Monday, January 7, 2013

Personal learning environments

Defining personal learning environment as a learning environment where one is connected to learning materials and communities I have used personal learning environment long before the internet became popular. Considered as learning done outside of school, I have used personal learning environments all my life from primary school until now. During my primary school my personal environment was restricted and consisted in studying at home and doing homework. In secondary school it became broad consisting in home and group study for school work, borrowing books from friends and libraries, some poetry writing and discussion with friends. At the undergraduate level of university it consisted in a lot of home study, group study and acquiring a lot of books for school work and personal study. At the graduate level I attended several universities and some work was done collaboratively. During the first decade of 2000 I have used the internet extensively for graduate work at the master's and PhD level. Pursuing an open PhD now my personal learning environment consists in using a lot of web 2.0 tools and communicating with other PhD candidates from different countries around the world. For my personal and professional life I use a broad personal learning environment made of mainly of online resources but also of other resources.

Personal learning environments are considered to be systems that allow independent learners to take control and manage their own learning. It is to take advantage of both online and offline resources to learn independently. Personal learning environments allow the learners to set goals for their learning, manage the content and process of learning, share and communicate with others. The learner is the sole responsible of his learning. There is no school, no teacher, no curriculum, no administrator. Using the term "e-learning 2.0," Stephen Downes describes the PLE as: "... one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system". Stephen Downes was defining PLE in a context where it is used by students. It can be generalized to any type of learner and defined in several ways by simplifying Stephen’s description:” a node in a web content connected to  other nodes of content”,” a personal learning center where content is reused and remixed”,” a collection of interoperating applications”. The PlE technically represents  a number of web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, bookmark sites like Delicious, Stumble Upon, Diigo, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc set as a learning environment by the learner. In a personal learning environment (PLE) the learner is at the center of learning and connected to information and communities. The learner has his personal space that he can connect to other spaces for knowledge sharing and knowledge collaborative creation.. Anderson and Dron define communities as “groups”, “networks” and “collectives”. I tend to think that certain sites provide only personal spaces for content creation only. This is not true. The sites are not designed for building networks but they are tools that allow to create communities. For example a Ning provides one with personal space for content creation and allows creating communities. Blogger provides space for content creation but is not designed explicitly to build communities where one can share content but tools are integrated in the site where one can build a community around the content for sharing and collaborative knowledge creation.Some sites provide a space for sharing and communicating only. This is the case for Twitter. One can’t create content. One can publish and communicate only. Other sites provide the ability of creating content and sharing. For example Facebook allows creating content, publishing and communicating but I haven’t seen any tools allowing to create content collaboratively. Google docs allow to create content collaboratively and communicate around that content. Some bookmarking sites allow to save content, share and communicate. Diigo allows to save content and some little content creation by adding notes to the content. One can share content in groups and communicate in these groups