Archive for the ‘PLN’ Category

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.

A new approach to conference reviewing

February 11th, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Preparations for the 4th International PLE Conference 2013 being held in Berlin, Germany together with a parallel event in Melbourne, Australia are well underway. the conference will take place on July 11 and 12 and the deadline for the call for submission of abstracts is March 4.

The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

More than that the PLe conference has always prided itself on innovatory approaches to design in terms of involving participants. This year will see the continuation of the unkeynotes, which Cristina Costa and myself discuss in the video above.

And this year sees another experiment in moving away from the traditional reviewing process to an approach based on ‘shepherding’ or mentoring.

The PLEconf web site explains the process.

1. The overall review process

The PLE 2013 review process is organised into three steps:

  • Step 1 (review before the conference): Submitted abstracts for full and short papers are peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) by screening their overall fit with the conference scope as well as the degree of innovation, technical quality, significance and clarity of contributions. As a guide, the extended abstract for a full paper should include the background of the study, the approach and methods employed in the work, the results and the conclusion, which should reflect on the successes and limitations of the work and future development.
  • Step 3 (shepherding) To enhance the participatory character of the PLE Conference the review process is based on the shepherding concept. This means that the authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit full versions of their papers for the conference and are offered support by shepherds (mentors) in the process of writing final full versions. Upon author’s consent, depending on the overall paper maturity, a mentor may be assigned to a paper to guide the process of preparing the manuscript. Shepherds are experienced authors who, non-anonymously, help the submitters by making suggestions for improvement. The submitters incorporate these improvements into their work over a few iterations, usually three, though this may vary from case to case. The aim of shepherding is to enhance the quality of the submissions and help authors qualify for publication in the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).
  • Step 2 (review after the conference): After the conference, the final manuscripts of short and full papers are submitted and peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) again to assess their quality for publication in a special issue of the scientific journal. All submissions will be published in electronic conference proceedings under a Creative Commons Licence. However, only best-quality papers will be considered for the Special Issue of the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).

2. The shepherding concept

Source: http://www.agnusday.org/strips/John10v22to30_2007.jpg

Where does shepherding come from? What is it about?
Shepherding for scientific reviewing started at Conferences on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP’s), a process aimed to help authors to improve their work using a non-anonymous reviewer (shepherd), guiding the author (sheep) on their way (report). The shepherds focus on the organization of the content and the format of articles. Shepherds therefore must be experts in their field and willing to help to improve the work of others. The focus of shepherding feedback is the text itself, there is no discussion of the projects or theories. The goal is to improve the papers for the second review after the shepherding process.

What is the value of shepherding?
Shepherding is now being used by several conference committees to help leverage the potential value of authors’ work by improving them considerably and thus better serving the community. This approach helps to develop more well-rounded articles. It is also an excellent opportunity for newer authors to improve their articles and to get in contact with the community.

What are the principles of shepherding?
Shepherds are experts in their field. The work is of the author. Shepherds advise authors during the process of writing. The person ultimately responsible for the article is the author (sheep). The underlying culture is a gift culture, so it is crucial that shepherds are willing to help authors to improve. The cycles of interaction between authors and shepherds based on Kelly (2008) are:

  • Author sends the first version of the manuscript to the shepherd and introduces the manuscript briefly in his/her own words;
  • Shepherds reply to authors, i.e. ask questions (e.g. What is the motivation for the paper? What do you want to achieve? Where can I help?) and provide initial feedback. Constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement are crucial for shepherding!
  • Authors improve the manuscript by answering the questions and incorporating the shepherd’s feedback.
  • Authors send improved manuscripts to shepherds and another cycle starts with the introduction of the new version (iterative cycle).

Testimonials from shepherds

“As a shepherd, I get great satisfaction helping authors communicate their ideas. A shepherd is not an editor. Shepherds don’t edit. Instead, through conversations, questions , and dialog a shepherd helps authors find their own voice and write compelling papers. I find shepherding to be a wonderful experience. That’s why I do it: to learn, to help grow communities, and to help people share their good ideas more clearly. It’s so rewarding!” Rebecca Wirfs-Brock (PLoP community)

“In my experience, when it is done well, shepherding results in an increased focus and clarity to the work. A good shepherd can help the sheep really bring out the important message of the work and make it much clearer to the reader. On occasion, the sheep gains additional insights into his own work. Note however, that I have seen some superficial shepherding, which resulted in only cosmetic improvements to the work. So it isn’t an automatic great improvement. It takes discipline to do a good job.” Neil Harrison (PLoP)

“Shepherds are individuals, with experience in writing, assigned to an author’s paper with the expressed interest in helping the author improve their paper or writing of any kind. The shepherding process is essentially a review process where the author gets to get feedback on how well the paper communicates the author’s ideas. The shepherd is able to then make suggestions on making the paper better or to assist with ways on helping the author clarify their ideas. Shepherding is about improving the paper itself, while the Shepherd maintains that the author is the one doing the writing. The shepherd can guide an author into a more mature understanding of his or her paper. The best shepherds are those that usually have a good understanding of the subject matter they are reviewing. The main goal of a shepherd is to help the author(s) to make the paper the best that it can be given the amount of “shepherding” time they have for the given venue the paper is to be presented at.” Joseph W. Yoder (PLoP community)

3. Shepherding at PLE 2013

Shepherding is an instrument to improve the quality of submissions, help authors connect with the scientific community and strengthen connections within the PLE community. Shepherds are mentors drawn from the Review Committee. Beside the intrinsic value and the insight into interesting papers, mentors will receive special recognition – shepherds will be featured on the special page and receive special badges rewarding their work. Also authors will vote for the best shepherd. The winners will be awarded at the PLE Conference 2013.

 

Diversity and Divide in TEL: the case for Personal Learning Environments

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Crisi-tunity

 危机 – wēijī is the Chinese word for “crisis”. It comprises the symbols 危 wēi (danger) and 机 jī (opportunity)

Next week I had planned to be at the Alpine Rendezvous in France, at a workshop entitled ‘Technology Enhanced Learning: crisis and response’.

The aims of the workshop are to:

  • discuss the relationships between TEL and varieties of change, discontinuity and dislocation we observe in the wider world;
  • explore how communities and research traditions involved in TEL can learn from each other, particularly to bring about more open, participative, emancipatory and fluid models of TEL;
  • consider and shape a research agenda for TEL that will allow relevant, rigorous and useful responses on the part of educational organisations and actors to the various discontinuities we have identified.

As specific outcomes we will have:

  • contributed to a clearer and more politically engaged formulation of the Grand Challenges for TEL as part of the ARV process;
  • clarified, refined and challenged our own ideas, leading to a special issue or publication.

The ever indefatigable Ilona Buchem and myself had submitted an abstract called ‘Diversity and TEL: the case for Personal Learning Environments. Sadly I have managed to double book myself and cannot go to the workshop. But Ilona will be there and she has just updated our position paper (reproduced below). And I hope the workshop will be the start of something longer term, where we can explore the social impact of TEL and how it can develop a response to the ongoing social and economic crisis.

Abstract

In this position paper, we discuss whether current TEL promotes diversity or divide and the current barriers in promoting diversity in TEL. We discuss these issues based on the example of Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which is as an approach to TEL aiming at empowering learners to use diverse technological tools suited to their own needs and connecting with other learners through building Personal Learning Networks. We argue that this approach to TEL promotes diversity through boundary-crossing and responding to the diverse needs and prerequisites that each individual learner brings in. At the same time we discuss how the PLE approach challenges current educational practices and what tensions arise when Personal Learning Environments are implemented in educational institutions.

Dangers

How can and should TEL address the numerous challenges of our times, such as economic, demographic, environmental and social challenges? One of the most straightforward contributions of TEL would be to address persisting educational inequalities across age groups, which are often determined by such factors as socio-economic background, geographic location, native language, race, ethnicity, health and gender. Shouldn’t TEL be aiming at providing all people with affordable opportunities to learn and connect with others, with open access to resources, with options of choosing how, when and where they want to learn, with support to learn when no other support is given, taking into account different educational expectations, desires, and dispositions? This may sound utopian, but the penalties for ignoring the challenge of educational disparities are immense, and pose danger on employment, mobility and social cohesion.

Divide

To provide equal opportunities of participation in an increasingly global and increasingly digital world, diminishing digital divide should become the visible agenda of TEL. The digital divide cannot be discussed only as a gap between technology haves and have-nots. Below the inequalities in access and usage, there is also a problem of a divide between contexts, domains and communities that different learners operate in. Following Gorski (2005) in his postulate for a significant paradigm shift in framing digital divide, digital inequalities have to considered from the perspective of larger educational and social inequalities:

As such, we must keep at the fore of the digital divide discussion the fact that the groups most disfranchised by it are the same groups historically and currently disfranchised by curricular and pedagogical practices, evaluation and assessment, school counseling, and all other aspects of education (and society at large).

Innovation

The need for empowered learners as citizens engaging in cross-boundary, problem-solving has been advocated as a necessary means for social innovation. It is through boundary-crossing or bridging the divides that individual and sociocultural differences can become a resource. However, mainstream TEL has not fully recognised the opportunity of boundary crossing and engaging diverse learners in collective action related to solving real life problems. Much of TEL is developed to fit the prevailing educational paradigm, focusing on ever more efficient management of learning and more reliable methods of assessment rather than encouraging learners to explore diverse ideas, experiment with diverse formats or build bridges to diverse communities.

Diversity

Can promoting diversity through TEL be a response to crisis? Certainly, in view of the growing complexity of societal, environmental and economic challenges and the ever increasing amount of information and communication possibilities, diversity may raise new questions, challenges and concerns. However, both research and practice provide evidence that diversity, in terms of individual or group attributes as well as in terms of different content, resources and tools provides valuable opportunities for intellectual engagement, personal growth and the development of novel solutions. How can we promote diversity through TEL? One possible approach would be to grant “access” to learning while at the same time broadening the meaning of “access” beyond physical access and usage rates to include access to an array of media and choices, access to support and encouragement, access to inclusive content and experiences (Gorski, 2005).

Personal Learning Environments

Personal Learning Environments, as an approach to TEL, focus on the learner-controlled and learner-led uses of technologies for learning with no centralised control over tools, information or interactions. This strong focus on autonomous, literate learners as agents and decision-makers taking control and claiming ownership of their learning environments is of course in contrast with regulated and planned processes at schools and universities, demanding radical changes in the prevailing educational paradigm. TEL, based on the Personal Learning Environments approach, vests learners with control over learning processes and outcomes, including planing, content, interactions, resources and assessment. In this way, the PLE approach challenges not only the prevailing educational paradigm, but also TEL approaches inspired by this paradigm, such as Learning Management Systems and pre-programmed, locked-down systems, such as some types of video games or mobile apps, which place learners in the role of recipients and consumers of systems devised by others, while failing to foster both generativity and boundary-crossing.

Boundary-crossing

Such pre-programmed, quality-controlled and locked-down approaches to TEL have led to “walled gardens in cyberspace”, isolating different learners and learning contexts, posing external constraints on what learners can do in such environments in terms of activities, resources and tools. Alternatively, learner-controlled uses of technologies, as embodied in the Personal Learning Environments approach, have facilitated boundary crossing and merging multiple learning contexts, domains and communities. The postulate of boundary-crossing through the PLE approach has a human and technological dimension. On one hand, the PLE approach calls for learners to claim and make use of ownership and control over their learning environment, exerting agency in terms of the human capacity to make choices and uses those choices in real world interactions. On the other hand, the PLE approach calls for openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems.

Attributes

PLE-triangle

With learner ownership, control and agency combined with openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems being the core attributes of the PLE approach to TEL, diversity becomes natural (Buchem, Attwell, Torres, 2011). The PLE approach promotes diversity of social interactions, diversity of learning contexts and diversity of learning practices. Personal Learning Environments entail diverse people and communities coming together, diverse technology tools and platforms used and combined by learners, diverse content production and consumption modes, diverse access points and modes of learning.

Conflicts

However, diversity promoted by the PLE approach is a source of conflict when PLEs and other systems interact. Specifically, tensions arise at the points traditionally considered as legitimate divides in the education system including TEL, for example (a) private vs. public access, (b) course members vs. non-members, (c) disciplinary knowledge vs. practice-based knowledge, (d) formal vs. informal learning context, (e) expert vs. novice, (f) individual vs. collective practice, (g) assessment vs. reflection, (h) planning vs. implementation, or (i) standards vs. innovation.

Opportunities

We argue that challenging these presumably legitimate boundaries in TEL as postulated by the PLE approach is a way to innovation which may bring viable responses to the crises.

Literature

Buchem, I., Attwell, G., Torres, R. (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. pp. 1-33. Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011.

Gorski, P. (2005). Education equity and the digital divide. Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education Journal, 13(1), 3-45.

Real MOOCs ?

December 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Hardly a day goes by without the announcement of a new MOOC or a new tie up between universities to offer MOOCs. this despite widespread scepticism amongst educationalists as to the pedagogic model being offered by the ‘commercial’ or x-MOOC providers or indeed any particularly convincing financial model.

And yet the original idea behind the MOOC as developed by Downes, Siemens and others is not dead.

Today I received an email from Yishay Mor about a new MOOC being launched in early 2013.

The OLDS MOOC “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum” is a project based 9 week course. We expect 500-1000 participants, and we hope a large portion of these will be working on a group project throughout the MOOC, dedicating 3-10 hours a week to it, and producing an innovative, robust and meaningful design for a learning activity or curricular resource.

We aim to provide a semi-structured, highly interactive, constructive and collaborative learning experience. This means that we set the scene – but you determine the plot.

In order to make that work, we need to provide simple, effective, and powerful learning practices.

This looks interesting. So what distinguishes in from the so called x-MOOCS with the power of the so called world leading educational institutions behind them.

First the MOOC is based on research and development work – not just on a traditional curriculum.

Secondly and perhaps even more important the people behind the MOOC are not contracted instructional designers but researchers and teachers with an interest, stake and passion for their work and a desire o share that passion with others.

Thirdly although they are providing an infrastructure through the Open University Cloudworks environment amongst other tools, participants are free to use whatever tools they wish.

And the organisers are supporting the establishment of study groups to support and scaffold learning.

Of course all of this is a lot of work. As so it should be. Supporting 500 to 1000 students in a sic week course is not and should not be seen as trivial. But I am afraid many of the more commercial MOOC providers think a quick injection of instructional design time plus videoing some lectures is a quick fix for education.

If anything the divide between different MOOC offerings continues to widen. But at least, amongst all the hype, we still continue to see the emergence of some excellent looking open courses.

 

2012 PLE Conference papers now online

December 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

In these days of repositories and Open Online Resources publishing should be easy. But it is still not so simple. For one thing there is all the editing and checking = for another developing / begging or borrowing the technical infrastructure.

The PLE Conference organisers are committed to publishing all contributions to our annual conference online with a Creative Commons License. And thanks to hard work by Carlos, Luis and Sara, the proceedings of the 2012 conference, held in Aveiro, Portugal, are now online here.

Check it out – if you have any interest in Personal Learning Environments you will find much of interest.

PLE Conference 2013

November 27th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The Call for Papers for the PLE Conference 2013 is out!  The PLE Conference 2013 will be held in Berlin & Melbourne 10-12 July 2013 around the theme of: Personal Learning Environments: Learning and Diversity in Cities of the Future.

According to the PLE website: “The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are an approach to Technology- Enhanced Learning based on the principles of learner autonomy and empowerment. PLEs include methods, tools, communities, and services constituting individual learning infrastructures or ecosystems which learners use to direct their own learning and pursue their educational goals. This represents a shift away from the traditional model of learning based on knowledge transfer towards a model of learning based on knowledge construction where learners draw connections from a growing pool of online and offline resources to plan, organise, engage in, reflect on and evaluate their learning and development. By focusing on the enhancing learning of individual, yet interconnected learners, the PLE approach encompasses a diversity of learners, tools, perspectives and knowledge.

So far Personal Learning Environments have been designed and implemented in formal and informal learning contexts, such as school and higher education, work-based learning and in-company training, and in continuing education. The potential of Personal Learning Environments for crossing the boundaries of traditional learning contexts, connecting diverse communities and infrastructures has not been fully realised. Therefore, the 4th PLE Conference in 2013 aims at taking the discussion on Personal Learning Environments a step forward, providing a new impulse for PLE research and development.

The theme for the conference is learning and diversity in cities of the future. In view of the “Smart City” concept and the key priorities for research and innovation expressed in the EU Horizon 2020 framework, innovative, sustainable and inclusive solutions become crucial not only in terms of future and emerging technologies but first and foremost in terms of (i) human knowledge and skills, (ii) diverse and inclusive communities, as well as (iii) learning and knowledge networks. Hence, new forms of connected, interdisciplinary learning and cross-boundary cooperation are seen to play a critical role in the development of creative solutions and in the intelligent exploitation of networked urban infrastructures. In smart urban spaces, people, organisations and objects become interconnected by means of new technologies and media, forging new patterns of cooperation, production, research and innovation.

As smart cities we understand smart urban spaces in the sense of Michael de Certeau, i.e. “practiced places”, places which are transformed and constituted by dynamic and diverse elements (“a tour is different than a map”). From this perspective the following questions emerge:

What shapes can Personal Learning Environments take to support diversity, cross-boundary learning and interdisciplinary transformation of urban spaces? How can we design and implement Personal Learning Environments as part of highly interconnected social and technological infrastructures of smart cities? What technology-enhanced scenarios can be envisaged to enhance learning and diversity in cities of the future?

For more information about the Call for Papers including submission themes, formats, important dates and guidelines for submissions, go the the PLE conference web site pages: ‘Call for Papers‘ and ‘Important Dates‘.”

Where are we going with Peronal Learning Environments?

November 26th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Linda Castaneda emailed me. “As I have already told you,  Jordi Adell and myself, are editing a book about PLEs in Spanish. It is not a commercial book, we are going to edit some hard copies for free and an open ebook in the Web. The idea is to offer an overview of PLE for teachers (as complete as possible), in plain, trying to explain what PLE means in general but, specially, what PLEs mean for formal education.

The idea is how understand better PLE and how PLE could transform education and the teachers practice…. in order to give a wider perspective, we would love to include a kind of “chapter of basics around the world” which include some “basic” texts (preferible blogposts), regarding some topics around pedagogical things around PLEs and emergent pedagogies from international relevant authors, even if those texts has been already published in English…

We think sometimes our teachers don’t have access to those texts because of the language, or because of the format (from our experience, school teachers are not usual blogsphere readers), or because of the context (they don’t understand  how include those texts ¡n their day to day needs. So we want to include some texts like this, translated into Spanish in order to  complete the PLE perspective we want to offer.

The question is we would love to include one of your texts (blogposts) on it. Something already published in a non problematic format (no journal papers  for Copy Right problems) that could give some light on the PLEs topic or better, on the Pedagogies around PLEs. In your case the “link with all the informal part would be great and crucial).”

And she offered me a beer and a good meal. How could I resist? I couldn’t find anything suitable that I had already written so I wrote this short text on Sunday.

PLEs and Hype cycles

Gartner has used hype cycles to characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles apply as much to educational technologies as they do to consumer products.

Yet the discussion and development of Personal Learning environments does not follow the normal hype cycle pattern. Although the idea has been in widespread use since 2004, there is a steady increase in research and development and in initiatives to implement PLEs in practice.

Perhaps this is because although the idea of PLEs can lead to the development of new technology applications, it is predominantly an approach to using technology for teaching and learning, rather than an educational technology per se. As such the developments of PLEs interact with both wider societal discussions around the future and purpose of education and with different pedagogical initiatives around Technology Enhanced Learning. This short article will look at these interactions.

The purpose and future of education

The debate over the purpose and future of education has spread beyond the educational community to enter mainstream political and social discourses. In part this is a product of the economic crisis and pressure for fiscal savings by national governments. It is also due to attempts by capitalism to open new markets through commodification and marketisation. This in turn has led to both movements to defend state funded education and to open access to learning. At a more fundamental level, the debate may reflect the growing dysfunctionality of education systems which were developed to meet the needs of an earlier form of industrial capitalism and no longer meet the perceived needs of late capitalism. And whilst in the past education systems, curricula and pedagogy were able to balance the needs of industry with the ideas and aspirations of educators, there is a growing tension as to the very purpose of education today.

Interestingly, Personal Learning Environments offer something to all sides in this debate. On the one hand they offer a tool to recognise learning from all contexts and to allow new and open approaches to pedagogy to develop the potential of every learner. On the other hand they can be used for lifelong and continuing learning to develop and improve employability, regardless of institutional arrangements.

Technology and learning
Of course, the rapid development and implementation of new technologies is impacting on education, as it is on all other sectors of society. Technology Enhanced Learning is not a new phenomenon. Both radio and television were extensively used for learning and web 1.0 offered widespread access to information. But these were essentially push technologies. Web 2.0 has opened up discourse and interactivity further blurring the roles of teacher and learner.  At the same time improved bandwidth has facilitated the production and sharing of multimedia challenging the primacy of print as a paradigm of education. Near ubiquitous access to the internet and the development of mobile devices means learning can take place almost anywhere. And social software has allowed the development of dispersed personal networks outside the school and the creative application of technology for learning in the classroom.

Research and development of PLEs

Given such developments, PLE research could almost be seen as a description and analysis of how people are using technology for learning, rather than as an idea as to how they might. Of course many young people use their personal networks on facebook to discuss their homework. Wikipedia is an increasingly universal reference point for information and knowledge and thousands of teachers, amongst other, contribute to it. And when we want to find out how to do something we often turn to crowdsourced video sites.

However PLE thinking goes further than this. The PLE movement is not based on a single artefact or thing or a simple pedagogic approach but represents diverse ways and perspectives on how we can change process and form of education and in particular as to how we can facilitate learning in multiple contexts.

As such the development of PLEs interacts with many different experiments, projects and initiatives with using technology for teaching and learning.

These include:

The design of new schools and learning spaces
The Telefonplan School, in Stockholm has been designed so children could work independently in opened-spaces while lounging, or go to “the village” to work on group-projects.Such open environments facilitate flexible learning and personal learning pathways. Other spaces such as libraries, museums and cultural centres are increasingly seen as learning environments.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
The fast growth in provision of Massive (and not so massive) Open Online Courses has been enabled by the use of Personal Learning Environments and even if some of the more institutionally driven MOOCs are quite traditional in form it is likely that students are using their online personal networks as a support for learning

Learning analytics
Although in its infancy, learning analytics could pathways for navigating and structuring learning through a Personal Learning Environment

The recognition of informal learning
The spread of Personal Learning Environments is leading to new initiatives to recognise informal learning and learning in different contexts. Such initiatives include the Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges project

New Standards
The ADL sponsored Experience API is designed to allow learners to track and record their personal learning.

The use of social software and multimedia in the classroom
Teachers are increasingly bypassing the restrictions of Virtual Learning Environments to integrate social software and multimedia for creative and explorative learning in the classroom (see for example the work of the EU funded Taccle 2 project).

Shaping our Learning

Marshall McLuhan said “we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” As a community we need to consciously shape our tools for learning, just as those tools shape the forms and learning which plays such a key role in our personal lives and in our society.

And of course the shape of those tools will inform the future design of our educational institutions and schools. PLEs are not just a tool but are an approach to how we develop and shape those tools.

This in turn will increasingly impact on the role of teachers as supporters and facilitators of learning. PLEs, along with other developments represent a move towards learners taking more responsibility for their learning. However for this to happen they will need support. It also raises the issue of what literacies learners need not just to access and evaluate information but to themselves shape their tools.

At the same time, the contexts in which we are learning are widening. Whilst we are developing an understanding of context in terms of location, through the use of mobile devices, we have still to fully understand different aspects of context including, perhaps critically, what we are trying to learn.

The debate over the role of educational institutions will continue. Our increasing understanding of the role of PLEs in learning can contribute to this debate. PLEs do not invalidate or diminish the role of institutions but can inform how we view institutionally based learning within wider communities, be they online or geographically based. PLEs may also help to overcome some of the tensions between the different purposes and directions for education in the coming years.

 

Control and ownership

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

This presentation by Ilona Buchem to the PLE21012 conference is based on a study on the psychological ownership of Personal learning Environments. Ilona says: “One of most interesting outcomes of the study was the relation between control and ownership. The results show that while perceived control of intangible aspects of a learning environment (such as being able to determine the subject matter or access rights) has a much larger impact on the feeling of ownership of a learning environment than perceived control of tangible aspects (such as being able to choose the technology).”

Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Ilona Buchem and myself have submitted a proposal, Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments, for the workshop on TEL, The Crisis and the Response, to be held at next years Alpine Rendez-Vous.

The digital divide cannot be discussed only as a gap between technology haves and have-nots. Below the inequalities in access and usage, there is also a problem of a divide between contexts, domains and communities that different learners operate in. The need for empowered learners as citizens engaging in cross-boundary, problem-solving has been advocated as a necessary means for social innovation. It is through boundary-crossing or bridging the divides that individual and sociocultural differences can become a resource. However, mainstream TEL has not fully recognised the potential of boundary crossing and engaging diverse learners in collective action related to solving real life problems. Much of TEL is developed to fit the prevailing educational paradigm, focusing on ever more efficient management of learning and more reliable methods of assessment rather than encouraging learners to explore diverse ideas, experiment with diverse formats or build bridges to diverse communities.

Can promoting diversity through TEL be a response to crisis? Certainly, in view of the growing complexity of societal, environmental and economic challenges and the ever increasing amount of information and communication possibilities, diversity may raise new questions, challenges and concerns. However, both research and practice provide evidence that diversity, in terms of individual or group attributes as well as in terms of different content, resources and tools provides valuable opportunities for intellectual engagement, personal growth and the development of novel solutions.

In this position paper, we discuss whether current TEL promotes diversity or divide and the current barriers in promoting diversity in TEL. We discuss these issues based on the example of Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which is as an approach to TEL aiming at empowering learners to use diverse technological tools suited to their own needs and connecting with other learners through building Personal Learning Networks. We argue that this approach to TEL promotes diversity through boundary-crossing and responding to the diverse needs and prerequisites that each individual learner brings in. At the same time we discuss how the PLE approach challenges current educational practices and what tensions arise when Personal Learning Environments are implemented in educational institutions.

Personal Learning Environments, as an approach to TEL, focus on the learner-controlled and learner-led uses of technologies for learning with no centralised control over tools, information or interactions. This strong focus on autonomous, literate learners as agents and decision-makers taking control and claiming ownership of their learning environments is of course in contrast with regulated and planned processes at schools and universities, demanding radical changes in the prevailing educational paradigm. TEL, based on the Personal Learning Environments approach, vests learners with control over learning processes and outcomes, including planing, content, interactions, resources and assessment. In this way, the PLE approach challenges not only the prevailing educational paradigm, but also TEL approaches inspired by this paradigm, such as Learning Management Systems and pre-programmed, locked-down systems, such as some types of video games or mobile apps, which place learners in the role of recipients and consumers of systems devised by others, while failing to foster both generativity and boundary-crossing.

Such pre-programmed, quality-controlled and locked-down approaches to TEL have led to “walled gardens in cyberspace”, isolating different learners and learning contexts, posing external constraints on what learners can do in such environments in terms of activities, resources and tools. Alternatively, learner-controlled uses of technologies, as embodied in the Personal Learning Environments approach, have facilitated boundary crossing and merging multiple learning contexts, domains and communities.

The postulate of boundary-crossing through the PLE approach has a human and technological dimension. On one hand, the PLE approach calls for learners to claim and make use of ownership and control over their learning environment, exerting agency in terms of the human capacity to make choices and uses those choices in real world interactions. On the other hand, the PLE approach calls for openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems.

With learner ownership, control and agency combined with openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems being the core attributes of the PLE approach to TEL, diversity becomes natural. The PLE approach promotes diversity of social interactions, diversity of learning contexts and diversity of learning practices. Personal Learning Environments entail diverse people and communities coming together, diverse technology tools and platforms used and combined by learners, diverse content production and consumption modes, diverse access points and modes of learning.

However, diversity promoted by the PLE approach is a source of conflict when PLEs and other systems interact. Specifically, tensions arise at the points traditionally considered as legitimate divides in the education system including TEL, for example (a) private vs. public access, (b) course members vs. non-members, (c) disciplinary knowledge vs. practice-based knowledge, (d) formal vs. informal learning context, (e) expert vs. novice, (f) individual vs. collective practice, (g) assessment vs. reflection, (h) planning vs. implementation, or (i) standards vs. innovation.

We argue that challenging these presumably legitimate boundaries in TEL as postulated by the PLE approach is a way to innovation which may bring viable responses to the crises.

The MOOC debate

August 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There is an intense debate going on about MOOCs at the moment. As  Nellie Deutsch explains in an excellent post entitled Loveless MOOCs:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) began with the idea of connecting for learning via personal learning environments (PLEs) using blogs, wikis, google groups, and Moodle. According to Wikipedia, the term MOOC is said to have started in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander “in response to an open online course designed and lead by George Siemens and Stephen Downes” (wikipedia). However, MOOCs have changed from the idea of connecting with others for learning to the more traditional content delivery format as demonstrated by Khan’s Academy, MIT’s and Standford.

Now a group of elite universities have launched their own MOOCs using Coursera (a proprietary course management system)  developed for the universities and with many other private and public educational institutions planning their own MOOCs the debate is underway.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens have characterised the difference as between C type MOOCs (C as in connectivism) and X type MOOCs (I am not sure what the X stands for). I am not sure this helps clarify things. Indeed, I think the term MOOC is now being used for almost any web based course and as such is losing any real meaning

So what are the differences.

The first is intent and motivation. The original MOOCs run by Siemens and Downes were designed to open up learning to all who wished to participate – thus the Open in the name. The business model – in as much as their was one – was based on a limited number of participants being enrolled as formal students in one of the sponsoring institutions. The new MOOCs appear to be driven by  the desire to charge for online courses, as a way of increasing enrolment on other formal courses or by charging for certification.

The latter has pedagogic implications.

Pamel McLean reports on her personal experience on her blog:

I’ve started my history of the Internet course with Coursera. I’m very interested to see how it works. It’s assessed, which I was not expecting, and find highly demotivating. I don’t really want to “master” the  cource materials.  I just want a familiarise  myself with what it covers, and how it does it.  However assessment and a final judgement of having passed or failed brings in all kinds of new dynamics. I feel a need to demonstrate to “the powers that be” that I’m not a failure, but I didn’t enrol in order to prove anything to them. I enrolled to take what I wanted from the course. Only a few hours in and I feel pushed towards jumping through hoops. I think they have only three categories “pass”, “fail” or “dropout”.

This is not the only pedagogic difference. Siemens and Downes based their MOOC on peer support through the use of social software and Web 2.0 technologies including Forums, Blogs and Twitter, webinars and internet radio. They also invited an impressive list of guest speakers who gave their time for free. Thus the model was based on peer and interactive learning through community connections, with links to participant activity being harvested and shared.

The new MOOCs are evidently not based on such a model. In fact they really just seem to be traditional on-line courses, albeit repackaged.

Furthermore, Downes and Siemens promoted the development of Personal Learning Environments with participants encouraged to develop their own learning environment including whatever applications they chose. This is very different to the closed world of Coursera technology.

I don’t agree with Nellie Deutsch’s assertion that the attitude the elite universities are choosing to take is “if you can’t join them, break them”. Instead I think they are trying to take what is clearly a successful and ground breaking innovation and trying to mold it to fit their own pedagogic and business models. But at the end of the day I don’t think what they are promoting are MOOCs, at least not as they were originally conceived.

Postscript: there are an increasing number of efforts to curate the MOOC debate – I particularly like Networked Learning – Learning Networks by Peter B Sloep which picks up well on the key issues under discussion.

 

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    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

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