Archive for the ‘PLEs’ Category

Developing a Work Based, Mobile Personal Learning Environment

July 6th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

As regular readers will know, for a long time I have been fascinated by the potential of mobile technologies for developing work based learning and work based Personal Learning environments. Mobile technologies can allow learning to take place directly in the workplace. Learning can be recorded and for that matter reflection on learning take place as a direct part of the work process. In such a way the workplace becomes part of the Personal Learning Environment and conversely the PLE becomes part of the work process. At the same time, such an approach can bring together both formal and informal learning. Through sharing learning processes and outcomes, learners themselves can contribute to a growing ‘store; of learning materials.

It hasn’t happened yet and it is worth thinking about why. One reason maybe that only recently has seen the spread of sufficiently powerful mobile devices and applications. Another is the suspicion of employers about the uses of such devices in the workplace. Most importantly may be the failure to develop pedagogic approaches for mobile learning. Most developments to date have essentially been about consumption of learning materials, albeit sometimes in innovative ways. And much of the publicity or mobile learning has emphasised consumption of short episodes of learning away from the workplace – or for that matter the classroom (for some reason we will all be learning on the bus or the train on our way home from work in the future or so the vendors say).

That is not to say there have not been attempts to develop more radical thinking. Members of the London Mobile Learning Group have, like others developed new ideas for work based mobile learning pedagogy. Yet still, as far as I can see, there have been few attempts to implement such ideas at any scale.

It is for these reasons that I am so interested in the development of the Learning Toolbox, initially targeted at apprentices in the construction industry, as part of the EU funded Learning layers project. Perhaps the biggest thing I have leaned from this work (apart from how difficult it is) is the need for co-development processes with end users and stakeholders in the industry. The new paper we have written for the PLE2014 conference documents the research we have undertaken and the co-development process, as well as our understanding of the issues around context and how to address such issues.

You can download the paper here. As always any and all feedback is very welcome.

Personal Learning Environments, Self Directed Learning and Context

June 15th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Ten days ago I had an email from Alexander Mikroyannidis from the UK Open University. “Together with some colleagues from the EU project ROLE (http://www.role-project.eu)” he said, “I’m preparing a book to be published by Springer. It will be entitled “Personal Learning Environments in Practice” and it will present the results of applying PLEs in different test-beds in the project.

For each chapter, we have invited an external expert to provide a 2-page commentary that will also be published in the book. Would you be available to write such a commentary for the chapter that describes the vision of the project?”

How could I refuse? And here is my contribution:

Research and development in learning technologies is a fast moving field.  Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology community but by the way people (and not just students) are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.

Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning. Such trends became more pronounced with the emergence of Web 2.0 and social software. Social networking applications in particular, allowed the development of personal learning networks. Rather than go to the institutionally sanctioned LMS or VLE, learners communicated through Facebook or Whats App. PLNs were not longer limited to class or course cohorts but encompassed wider social and learning networks. Wikipedia has emerged as a major open resource for learning.

As mobile technologies have become increasingly powerful and, at least in some countries, internet access has become increasingly ubiquitous, learners use their own devices for learning and are not confined to institutional facilities. Regardless of trends in educational technology theory and research, learners are developing and using their own Personal Learning Environments.

At the same time, the ongoing rapid developments in technologies are changing forms of knowledge development and leading to pressures for lifelong learning. Universities and educational institutions can no longer preserve a monopoly on knowledge. Notwithstanding their continuing hold on accreditation, institutions are no longer the only providers of learning, a move seen in the heart-searching by universities as to their mission and role.

Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.

Learning is becoming multi-episodic, with people moving in and out of courses and programmes. More importantly the forms and sources of learning are increasingly varied with people combining participation in face-to-face courses, online and blended learning programmes and self directed and peer supported learning using different internet technologies.

These changes are reflected in discussion over pedagogy and digital literacies. It is no longer enough to be computer literate. Learners need to be able to direct and manage their own learning, formal and informal, regardless of form and source. In conjunction with More Knowledge Others (Vygotsky, 1978) they need to scaffold their own learning and to develop a personal knowledge base. At the same time as the dominance of official accreditation wanes, they need to be able to record and present their learning achievement. Personal Learning Environments are merely tools to allow this to happen.

All this leads to the issue of the role of educational technology researchers and developers. In research terms we need to understand more not just about how people use technology or learning but how they construct a personal knowledge base, how they access different resources for learning, including people and how knowledge is exchanged and developed.

At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes. Not all workplaces or for that matter communities offer a rich environment or learning. Yet there is vast untapped potential in such environments, particularly for the development and sharing of the tacit knowledge and work process knowledge required in many tasks and occupations. PLE tools can help people learning in formal and informal contexts, scaffold their learning and develop a personal learning knowledge base or portfolio.

At both pedagogic and technical levels, context provides a major challenge. Whilst mobile technologies recognise the context of place (through GPS), other and perhaps more important aspects of context are less well supported. This includes time – how is what I learned at one time linked to something I learned later? It includes purpose – why am I trying to learn something? It includes the physical environment around me, including people. And of course it includes the social and semantic links between places, environments, people and objects.

The challenge is to develop flexible applications and tools to enhance peoples’ PLEs and which can recognise context, can support people in scaffolding their learning and develop their own Personal Learning Networks and enhance their ability to direct their own learning and the learning of their peers.

Two major European funded projects, ROLE and Learning Layers are attempting to develop such applications. They both have the potential to make major inroads into the challenges outlined in this short paper.

Reference

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

Personal Learning Environments Conference 2014

March 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

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In case you missed it first time round, the PLE 2014 Conference has issues a second call for contributions. The new deadline for the submission of extended abstracts: April 1, 2014. The theme of the conference is Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working.

PLE 2014 – the 5th International Conference on Personal Learning Environments – will take place in Tallinn, Estonia, from July 16th to 18th with a preceding “pacific” event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from June 25th to 27th.

The PLE Conference intends to create an engaging, conversational, and innovative meeting space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences, and research around PLE related themes.

The conference invites contributions in the format of “academic papers” or “alternative session proposals”. However, authors of both types of contributions will be asked to communicate their research and ideas within session formats that look to avoid the traditional 15 minute presentation.

The 5th Edition of the PLE conference aims to move beyond discussions about definitions to explore emergent practices for living, learning and working in relation to PLEs and the new understandings and underlying needs that arise around these practices in our contemporary society. Delegates are invited to submit their ideas, research and/or practice under the topics listed below.

Topics include (but are not limited to)…

  • PLEs for managing life transitions
  • PLE and formal learning contexts: conflicts and confluences
  • PLE theoretical frameworks
  • PLE in early childhood and the family
  • PLE as literacy
  • PLE and portfolios
  • PLE and PLNs (Personal Learning Networks)
  • PLE and creative practice
  • PLEs in formal contexts (Schools, Vocational, Higher Education)
  • PLES in Lifelong Learning
  • The social PLE
  • Personal Learning and assessment
  • Digital footprints and identities
  • Ownership and agency
  • Emergent pedagogies and approaches
  • Innovative work-based learning and practices
  • PLEs and technologies
  • Personal learning and the creative economy
  • Future challenges in the PLE context

New thoughts on Personal Learning Environments

November 19th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

One of the frustrations with the Personal Learning Environments conferences has been the time it has taken us to publish papers after the conference. This year we tied up with e_learning Papers who publish an electronic journal on the European Commission Open Education Europa portal. And I am delighted to say they have just published a special edition of the journal on PLEs, edited by Ilona Buchem and  Tapia Toskinen.

The foreword to the edition is included in full below together with links to the different papers.

“The proliferation of learning innovations such as personal devices, granular and distributed applications, services, and resources, requires the learner to develop his or her own strategies for managing the various information streams and tools to support learning. Such strategies are necessary not only in educational settings, but basically in any life situation which can become a moment or an episode of learning. Digital and non-digital building blocks can be individually combined by learners in their own Personal Learning Environment (PLEs).

More of an approach or strategy than a specific learning platform, a PLE is created by learners in the process of designing and organising their own learning, as opposed to following pre-arranged learning paths. In this way, PLEs are distinctly learner-centred and foster autonomous learning. PLEs are by no means isolated; they are interconnected in a digital ecosystem of media, tools and services. Instead of asking learners to navigate within one monolithic environment, PLEs act as a gateway to an open and connected learning experience. This approach marks a shift towards a model of learning in which learners draw connections from a pool of digital and non-digital building blocks, aggregating, mixing and combining them into unique constellations as part of learning.

While emphasizing the active role of a learner, the PLE approach implies that learning is not located in a specific time and place, but is an ongoing, ubiquitous and multi-episodic process. As PLEs allow the collocation of diverse learning activities, tools, and resources, contexts permeate and learning becomes connected. In this sense, PLEs challenge some dominant paradigms in education and in the traditional understanding of borders, be it in view of learning places, educational roles or institutional policies.

This special issue builds on the current PLE discussion and focuses on crossing the boundaries of learning contexts. It features some emerging practices, including the construction of PLEs as part of an augmented localised learning experience with mobile devices; PLEs as an approach to supporting learning through work practice; and using gamification and open badges as part of the PLE approach. The findings and insights of the articles in this issue demonstrate the rich contribution of the PLE approach to the opening up of education.”

Download Print Version

Articles

Personal Learning Environments in Smart Cities: Current Approaches and Future Scenarios
Author(s): Ilona Buchem, Mar Pérez-Sanagustín

A gamification framework to improve participation in social learning environments

PLE Conference 2014 – Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working

November 10th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The PLE conference in 2010 was only intended to be a one off. But here we are, busy organising the 2014 conference.  Why has it been so successful_ Whilst trends and fads in educational technology come and go Personal Learning Environments haven’t gone away.  They couldn’t. They were not just a trendy new bit of technology but an approach to both explaining how people are using technology for learning today and at the same time an approach to reforming and recasting pedagogic approaches to teaching and learning.

And the PLE conference is itself a flipped conference and has built a reputation as one of the best learning events on teh annual conference calendar.

The theme for PLE 2014 conference, announced today will be: “Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working”. And the European conference, usually held in the first two weeks of July, will be in Tallinn in Estonia. The southern hemisphere version of the conference, held for the last two years in Australia, will be at the  UNITAR International University in Malaysia.

Hopefully the call for contributions will be released in early December. More details on this page when available.

The Personal Learning Environments Conference 2014!

July 30th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The summer is supposed to be quiet – but not this year! Even before I have written my belated reflections on the brilliant 2013 PLE conference held in Berlin and Melbourne, it is time for the first announcement on PLE 2014. As regulars will know the PLE conference has a slogan – one conference – two venues. And each year we put out an open call for those interested in hosting the conference. So here is your chance.

The PLE Conference 2014 – an Open Call for hosts

The first PLE Conference was in 2010 in Barcelona. And it was so fantastic everyone asked where it would be next. So 2011 we were in Southampton. in 2012 it was Aveiro in Portugal. And this year PLE was hosted in Berlin. Meanwhile people from the south of the world asked for their own parallel conference. In 2012 and 2013 this has been organised in Melbourne, Australia.

In this time PLE conference has developed its own unique atmosphere and style with many saying it is their favourite conference.

Which leads to the next question – where will the PLE conference be in 2014? We have also developed a tradition of publishing an open call. Would you and your organisation like to host the PLE conference next year?

You will preferably be somewhere reasonably accessible and have access to spaces conducive for intensive and sociable knowledge sharing. You will probably need the support of your organisation. And despite the great support from the PLE Conference Organising Committee you will need to commit yourself to some hard work.

If you think this sounds like you please contact Graham Attwell or another member of the PLE Committee by September 20, 2013. Also feel free to ask us anything you need more information about.

Mobile work based Personal Learning Environments

July 8th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

This week is my favourite annual conference – the Personal Learning Environments Conference. And tomorrow I am off to Berlin, where the conference is being held at the Beuth University. The deadline for full papers was last weekend – so I am might relieved to have at least got a first draft of it out by today. It is co-authored with my colleagues Ludger Deitmer and Lars Heinemann from the University of Bremen and is based on work we are doing under the Learning layers project, seeking to develop and up-scale the use of apps for informal learning in the construction and health sectors. The paper focuses on the nature of knowledge used within work processes – what we call work process knowledge and how we can develop co-design processes to support work based learning.

The introduction is posted below and you can download a PDF copy of the full paper.

Introduction

While Technology Enhanced learning (TEL), Personal Learning Environments and the use of mobile devices have been suggested as a means to address the challenge of supporting learning at the workplace, their potential has not yet been fully realized. Despite much theoretical research in the use of mobile devices for work based learning there are still few compelling example of effective practice. Where there are case studies of both mobile devices and PLEs supporting work based learning, these tend to remain isolated with limitations on upscaling or wider adoption.

A critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concluded that most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the idea of direct instruction. TEL initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard trainer / learner relationship and a reliance on formal and to some extent standardized course material and curricula.

However research suggests that (not only) in SMEs much learning takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices.

In the past few years, emerging technologies (such as mobile devices or social networks) have rapidly spread into all areas of our life. However, while employees in SMEs increasingly use these technologies for private purposes and to a lesser extent for information seeking and informal learning, enterprises have not generally recognized the potential of such technologies for supporting learning.

As a consequence, the use of these emerging technologies and support for Personal Learning Environments have not been systematically taken up as a sustainable learning strategy that is integrated with other forms of learning at the workplace.

Personal Learning Environments (in Spanish)

April 22nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

My Spanish is (very) poor. But I am proud to have a chapter, ¿Dónde vamos con los entornos personales de aprendizaje? ,  in the newly published and free Spanish language book on Perosnal Learning Environments, ” Entornos personales de aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red“edited by Linda Castañeda and Jordi Adell. The book which can be downloaded in PDF format as chapters or as a whole from the book website is 192 pages long and contains contributions from such august authors as Jesús Salinas, Ricardo Torres Kompen, Cristina Costa, Ismael Peña-López, Carlos Santos, Luis Pedro, Alec Couros and Gráinne Conole, amongst others.

In their introduction (according to Google translate) Linda Castañeda and Jose Adell say:

The interest of Personal Learning Environments (PLE, for its acronym in English) is not so much in its conceptual or technological innovation, as in the assumption of a perspective on education that seeks to respond to massive technological and cultural change that has taken place in the last two decades in our society.

From our perspective, the issue of PLE is a node, and hopefully a turning point, at the crossroads of thought, discussion and practice on what to learn and how to learn-and teach-in early XXI century. A magnificent opportunity to reflect on how to alleviate poverty didactic supposedly disruptive initiatives (such as xMOOCs) or how to integrate technology in formal learning beyond providing digital study materials to students. If the PLE are “learning to learn with technology,” PLEs integrate in education is to help develop skills essential in a complex and changing world like ours.

However, reflection and debate on this topic has developed far more informal areas of the blogosphere that the traditional channels of research dissemination (journals and conferences) and, occasionally, with an orientation so excessively so overly technological or philosophical offered with few ideas applicable to everyday educational practice.

This book aims to give the reader an introduction to the concept of ecosystem PLE and pedagogical ideas underpinning it, plus some relevant experiences that exemplify how it can be used in practice in all levels of education and how research is approached from different PLEs perspectives.

There is not a book for experts or, at least, that was not our intention, but we believe that the expert will find it inspiring things. We intend to be an introductory book with a close but rigorous style that offers a modern perspective of the subject without forgetting that pedagogy takes some time exploring these roads.

Personal Learning Environments – The book

April 22nd, 2013 by Cristina Costa

My dear friends Linda Castañeda and Jordi Adell have just published a new book on Personal Learning Environments: Key aspects of an online educational ecosystem (my translation for Entornos personales de aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red)

portadaThe book is innovative in different ways:

- It touches on very pertinent aspects of teaching and learning online. With a focus on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), the book goes on to explore several interrelated themes such as Flexible and Open Learning, Pedagogical Approaches to PLEs, Technological possibilities,  and the future of PLEs, just to name a few.

- I also like the fact that the book is divided in 4 distinct parts:

  1. An overview on PLEs (providing insights into the technological and pedagogical perspectives of a PLE as an online learning ecosystem)
  2. A practical section with useful examples on how to set up and use PLEs in different educational contexts
  3. A section on new research on PLEs
  4. And a final section on complementary perspectives of PLEs as a learning ecosystem

- There is an open access version of the book that is super easy to navigate and use. (Like… it a LOT)

- And as a bonus, it is licensed in Creative Commons!  It’s a winner

Well done Linda and Jordi, and all the authors as well. It’s a great project.

 

Ricardo Torres and I also wrote a chapter for the book Professional development, lifelong learning, and Personal Learning Environments.

Thank you 3 for the opportunity! ;-)

PLE Conference Update

March 26th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I wasn’t overoptimistic about the Personal Learning Environments Conference this year. Discussions about PLEs have been subsumed in the hype over MOOCs. And most conferences are struggling with the ongoing recession. But I am delighted that we have received 59 submissions including a number of great proposals for interactive workshops.

The PLE Conference takes place on 10 and 12 July in Berlin.

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