The Networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy

Drexler, W. (2010). The Networked student model for construction of personal learning environments:  Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 26(3), p369-385.  

Personal Learning Environments are essential if students are to move from traditional instructional methods that use a textbook and teacher expert to impart knowledge, towards constructivist methods in which students learn through constructing meaning.  Not much, though, has been said about what needs to be done to teach students how to make and then utilize a PLE.  In this article the Networked Student Model is described and used to help fifteen high school students create PLEs that they then use to conduct personalized research on a topic.  Results from the study are used to consider what kinds of scaffolding teachers need to offer students in the construction of PLEs and what balance between teacher structure and learner autonomy will best serve K-12 students.

This is the first time I have seen an article talk about the need to start teaching students how to create PLEs to manage their learning, though I have already seen with students now receiving one-to-one devices that instruction in how to manage resources needs to start immediately.  The classroom in this study uses the Networked Student Model, which provides four specific parts students need to include in their PLE:  1) academic social contact, 2) synchronous communication, 3) information management and 4) RSS.  The article describes how the teacher introduced these parts to students and then how the class used these elements to complete a research project.  Student reflections on the process are also included, providing insight into how they responded to the process.  I don’t know many schools that are teaching or guiding students in creating PLEs, but this is definitely something students need and this article can start you thinking about how that might be accomplished.

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