Hi all, this seems like an amazingly helpful forum, and I hope this question is appropriate. I'm involved with a project called Peer2Peer University (http://p2pu.org). We are a number of people who come from the Open Educational Resources movement - where MIT, Open University, Yale, but also individuals and organizations, made large amounts of educational resources available for free, and with open licenses.
We thought this was wonderful, but for self-learners, it was very difficult to find proper materials, and they lack the community to provide motivation, feedback, etc. That's why we created P2PU. It's kind of a platform for conducting online learning groups. Our course organizers (who don't have to be experts) submit proposals for 6-week courses, where all the curriculum resources have to be freely available (we link to them). We are building up resources for course organizers to improve their course design/facilitation skills, and we pair them up with mentors that have already led classes before. Then the curriculum goes out for community review.
When a course is running, you apply to take part (not based on previous education, but just that you show that you are enthusiastic/committed to complete the course). The students do their readings, watch videos, go through exercises etc in the curriculum, and use forums, live chat, Skype and videochat, collaborative text editing, blogs etc to communicate with each other. Everything is open, so you can "audit" or peek into any class, even if you are not registered.
We are also looking into ways in which the learning that happens can later be recognized, formally or informally. For the formal route, we are researching link ups with people like Kaplan or AP exams, competency based curricula like Western Governors' University, challenge exams, recognition of prior learning etc, and for informal recognition, we are looking at assembling electronic portfolios, measuring community reputation, etc. (You can see a brief summary of our project here: http://www.vimeo.com/11158136).
So my question is, how could we serve the homeschooling community? And what would we need to modify/add to be more useful to your needs? I think we could learn a lot from each other, because we have the same belief that education doesn't have to come pre-packaged in a mass-produced fashion, and the same desire to open the system up to recognizing different pathways students might choose, to reach the same goals.
Here are some ideas I have, please pitch in!
Anyway, I know I am an outside to this community, but please don't perceive this as spam, I'm genuinely interested in engaging with you, and learning from your experiences, and perhaps seeing if we can work together in some way.
I would like to hook up with you for my "Family and Community Math 101" ongoing series of six-week mini-courses.
To answer your question, what I need is access to fully recordable live meeting "webinar room" - I plan to use LearnCentral's Elluminate meanwhile. We've had conversations about platforms, and while Elluminate is not open source, it is being provided free for projects like this, which is good enough for me. I will also use the open source software that runs this QA board, and you may want to consider it as a part of your platform.
Also, I don't like the fact that sessions are on the common schedule. I see no reason for that, and different communities have different rhythms for schedules.
Hi houshuang, and welcome to HomeschoolHelpDesk! P2PU looks like an awesome project and resource, and your question is broad and important. I'd say there are some basic ways that P2PU could be useful to homeschoolers:
Is P2PU a hosted solution, or would interested homeschoolers need to find a place to host your platform? We could provide resources to help with that, if needed.
Welcome to Homeschol Help Desk! Judging from your video, I think you'll find that homeschoolers have a great deal in common with those involved with your organization. We struggle with many of the same issues that those students in transitioning countries do regarding specifically lack of accreditation and academic peers. I am very, very interested, and I know my kids (especially my high schooler) will be too.
P2PU sounds fantastic and very, very useful. Homeschoolers tend to be very interested in open courseware and sharing materials. We have used a variety of courseware in our homeschool, primarily from MIT and Stanford, but frequently have to adapt the courses to fit open source books or alter group assignments. Another problem with Open Courseware is lack of a learning peer group. Especially with more advanced material, students need to be able to converse with others. As you mentioned, discussions greatly enhance learning and are more difficult to facilitate as the child gets older. Your solution offers interested students a forum for group learning even if no one else in their city or state are studying the same subject. Maintaining motivation and keeping deadlines can be tough as well. We have needed this!
In addition to helping students, it sounds like you also have resources for helping educators. Community review of curricula is a great idea, it would permit the homeschool parent to have some outside accountability for the rigor of the courses they teach and hopefully improve the quality of the course planned. If some form of accreditation could be obtained it would also greatly assist the homeschoolers wishing to pursue a standard University experience. Currently, homeschooled students must convince prospective schools not to disregard materials learned at home as "Mommy Graded Work," as if learning is not possible outside the traditional classroom. This negative perception makes many homeschoolers feel forced to pay for community college or university classes, or expensive College Board exams in order to obtain grades that will be respected by University Admissions offices. I would love to see another possible route to educational respect develop.
I appreciate the idea that the teacher doesn't have to be an expert in the subject already. It is very relevant for homeschool parents who must wear many hats, but also as you suggest for students who wish to be teachers/facilitators. The American college that I attended, St. John's College in Annapolis, MD follows the credo that "the text is the teacher," and even for the college and graduate level classes all tutors are required to "teach" all the subjects, even outside of their fields of expertise. There are no lectures, only group study, the same as the P2PU model. I can speak from experience that this works.
It would be a fantastic opportunity for students to learn how to connect with professors or other students interested in their field of study. Finding a mentor or grad student to help or even just talk to can be hard for homeschoolers. Also, opening up the student pool to the entire world makes it more likely that a student offering a class would find other interested students. One of my daughters taught a class last summer, but she could only find two students to sign up!
I agree that having some courses designed for homeschooling parents would also be very useful. We spend a lot of time engaging in virtual conversations, currently this is primarily conducted via yahoo email lists, certainly a poor information repository. That is why we created this site. Having some live discussion groups would be very, very helpful as well. There is always more to learn, I for one had never heard of Paolo Freire until you mentioned him. I would love to work with other educators of all kinds, not only other homeschool parents. Offering basic courses on teaching methods or educational philosophy or psychology would be very helpful, as I don't have time to go to University to take classes, but on P2P I could take it from home.
As far as courses go, we need most help with foreign language which cannot be taught in 6 weeks, nor is it something that is particularly easy to study with others in a homeschool setting. We have used e-lists such as those offered for Latin, but lack of conversation makes self-study hard to maintain. Latin Study has new groups starting on a regular basis. Typically, they consist of people committed to studying and completing an entire Latin book, sometimes taking two years or more to do it. Answers are all submitted via email and collated but not graded, you learn by studying each others answers or asking questions to the list at large. Is this something that you could support as well?
Homeschool learning can be isolating, and it is always helpful for students to be able to compare their performance and their expectations to others, so a course in study itself would be great. In addition, it can be hard to think of new methods of study one's self. Learning the methodology used by others can allow a student to quickly progress even where they had been stuck. As was mentioned in your video, we need to be lifelong learners, and we need to learn how to learn on our own and outside the context of the traditional classroom.
I will certainly spend some time getting to know your system so that I can better respond to your questions regarding how you could be more useful. Thank you so much for posting here. Your participation here is welcome! I am very excited to learn about your project and hope to become involved.
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