I've just returned from the ISTE Conference in Denver and had many take-aways, but a big one was about the merging of formal and non-formal learning environments. During a keynote panel discussion, Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US DOE, challenged the audience (mostly teachers and technology coordinators) to start accepting that kids are learning as much or more out of school than in it. This happens because many schools do not allow or make available the tools students want to use to learn with depth and breadth. And students don't separate their 'learning lives' into artificial subject areas and standards. They just go after the information they need to address their learning needs.
What can we learn from them? What would happen if all teachers could figure out a way to propose problems, challenges, quests, and journeys to kids, teach them some strategies, immerse them in a learning environment and let them go?
Take a look at this video about a girl's Personal Learning Environment. She is participating in a project that her (obviously flexible, net-savvy, and enlightened) teacher is doing on networked learning. She is using an application called Symbaloo and you need two hands to count the number of websites, resources, and tools she uses to do her work (in a 3-minute video).
Be sure to listen to the last minute. I love her quote: "We like learning this way because we have more freedom...it's not that I don't have to do the work, I just get to choose how to do it." Freedom to learn the way they want...wouldn't we all prefer that? Been in a corporate or college class lately?
And then we got bored
10 hours ago