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Why Websites Make a Great Platform for PLPs and Why I Don't Use Them

Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) are either loved or hated and it really depends on how they are used.   I personally really like them, because it gives students the opportunity to get credit for those amazing things that they do that they don’t get graded on.  Those that are not so happy with them, think PLPs is just a lot of extra work, and just one more state-mandated activity.

I can’t really blame the people who find them extra work;  I have seen so many PLPs launched where they just took up time and really didn’t provide any viable educational value to the student themselves.   I really tried to change that when I designed the Personal Learning PATH (PLPATH) workflow: https://path.edlisten.com/.    I want to highlight that I consider PLPATH a “workflow” to use when creating PLPs.  The reason for this is because workflows are platform-independent.  This allows the freedom for schools and students to choose their own tool to use to help them build their PLPATH.

This brings me to why I am writing this post.  If you explore https://path.edlisten.com/, you will find that while PLPATH is a workflow, I have created templates using Google Slides, and I think it is important to explain why I chose Google Slides as the platform I used to publish PLPATH templates.

The initial research into a PLP platform led me to consider what information would be valuable and how should that information be presented.   I knew I wanted students to be providing information on Achievements, Goals, and a personal bio of sorts.   Like many in the past, I felt a website with a blog, or blog with some static pages would be a good fit.   There are many pluses to websites; They can be personalized and look very different from student to student.  They are not linear so that each section can be maintained independently.  Most importantly they can be shared with people who have an interest in learning more about the particular student.

Presentation based PLPs allow for personalization and individual sharing, but often become very linear and information can easily get lost.   So why then did I not go with a website/blog platform like KidBlog, Blogger, or Google Sites as my choice for a platform template for the PLPATH workflow?  The answer is distribution.  Websites/Blogs are hard to distribute to students.  At the moment there is not an easy method to provide a student with their own pre-templated website and make sure it is shared with the correct people who need to help guide students in the creation of their PLPATHs.   While for Google Slides I was able to build a quick File Distributor Add-on (https://path.edlisten.com/file-distributor) to help distribute those templates.

While distribution is important when trying to give 1000+ students a template, not losing a dynamic tool for the students is also just as important.   For this reason, I recommend treating the PLPATH Google Slide Template, not as a linear presentation that students start at the beginning, but encourage jumping around and use linking to slide feature to allow for dynamic navigation.    When I first show PLPATH to students I have them personalize their home slide, then I have them skip all the way down to the very last section and start adding achievements.   When creating goals there is a box to add links to particular achievement slides that show evidence toward that goal, and hopefully, some of the “Who Am I?” activities will help the student write personalized goals.   When a student presents their PLPATHs they should not necessarily start at the beginning and go to the end, they should jump around and show the connections between the different sections. 

PLPATH is a workflow of Achievements, Goals, “Who Am I?” activities, and a “Who I Am!” resume.  You can apply this workflow to any platform you find fits best with your environment.   Just keep it fun, dynamic and relevant to the student and I am sure you will find value in Personal Learning PATHS.

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