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Pedagogy and Personal Learning Environments

May 15th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The first of a series of four or five posts about Personal Learning Environments. Together with Linda Castaneda and Ilona Buchem, I am editing a special journal featuring five papers from the PLE Conference 2011, held in Southampton, UK (it never ceases to amaze me how long it take sot get these publications out). And of course the last thing we had to do was write an editorial. This extract from the editorial is an introduction to this  blog mini series.

“This special edition  features papers presented at the Second Personal Learning Environments Conference, held in Southampton, UK in July 2011.

It follows on from the previous journal edition which featured papers from the first PLE conference, held in Barcelona in July the previous year.

At that conference PLEs were a largely new and unexplored concept. Much effort and discussion was expended in trying to arrive at a common definition of a PLE, in debating the dichotomy between technological and pedagogy approaches and constructs to developing Personal Learning Environments, and between personal and institutional approaches to developing and using technology for learning.

Further discussions focused on the impact and affordances of Web 2.0 and social software on developing PLEs, with at the same time early, emergent empirical research on the implementation of PLEs.

In only one year the debate moved considerably forward. Earlier concerns – for instance over a tension between pedagogic and technical developments – appeared less irreconcilable, with the majority of participants agreeing that a PLE can be seen as a pedagogical approach with many implications for the learning processes, underpinned by a ‘hard’ technological base. Such a techno-pedagogical concept can benefit from the affordances of technologies, as well as from the emergent social dynamics of new pedagogic scenarios.

We also agreed on the need to continue thinking around practices for enriching the learning process through transparent dynamics that build on, at the same time, the potential of formal and non formal relationships, the contexts of schools and companies, the focus on learning and knowledge, and so on. In this process, attempts to invent new acronyms to differentiate contexts (of PLE components, or tools), often at only a theoretical level, add little extra-value to the previous analysis.

However, there was an evident concern about the implementation PLEs of in real learning contexts. This was seen as more than just a question of implementing a specific tool or suite of tools. Even when there is an agreement on the importance of tools for learning – especially Web 2.0 tools – the main issue remained of how to develop and implement a new understanding about how learning takes place.

The main concern about the development of PLEs was the practical pedagogical implication of their adoption in different contexts, especially when taking into account a more interdisciplinary perspective. It included considerations of pedagogy, didactics, technology, institutional issues and the many factors that contribute to the complex system of tensions that constitute the common framework in which we talk about learning and education.”

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