Big Books and Personal Learning Landscapes

Dave Tosh has recently written that:

Gone are the days of learning solely in a classroom, lecture hall and library - there are so many resources available and it makes sense to build systems that can harness this in a way that keeps the learner in control.

His comment made me think of my own classroom and English/Language Arts classrooms around the world. While we (well, some of us) continue to offer our students new dialogic and collaborative learning opportunities, we are still tied to the old conception of text. Our content continues to consist of print. We read books. Quite often, we read BIG books. There are certainly "many resources available," there are many new texts and many new ways of constructing texts that we have at our disposal. But old linear print persists and, with it, classrooms, libraries, and lecture halls. We cannot abandon the classics for the sake of online social networks and enhanced collaboration. At the same time, we cannot cling to the past and become digital luddites.

I impose texts upon my students and will continue to do so. I want them to experience the great works of literature. However, new technologies allow me to invite my students to co-construct the curriculum with me, to create their own "learning landscapes" which

really does put the learner at the centre of their learning and facilitates the making of connections to relevant resources, people and experiences then, in turn, the ability to form their own communities and groups to pass the information along.

Personal learning landscapes will dethrone teachers but they will not dethrone valuable content. They will allow students to interact with content (including old, dusty print) in personally relevant ways. They will empower students to build their own correspondences and networks. They will bring us closer to understanding that

Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other (Marsall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage).