All these reflections stand for a static approach to the Zone of Proximal Development, that is, at a given time and at a given place. Indeed, in Vygotsky’s time, the boundaries of the ZPD were indeed very physical: the evolution of a wood carver’s craftsmanship was bound by the availability of master craftsmen and the possibility to be an apprentice in a nearby workshop.
But Information and Communication Technologies have capsized the whole previous scenario and, thus, the relationship between Personal Learning Environments and the Zone of Proximal Development should be approached not only within the state-of-things prior to the Internet, but also in how this state-of-things is shifting forward.
Thus, one way to look at the ZPD-PLE relationship is seeing the PLE as a way to build, fill in with or reach out for the tools and people that will help a learner through the ZPD. Another way to look at the ZPD-PLE relationship is how the PLE (re)defines the ZPD itself, continuously, dynamically.
Unlike in a world without digital access to information and communications, in a digital world content and people are available all at once. Maximalistically speaking, a PLE can be conformed by virtually everything that exists out in the cyberspace. If virtually everything is at reach, virtually everything can be understood as the more knowledgeable other. With a full, total, comprehensive access to the more knowledgeable other there virtually is no upper limit of the Zone of Proximal Development, there virtually is no level of problem solving that is unreachable for the student.
The PLE, has then two roles in relationship with the ZPD:
It helps in building the inner structure of the ZPD, its components. It helps in building the outer structure of the ZPD, its boundaries.
There is a sort of corollary to the previous second statement. In Vygotsky’s time, learning — and hence the ZPD — was sort of linear: woodcarving apprentices would move “up” to a new master craftsman once they had mastered some skills themselves with the help of their previous/actual master. Progress would end when there were no more master craftsmen around whom to learn from. On the other hand, learning face to face with a human more knowledgeable other meant not only that one had to “use them up” but that one could not “consume” any other more knowledgeable others: learning was unidirectional, linear.
When MKOs are conformed by all kind of tacit and explicit knowledge constructs in one’s PLE, there is no way of (a) “using them up” and (b) not being able to move in parallel with more than one more knowledgeable other. We can then think of the PLE both as the biggest ZPD possible, or as the overlapping of different snapshots of a PLE that evolves “fractalically”, multidirectionally, on time, on demand, until it (potentially) covers the whole cyberlandscape.
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Innovating thinking is one of those awkward concepts in education–one that is often espoused, but isn’t measured, reported on, trained around, or celebrated. It’s just sort of there.
Innovative thinking in students will flower when we design classrooms that absolutely can’t survive without it. Same with critical thinking, self-direction, creativity, and so on. Until we reach that point, it’s on the shoulders of the classroom teacher to tease it out of students through a combination of inspiration, modeling, scaffolding, and creating persistent opportunity.
The following graphic by Mia MacMeekin offers 27 ways to think about this idea. As usual, some of the tips are better than others–“Flip: Start from the End” makes sense, but may or may not promote innovation. The same with “Grow: Grow with each approach.”
Do you know the answer to the next simple question? "What do you know about web 2.0 technology?" What's so interesting about this video, is the simple fact that none of these so called digital natives are familiar with the term web 2.0. Although they never had a life without technology, they just don't know…
PBL can allow for effective differentiation in assessment as well as daily management and instruction. PBL experts will tell you this, but I often hear teachers ask for real examples, specifics to help them contextualize what it "looks like" in the classroom. We all need to try out specific ideas and strategies to get our brains working in a different context. Here are some specific differentiation strategies to use during a PBL project.
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