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Three dimensions of a Personal Learning Environment

November 24th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

First a warning. This is the beginning of an idea but by no means fully tho0ught out.It comes from a discussion with Jenny Hughes last week, when we were talking about the future direction of work on Personal Learning Environments.

Jenny came up with three ‘dimensions’ of a PLE – intra-personal, inter-personal and extra personal which I presented at the #TICEDUCA2010 conference in Lisbon

The first – intra-personal – describes the spaces we use to work on our own. This includes the different software we use and the different physical spaces we work in. It is possibel that our intra personal spaces will look quite different – reflecting both our ways of thinking and our preferred ways of working. one interesting aspect of the intra personal learning environment is the importance of aesthetics – including the look and ‘feel’ of the environment. And whilst many of the3 developers I work with undertake usability standards, I do not think they really ever consider aesthetics.

The third dimension – extra personal – refers to the things we do out in the web – to our publications, to blogs like this, to the videos we post – to the things we share with others.

But perhaps the most interesting is dimension is the intra-personal learning environment. This is the shared spaces we use to collaborate and work with others. All too often such spaces are imposed – by teachers or by project coordinators or those responsible for web site development. And all too often they fail – because users have no ownership of those spaces. In other words the spaces are not seen or felt of as part of a PLE. How can this be overcome? Quite simply the inter-personal space needs to be negotiated – to develop spaces and ways of working that everyone can feel comfortable with. Of course this may mean compromises but it is through the process of negotiation that such compromises will emerge.

The problem may be that the PLE has come to be overly associated with personalisation rather than negotiation and ownership and too little attention has been paid to collaboration and social learning. I think it would also be interesting to look at how ideas and knowledge emerge – or as the Mature project would say – how Knowledge matures. In developing ideas and knowledge I suspect we use all three dimensions of our Personal Learning Environment – with new ideas emerging say from reading something in the extra PLE, moving ideas back to the intra PLE for thinking and working and developing and then sharing and working with others in the (negotiated) inter Personal Learning Environment. Of course in practice it will be more complex than this. But i would like to see how these processes work in the real world – although I suspect it would be a methodologically challenging piece of research to carry out. Anyone any ideas?

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4 Responses to “Three dimensions of a Personal Learning Environment”

  1. I’m very interested about this reflection… excuse me if I’m thinking at the same time I write this.

    After some talks about this in Lisbon, I agree with the importance of make explicit this intra, extra and intra personal learning SPACES of working… it is definitively very interesting analyse the kind of negociation we do when we decide share an environment to work each other or even discuss each other… bases, personal meanings, foundations, and so on… would be very interesting, specially in the perspective of analysing collaborative learning, cooperative work and even work in groups to learn.

    Nonethe less, my impression is that these three perspectives -as you have describe- are including only perceptions about SPACES for working… for learning by working, making things (“artefacts”)… and definitively the space we use for working is an important part of our learning environment, BUT is only a third part of it. From my perspective (and the perspective we share with some colleagues), PLE is not only an space for working or doing “artefacts”… also for reflecting and reading (in the widest meaning of read)… and for these “experiences” (read) I’m not pretty sure that these three environments must be, at least, so clear.

    Even, because the PLE is more than the spaces we use to do things (technologies)… and for me, relationships and information on these “spaces” are even more crucial.
    Consequently, intra, extra and interPLEs, are interesting concepts to analyse the part of our PLE wich is developed for making things… and are focussing the interest of the analysis in the technological part PLEs, and is interesting… BUT, may be would be interesting also to thing about

    Intra: my reflections, toughts and meanings.
    Extra: Information, meanings and reflections FROM others.
    Inter: information, meanings and reflection build WITH others.

    Nevertheless, from this perspective, I’m not sure than the research about how we negociate these is so “new”… is the same than in any collaborative environment, with, or without technologies.

    Anycase, apologizes for the “english” I use and for being too daring with my oppinions some times ;-)… I’m only interested.

  2. While reading your post I’ve remembered a Steve Wheeler post, after his presentation, with Manish Malik, in PLE Conference- – Anatomy of a PLE.
    I was wondering if your so-called “third dimension” isn’t the PLN part?
    After reading your post I felt like… confused… 🙂

  3. I was a little confused until I decided that ‘intra-personal’ (first line on para 5) must be ‘inter-personal’ – no?

    These seem like very useful lenses through which to view PLE/PLNs and I’m going to start trying to use them 🙂 However, I think we need to be careful thinking in this way not to conceive of these as clearly demarcated spaces with fixed and impermeable boundaries.

    Surely, what starts as intra-personal (tools & content) may become collaborative and inter-personal and maybe extra-personal. In a very basic example I may start a Google Doc for my personal ramblings and reflections on some experience and as I become more confident and believe these to be of use to others maybe I start sharing this with my closer collaborators and they offer suggestions and contribute to it and eventually perhaps we decide to make this public and publish – maybe using the same tools through out. Here the same tool and content dynamically moves through intra/inter/extra personal learning spaces. I guess you were probably thinking of these as dynamic spaces anyway.

    So, in accord with your 5th paragraph the implications for inter-personal spaces are that I won’t control over the tools and content that I move in and out of this space BUT of course as this space is not my space but our space some kind of negotiation is required – unless perhaps we can (at least for tools) use different tools to operate on the same shared content (e.g. you edit in whatever tool you prefer and in whatever I prefer with simultaneous live updating across these). We’d still need to negotiate the who the content was shared with though….


  1. Three dimensions of a Personal Learning Environment (via my6sense)

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