Alec Couroso has been pondering on the differences between a Personal Learning Environment and a Personal Network. The replies from a Twitter shoutout are interesting. But I am not really convinced. For me the idea of a Personal Learning Environment was never limited to the tools we use for learning or to on-line learning. It is what is says – the environment in which we learn. And that includes work, the home, our social environment and the institutional learning programmes in which we participate. It includes books and above all perhaps it includes people.
What distinguishes PLes from VLEs, e-Portfolios, or from classroom and lecture based learning for that matter, is that it brings together informal and formal learning. It recognises the primacy of the learner on driving and developing their learning. And – in terms of tools – it provides them the means to organise their own learning. Whilst I don’t really see the point in distinguishing between a PLN and a PLE there are changes in the ways we are learning and the tools we are using to learn.
Tow years ago a wrote a short paper on PLEs in which I listed the tools which comprised my PLE:
- “Word processor for writing papers like this – Nisus Writer Express
- E-mail client for communication – Mac Mail
- Diary for managing my work and sharing with others- iCal linked to my web site
- Audio for making podcasts – Garage Band
- Video editor for making multi media presentations – iMovie
- Weblog client for various blogs I contribute to – Ecto
- Content Management System for creating web sites – Joomla
- Personal Weblog – Knotes
- Photo editing programme – iPhoto (and plug in for uploading to Flickr)
- Photo sharing service – Flickr
- Web Browser – Firefox
- Bookmark sharing service – Delicio-us
- Podcast publishing – Joomla plug in
- Presentation software – Keynote
- Newsreader – Net Newsreader
- Instant messaging and VOIP – Skype
- Search engines – mainly Spotlight and Google
- FTP client for sharing multimedia files – FileChute”
I still use quite a lot of these tools. But for most of my web based publishing I have moved to WordPress. And I now use Open Office as a work processor. For bookmarking I use diigo. And Vienna is now my newsreader of choice. But these are small changes. What has changed since i produced this list is the development of web based tools for social networking. Facebook has come and almost gone (although more on that in another post). Twitter is a critical part of my PLE. I live on skype and sometimes venture out in Second Life. I regularly facilitate or participate in sessions on Elluminate. But it is not even the advent of new tools but rather chnages in the way we are using the web for learning. So whilst before my PLE comprised of a series of tools for managing learning, for consumption and for creation, and tools for communication – today the communication tools are central in managing my networked and collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools have allowed us to put the social back into online learning. That for me is why elearning 1.0 never really worked. Learning is a social activity. Early e-learning applications tried to bypass the social. Interaction was with the computer, not with other learners.
Personal Learning Networks, Personal Learning Environments – I don’t really mind what we call them. What is critical is that a PLE / PLN helps us in organising our learning and helps us make the connections with those with whom we want to collaborate and share, whoever, wherever they are.