already might expect!)

All in all, a great journey down a path to learning that we all may want, but how do we get there in today’s climate? with today’s school boards? and today’s budgets? and today’s NCLB testing!

What can you do to make this shift closer to reality, even in elementary school

Let me know your ideas, thoughts, and plans.

P.S. I got to the very end of this post and realized that I have not even mentioned intrinsic motivation – a part of the title that I intended when I started this post… If you go to the site, you will find Bill Ferren’s thoughts about intrinsic motivation as well.  That can be an “Easter Egg” for you to look for! LOL

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