Personal Learning Environments

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years
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. 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 the tools and approaches are clearer, will almost certainly also require a shift in attitudes toward technology, teaching, and learning.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • PLEs may cater to students with differing learning styles; for instance, visual learners might be able to obtain material from a different source than auditory learners do.
  • Students using PLEs may benefit from the practice of keeping track of, and curating, their own resource collections.
  • Using PLEs may empower students to take greater control of their learning networks and connections with peers, experts, and others.

Personal Learning Environments in Practice

For Further Reading

Emerging Technologies - Personal Learning Environments (PDF)
(Robert Godwin-Jones, Virginia Commonwealth University, Language Learning & Technology, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 3-9, June 2009.) This short paper gives an overview of how various tools have been used and integrated into personal learning environments.

Exploring Personal Learning Environments
Pontysdysgu is a learning technology think tank in the United Kingdom. Papers presented at the September 2009 Symposium on Personal Learning Environments at the the 2nd World Summit on the Knowledge Society are collected here, giving an overview of trends around using PLEs in education.

Personal Learning Environment - A Conceptual Study
(B. Taraghi, et al., Social Learning Dept, Graz University of Technology, Conference Presentation, September 2009.) This paper presents a conceptual overview of how PLEs work and how they can be structured. While somewhat technical in nature, it gives a good overview of PLEs and the tools that power them.