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.

How does this differ from differentiated learning? - bjoseph bjoseph Feb 5, 2010 Barry, say more about differentiated learning..? - ninmah ninmah Feb 8, 2010

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

  • - guus.wijngaards guus.wijngaards Feb 6, 2010
    The growth in all Web 2.0 applications is seen as development full of opportunities, yet a perception of effective implementation within regular learning processes is still in an initial stage. This is especially so for school students, but to a certain extent is also the case for new and trainee teachers. This gives reason for concern in building bridges between formal learning environments and students’ own personal learning environments using emerging technologies. Essential in Web 2.0 environments is self esteem and being in control of the technologies. These aspects enhance the necessity for innovative learning practices in which the control is shared in a way that students on the one hand, and the educational institution on the other hand, have joined responsibility for contents and processes in order to develop intrinsic and fundamental connections between formal and informal learning environments.
  • The first thing students do when they go on the web is to personalize their environment. They will spend hours choosing the background color, font, sharing their favorite songs and poems, creating their personalities online. They have a huge need to be different, unique, yet part of the group. Their online "persona" is the first thing they define. They will search for ways to personalize their pages or the places they have to "work". PLEs meet this basic human need, giving the flexibility and tools to allow the user to build his online world. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 6, 2010 - ninmah ninmah Feb 8, 2010
  • Managing personal learning is a complex task that involves a lot of collecting, reading, filtering, organizing, reflecting, remixing, sharing and perhaps collaborating. In the K-12 sector, I think the way we thought about information and research, etc. would almost be revolutionized by the idea that each student starting at an early age will be responsible for some chunk of personal learning as they go through the system and that they must demonstrate some type of proficiency as they graduate perhaps in the form of a personal learning "dashboard". - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 7, 2010 - ninmah ninmah Feb 8, 2010
  • To a great extent, my thoughts on PLEs are related to my thoughts on Digital Identity. The variety of Web 2.0 tools, widgets, apps, has shown a light on the many ways that online environments can be tailored to fit personal choices. However, to be fully effective in teaching and learning, what is needed (IMHO) are portable, open-access learner models. What I mean is a dynamic, evolving record of what the learner has learned and how he/she has learned it. Once a solid model of the learner is established - again, not static, but evolving based on a continuous cycle of teaching and learning inputs and outputs - additional learning is made more efficient, more adaptive to the learner, more personalized. Ultimately, I see this residing in the cloud where students can make their model accessible to whom they wish. The privacy of the learner will need to be guarded very carefully of course (no trivial matter). Services and programs (perhaps also in the cloud) would be able to access a learner's model (with permission from the learner and/or institution). Current trends toward using data and systems in K12 like Learning Management Systems and State Longitudinal Data Systems support this evolution.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
  • Personalized Learning can also be a bridge between formal and informal learning environments. Student learning outside of the four walls of the classroom goes way beyond homework. The Challenge Based Learning project that we have engaged in, really demonstrated the importance of engaging students outside of the formal learning environment in work that is "real" and meaningful. This also gets to the importance of student engagement which as we know is critical to student success. http://www.challengebasedlearning.org - don.henderson don.henderson Feb 22, 2010

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

  • - guus.wijngaards guus.wijngaards Feb 6, 2010The effective implementation of ICT, especially the Web 2.0 applications, is considered to be of vital importance in realizing learning practises of co-ownership". However, these applications, also referred to as the social web with major key words such as ‘openness’, ‘sharing’ and ‘creativity’, are mainly used in personal environments and used less in learning environments brought forward by educational institution.
  • Just wondering if there isn't a necessary element of transparency and sharing that's required to really make PLEs effective. Certainly, PLEs could be built just on consumption of information, but should be seen, I think, as part of a contribution process to other people's PLEs (if that makes sense.) - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 7, 2010 I don't think there's any closing-off implied here; the idea is that we can each choose what we want to consume or contribute, and how, and with what tools. So if I use my favorite tool to create content, you can use your favorite tool to access it. - ninmah ninmah Feb 8, 2010
  • I believe the notion of portable, open-access, privacy-guarded personal learning models are essential to take things to the next level in K12.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
  • I regard my iphone as my PLE. Its my device, I have apps which include web 2.0 (consuming and contributing), apps that support daily activity (eg weather, news, search) and apps that capture what I am doing (eg trails which track a bike ride). You can now get apps like educate which allows teachers to manage class lists, assessment and communications). So, if we move to learners owning their own device (note : equity issues will need to be addressed) then we may truly land the learning in the laps of the learner (ie all of us) - garry.putland garry.putland Feb 9, 2010

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

  • - guus.wijngaards guus.wijngaards Feb 6, 2010promoting co-ownership
  • Allowing students and teachers to customize their environment, making it more attractive and useful to them. May help increase their comfort level for this type of working environment. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 6, 2010
  • The entire concept of individualized and self directed learning is a very exciting concept if this is combined into the learners PLE. - jeffrey.bajgot jeffrey.bajgot Feb 6, 2010
  • If we really got this right, it would change teaching and learning dramatically. A teacher would be more of a learning coach, looking at every lesson through the lens of a students' ability to extend the experience through self-direction and sharing. Learning would be more about, as mentioned previously, collecting, reading, filtering, organizing, reflecting, remixing, sharing and perhaps collaborating instead of traditional classroom interactions. - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 7, 2010 Students would be able to gather and curate their own resource collections about things that interest them, which is a great foundation for staying interested and learning throughout life. - ninmah ninmah Feb 8, 2010
  • I suspect a huge productivity boost could be realized as personalized learning comes to the fore. Moreover, if robust and dynamic learner models that could be accessed by personal learning environments were part of the mix, wasted time re-assessing what the student knows could be eliminated and early warnings of potential problems could enhance intervention and prevention measures. Also, with PLE's and the portable learner models I talking about, we can build an epistemological capability that can catapult our educational system farther than anything else I can think of- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Our school created a Social Network environment (http://planeta.colband.com.br) where students learn to live in a social networking environment according to good rules of ethics and following the laws (its an online lab for our Digital Ethics and Citizenship Course). The first thing students do in the environment is create their personalized page (greeting, photos etc). Only after they have spent several hours to get it "just right", will they start creating communities to try to bring others to share their ideas. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 6, 2010
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