I have been using personal learning networks long before I ever knew there was such an official name for it. I belong to several Facebook groups which are specific to teaching special education and primary grades. I have been an active member equally asking for and giving advice on a nearly daily basis. However, while attending a workshop this summer, I thought about PLNs and created another Facebook group for the teachers in my section. I was proud of myself for putting my course content into immediate action. I love Pinterest and am a “pinning” addict for both professional and personal advancement. Before this assignment though, I never considered the importance of etiquette when gaining knowledge from another person’s pin, post, or page. I now realize the importance of leaving a “thank you” comment or linking back to a helpful site. I always say thank you in person and I write personalized notes all the time, but it never occurred to me to do this online.
I used the basic principles of Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe) when planning this project. I started by establishing my goals, determining how I will assess myself, and then creating my learning plan. My goals were to bake round cake pops, get them to stay on the sticks, and produce an even candy coating. After meeting these goals I extended my learning to more advanced decorating techniques which you will see in Animoto video below. Determining formative and summative assessments was easy as making cake pops is a skill-based and sequential task. Therefore, I either demonstrated mastery or not. As the project progressed, I set additional goals for myself in relation to posting comments and extending my online connections. I probably would never have done this without the accountability factor from public proclamation. I created my learning plan by curating an online space using Pinterest. This allowed me to customize the descriptions of pins I found particularly helpful and delete those which did not pan out. In an age of information overload, curation is important. Collecting information, links, and apps without weeding out those which are not helpful can lead to what I call, “data hoarding.”
In the end this project was pretty clever. I learned how to blog, how to network online, and how to curate information, all under the guise of cake pops. These skills directly related to the readings from class. Putting the knowledge into practice through a self-directed project was very effective. This really hammered home the importance of academic choice and learning by doing, in order to create an authentic learning experience. As public educators we all want to provide our students with these opportunities, but we sometimes lose focus as the school year gets underway and we feel the pressures of standardized testing and teacher evaluation. Maybe I should make cake pops once a month for my students as a reminder of the importance of knowledge construction through personalized learning.
If you are thinking of exploring the world of cake pops, I suggest you proceed with caution. They seem like fun, but are a lot of work for a little bite. I suggest going to Starbucks and paying the (absolutely reasonable) $2.50 a pop, and enjoy the labors of someone else while playing with this app.