Personal learning plans can be an ideal platform for starting off the new year and getting to know the new students who have entered your learning community.
This year, after a brief primer on digital citizenship, students immediately began work on their Identity page. There are several huge benefits to teachers who initiate the personal learning process at the beginning of the year.
First, teachers can emphasize important elements of the 21st century classroom. These might include digital citizenship concepts related to putting our best digital footprint online to discussions of appropriate personal information and privacy. Teachers can use these "teachable moments" to set year-long expectations and classroom protocols for the use of technology.
Second, through observation and task selection, teachers can quickly identify the technical strengths and challenges that new learners bring to the learning community. Can't insert that image? Don't know how to label a file? Trying to crop a picture? Need help formatting the Google site or following instructions? These issues can help teachers zero in on the needs of their students. Down the road, each of these questions can be parlayed into skills work and lessons that will improve student performance (and can be evaluated using the Agency of Education's Transferable skills).
Third, and as a language arts teacher, perhaps most importantly, students provide teachers with a biography that can be evaluated as a norm/standards referenced writing piece. This highly motivating writing requires very little prior knowledge. After all, who do students know better than themselves? Yet the structure of their paragraph writing, ability to use the writing process, and finished product will give the instructor an immediate understanding of student writing ability.
At the end of the day, using personal learning plans to welcome students to your learning environment can be a highly effective, informative, and meaningful learning experience that can get your year off to a great start.