What are Personal Learning Environments?

Personal learning environments are described as systems for enabling self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. PLEs are conceived as drawing on a variety of discrete tools, perhaps chosen by the learner, which can be connected or used in concert in a transparent way. Some elements that might be found in a PLE are already in place; for example, conceptual diagrams suggest that social networking tools such as tagging, blogs, iTunes, wikis, del.icio.us, and others should be part of a PLE. The underlying technologies are straightforward. Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, it is already quite easy to create customized, personal web-based environments, and craft them to explicitly support one’s social, professional, learning and other activities. Online material, once found, can be saved, tagged, categorized, and repurposed without difficulty and without any special knowledge of how web pages are put together. While the concept of PLEs is still very new and fluid, it does seem to be clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person. It involves sociological and philosophical considerations and cannot be packaged, passed out and handed around as a cell phone or tablet computer could. Widespread adoption of PLEs, once they actually exist, may require a shift in attitudes toward technology, teaching, and learning.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - rolf.schulmeister rolf.schulmeister Nov 8, 2011since a personal environment is "personal" there will be a conflict with standard(ized) education and the planning of learning processes and situations.
  • the educational sector needs a 360º transformation to break away from homogenized learning via standardized learning and testing and move toward individualized learning. Everyone learns differently and the educational sector should work toward integrating PLE environments and practices to help promote a successful generation of learners and leaders. - EvadeLera EvadeLera Nov 9, 2011
  • I believe, however, that there may need to be a distinction between "personal" and "personalizable." My thoughts are that a student can personalize learning via learning paths that are either prescribed by particular objectives, or that continue to progress according to student answers, responses to a discussion, quiz data, etc. This all comes back to learning analytics and how incredibly important they are in course improvement. Take for example a biology student who is taking biology through an enhanced learning management system. He goes to his "dashboard," and views some suggested courses based upon his learning level (similar to the Amazon upselling technique, "If you liked Biology I, you might also like Biology II." The student begins the course, and as he progresses through the course, data is being collected via learning analytics toward "prescribing" or "suggesting" the next course he should take.- melissa.burgess melissa.burgess Nov 17, 2011
  • Working in Instructional Design both at the levels of K-12 and Higher Education, it is clear to me that the traditional LMS (learning management systems) are highly restrictive in how a learner can participate especially in an asynchronous environment. New models are being developed that include aspects of social networking, gaming, collaboration, content building and so on and the traditional models don't afford themselves to the more organic ways that students want to think and learn. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - rolf.schulmeister rolf.schulmeister Nov 8, 2011My personal learning environment includes much more than only computer tools and digital objects, it includes:
    my learning history
    the artifacts of my learning history
    my library
    my desk
    my colleagues and students
    my assistents and the faculty
    conferences etc.
  • - EvadeLera EvadeLera Nov 9, 2011 it also includes, references, trust, challenges, motivational aspects, engagement, experiential learning, collaboration, purpose for learning

    Without these my learning environment would not be personal.

    Moreover, it is unclear what "personal" means:
    - private?
    - personalized?
    - individual?
    - adapted, adopted, adaptive?

  • There may not be per definitionem a general definition of PLE, but only a private one.
  • - EvadeLera EvadeLera Nov 9, 2011 Personal refers to each individual's capacities and processes, which are different for everyone. By standardizing processes and learning we are missing the opportunity to help promote each individual's abilities, which may, if properly catered and mentored, change the world! Standardized learning is blocking uniquenesses and therefore blocking progress.
  • Sorry EvadeLera, I should have read a little further before posting my comment above:-) But I certainly agree that there definitely should be a distinction between the personaland personalized. Like the distance education umbrella, PLE may include a number of varying learning environments. In the above description that Larry has provided he states, "a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person. It involves sociological and philosophical considerations and cannot be packaged, passed out and handed around as a cell phone or tablet computer could." This description implies that either (1) the person designing the course has created learning paths for the student that based upon real-time analysis of student data and the learning paths adapt to the student's ability, OR, (2) it implies that the student is directing his/her own path.- melissa.burgess melissa.burgess Nov 17, 2011
  • - melissa.burgess melissa.burgess Nov 17, 2011This just might help in our clarification of definitionhttp://www.slideshare.net/telss09/adaptive-learning-environments
  • A PLN can include: my classmates, my learning community, my knowledge/content repository, my eportfolio of my learning progress (across a wide spectrum of measurement), my competence measures (gaming elements), my knowledge products, my archives of classmate collaborative experiences, my journal relationship with my learning coach. I think it is possible to create something like this that could be used in place of the traditional LMS platforms. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011
  • I'd add that students should be encouraged to reflect on the ways they construct their PLNs, narrate the ongoing process of constructing their PLNs, and share these thoughts with their fellow learners. That is, the PLN should be a prompt for deep metacognitive engagement. Along these lines, see also Kathleen Blake Yancey's essay on "e-portfolios 2.0" in the Winter, 2009 issue of Peer Review.- gardner.campbell gardner.campbell Nov 20, 2011
  • The new generation of tools that can help learners find information they would not have located on their own, based upon the ensemble of the rest of their PLN toolset. For an early example, see ZIte (http://zite.com) on the iPad. - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • - rolf.schulmeister rolf.schulmeister Nov 8, 2011Some researchers (G. Reinmann) define ist as the learning environment that an individual has adopted as his own. Some critisize that a technological conception of PLE is dominant, although learning without nondigital environment and specimens as well as organizational context is not possible. PLE is not a didactical concept, although some researchers believe it to be (Schaffert/Hilzensauer). But a PLE may be associated or used together with a learning concept. iClass and iCamp follow contradictory approaches. One project compiles a closed program environment, the other offers different tools that are loosely combined. Consequently one exercises instructional learning, the other open learning.
  • - EvadeLera EvadeLera Nov 9, 2011 a properly implemented PLE should foster creativity and promote motivation to achieve one's visions, which will lead to learning.
  • PLE's, once we nail all of its characteristics:-), will finally break down the leveling in education that most of us completely abhor. Using the "personalized" definition (which I leaning more toward), I believe that a PLE can serve as a space that supports, guides, and assesses student learning. Now that I think about it, I really prefer the term "adaptive."- melissa.burgess melissa.burgess Nov 17, 2011
  • PLE's also have the potential to serve as bridges between social networks. As an example, two individuals may be have access to groups devoted to a topic in several social networks, though they would likely have found different groups and included them in their respective PLE's. Through sharing (think Diigolet like functionality) these two individuals can see and assess the utility of the groups the other is participating in. While some critics contend that PLE's will make learning less collaborative, this use case demonstrates how the opposite may be achieved. - phil.ice phil.ice Nov 19, 2011
  • I think student engagement in their own learning path would greatly increased because they are developing along with other classmates both a personal and collective learning environment. In today's classroom, the learning content is so very generic and the learning delivery may hit upon one or two preferred learning styles. If a total learning environment could be created that was highly individualistic and personalized, I believe students would be much more invested in their learning journey. They also can assess and vet material which illicit higher order thinking skills. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?- rolf.schulmeister rolf.schulmeister Nov 8, 2011

  • Two PLE projects developed under EU funding are (have been) iClass and iCamp, which follow contradictory approaches.
  • - EvadeLera EvadeLera Nov 9, 2011 The Open University of Catalonia (UOC) has been working toward this direction for the past couple of years and recently launched a personal learning environment for all of its 55.000 members, called MyUOC. In it, learners have a full control over their online educational environment, so from 1 design for 55.000 users turned into 55.000 designs. However, the actual classroom environment in which a faculty member meets his/her students, has yet to change. Work toward giving classroom control to the students has already began.
  • If viewing a PLE as an adaptive environment, there are a few learning management systems that provide varying learning paths capabilities (Chamilo, Absorb Learning, Totara)- melissa.burgess melissa.burgess Nov 17, 2011
  • I am going to be looking into either creating one or developing ways to add widgets into existing LMS platforms as the current offerings don't serve the total needs of a fully engaged student. - deborah.heal deborah.heal Nov 19, 2011
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