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. 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.

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.

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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 25, 2011

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

  • During my early K-12 teaching years I taught both Special Needs students and Gifted education students. Personal Learning Environments would have been incredibly helpful in addressing the various modailities and individual needs of the smiling faces I encountered when I walked through the doors of my classroom each day. Following the early years of teaching, about sixteen of them, I taught "normal" students and graduate students and discovered that actually ALL students learn differently and ALL students can benefit from individualized learning environments. With today's digital resources and those on the horizon such as the PLE, we become much closer to leveling "the learning field" for all students. - lynn.nolan lynn.nolan Feb 17, 2011
  • PLEs...or online communities of practice...hold tenormous potential for educational professions who are largely isolated from their peers during their work hours, to connect/share/learn from others. The hold the opportunity to completely reimagine professional development which now is largely top-down, one-time, eposodic.- mscofino mscofino Feb 28, 2011

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

  • Learners need foundational skills to support them as they make decisions about their own learning. These skills must be taught and not left to chance in order for students to be successful in this environment. - lynn.nolan lynn.nolan Feb 17, 2011

  • The emergence of the Internet has enhanced the possibilities for informal learning, and the development of Web 2.0 applications enables learners to contribute to the production of (new) learning content more than ever. Informal learning processes in online communities are powerful examples, and can be a source of inspiration for redesigning learning practices in regular education. I am convinced that learning would be even more effective if formal learning practices could be linked to informal learning practices, so that the added value of both may be benefited from. Linking formal learning to informal learning requires a connection between the institute’s formal electronic learning environment (‘virtual learning environment’) and the informal electronic environments managed by the learners themselves (‘personal learning environment’). This can only work if the learning practice is designed on the basis of co-direction, regarding both learning content and learning process.- guus guus Feb 18, 2011
  • I agree with Lynn and her point that all students learn differently and that technologies or approaches such as the one described here can facilitate that learning even more. I have thought less about the customization functions of the learning environment (though that is certainly embedded in any thoughts I have had) and more about the archiving functions of the personal learning environment. So I completely agree with the merits that come from the ability to customize AND I see potential here for individuals to archive their growth, knowledge and learning experiences. I acknowledge that learners of all ages need guidance from people more knowledgeable, but PLEs and other technologies provide opportunities for those guides to be more than their classroom teachers - indeed, if their classroom teachers (for those learners in P-12 in this instance) do their jobs in the future, they will be highly skilled and knowledgeable facilitators of learning - yes, in the areas they themselves are knowledgeable - but also in their abilities to link their learners to other guides and mentors. PLEs can facilitate this. - jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 19, 2011
  • There is a rich body of research on this starting with Wegner. Yet, this is really just starting for professionals...most social networking has been used for, well, social purposes. - keith.krueger keith.krueger Feb 22, 2011
  • PLE's help individualize the program for the student. With the Internet, mobile devices, 24/7, personal laptops, etc., there is never a shortage of content or a social network. However, after reading the book, "Shallows" by Nicholas Carr, I worry about the depth of learning.....how do we help students move beyond 'clicking' for information. How do we help students stay engaged for depth, not just surface? (- michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 23, 2011)
  • Teachers need to develop their own PLE to fully understand the potential for their students. - mscofino mscofino Feb 28, 2011

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

  • PLEs give students the opportunity to organize their learning space according to their learning style. alice.owen- alice.owen alice.owen Feb 19, 2011
  • I imagine a time not to far off when learners begin to create their own PLEs in their earliest years of schooling (or before) and grow, and develop, and nurture this learning space as they grow and develop and explore interests. These environments can allow students to track the growth of their own interests and knowledge and provide archives for themselves for reflection and future growth. They can become places where students explore new ideas and resources and "hold" them for future examination or study - or document links that new ideas have with old ones. The potential for such a space being a self-reflective tool is great.- jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 19, 2011
  • This video of a 7th grader describing her PLE inspired my grad students (all K-12 teachers) to engage their own Wendy's - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEls3tq5wIY - bwatwood bwatwood Feb 21, 2011

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

  • The technical university of Graz (Austria) offers a Personal Learning environment for its students and teachers, integrating the world wide web and combining it with university’s services. See [[http://elearningblog.tugraz.at/archives/3579- guus guus Feb 18, 2011]]
  • USED is funding AIR, in collaboration with CoSN, SETDA, Friday Institute, Grunwald Associates and Forum One to do research on educator online communities of practice. The first research report will be issued in March 2011, and some online CoPs will be started later this spring. - keith.krueger keith.krueger Feb 22, 2011
  • The iTEC project involves 1000 'classrooms of the future' in 12 European countries and is a major effort to develop and pilot scenarios for future learning, with a heavy emaphasis on constructing individualised learning environment from various sources rather than a single monolithic system (http://itec.eun.org). - roger.blamire roger.blamire Feb 27, 2011

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.