Archive for the ‘PLN’ Category

Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens

August 22nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Ilona Buchem proposed to me and Ricardo Torres that we should undertake a systematic review of literature on Personal Learning Environments as our contribution to this years PLE conference held in early July in Southampton. We set out to review some 100 journal articles and blog posts in three langauges.

The major challenge was how to classify and analyse the material. We set out with an original framework comprised of  three tiers of analytic categories:

●      A top tier with the three dimensions: “Personal”, “Learning” and “Environment”;

●     A  middle tier with two domain perspectives: “Pedagogy” and “Technology”;

●      A bottom tier with a set of core concepts and a scale from “high” to “low”.

However, the first reading and analysis of selected literature led us to the conclusion that focusing only on the three dimensions at the top tier level as described above leaves out other central aspects related to PLEs. At the same time the three original categories are too broad and encompass different notions that need further disaggregation.

Thus we decided to use Activity Theory as a basis for our analysis reasoning that the idea of PLEs places the focus on the appropriation of different tools and resources by an individual learner and there is a general agreement on viewing learners as being situated within a social context which influences the way in which they use media, participate in activities and engage in communities. Learning outcomes are considered to be created in the process of tackling the problems and challenges learners meet in different contexts by using tools and resources leading to outcomes. The perspective on learning as tool-mediated, situated, object-directed and collective activity is the basic tenet of Activity Theory (Engeström 1999; Engeström, 2001).

Overall, I think the approach works well. We found that the core concepts around PLEs such as ownership, control, literacy, autonomy or empowerment are often mentioned in the literature but seldom defined, theoretically grounded or differentiated. This obscures the overall picture and understanding of PLEs. We identified a series of ‘open research questions’:

  • What types of ownership and control are relevant to PLEs?
  • What motivates and demotivates learners to establish own PLEs?
  • Which norms and values guide the development of PLEs in different contexts?
  • What roles are played by different actors in a PLE?
  • What is the relationship between ownership and collaboration in a PLE?
  • How do PLEs contribute to identity development?
  • How to balance power between different participants in a PLE?
  • How to support the development of literacies necessary to establish a PLE?

You can read the full paper below or download a copy. We would very much welcome feedback from readers.

Thanks especially to Ilona for all the hard work she put in in getting this paper ready for publication.
Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens

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Osobiste środowiska uczenia się

August 22nd, 2011 by Ilona Buchem

W lipcu tego roku, podczas konferencji PLE w Southampton, Graham Attwell, Ricardo Torres i ja zaprezentowalismy wyniki naszej analizy literatury dotyczącej osobistych środowisk uczenia się.

Publikacja naukowa pod tytułem “Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens” została umieszczone w Webscience Journal: http://journal.webscience.org/658/

Oto pełen tytuł publikacji:

Buchem, Ilona and Attwell, Graham and Torres, Ricardo (2011) Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. pp. 1-33. In: Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011, 10th – 12th July 2011, Southampton, UK.

Głównym pytaniem naszej pracy jest: “Czym charakteryzują się osobiste środowiska uczenia się? Jakie są ich główne cechy i w jaki sposób można je systematycznie opisać?”

Przegląd literatury jakiego dokonaliśmy oparty jest na teorii aktywności (Activity Theory). Do analizy ponad 100 publikacji odnoszących się do osobistych środowisk uczenia się posłużyliśmy się metodologią teorii ugruntowanej (Grounded Theory). Naszym celem było lepsze zrozumienie tego, czym są i jak funkcjonują osobiste środowiska uczenia się.

Oto streszczenie:

“This paper represents a scientific analysis of a broad range of publications surrounding the field of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). Personal Learning Environments can be viewed as a concept related to the use of technology for learning focusing on the appropriation of tools and resources by the learner. Capturing the individual activity, or how the learner uses technology to support learning, lies at the heart of the PLE concept. The central research question guiding this review was: What are the characteristic, distinguishing features of Personal Learning Environments? This paper argues that PLEs can be viewed as complex activity systems and analysed using the Activity Theory framework to describe their key elements and the relationships between them. Activity Theory provides a framework of six interrelated components: subject, object, tools, rules, community and division of labour. In referencing over 100 publications, encompassing conference papers, reports, reviews, and blog articles, this paper takes an activity-theory perspective to deconstruct the way central aspects related to PLEs are addressed in different publications. The aim of this study is to create a better understanding of PLEs and to develop a knowledge base to inform further research and effective practice. The literature review presented in this paper takes a broader view on PLEs recognising that research in this field stems from different scientific communities and follows different perspectives.”

Naszą listę publikacji umieściliśmi w Wiki zatytułowanej PLEP – Personal Learning Environment Publications. W ten sposób chcemy stworzyć publiczny zbiór publikacji, który może być uzupełniany przez każdego zainteresowanego tym tematem.

Zachęcam wszystkich do składania propozycji na umieszczenie dalszych wartościowych publikacji na stronie w Wiki!

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Widgets and Mashups for Personal and Institutional Technologies

May 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Interesting presentation by Scott Wilson. Scott says: “I think the main difference between how I see the world of devices interacting in education and some of the articles I’ve seen recently is that I assume that most of these devices are personal technologies – and because of that they will always be heterogeneous…..So the challenge for education is providing resources and activities in an open and flexible way that will work – at least in some fashion – on any device.”

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Declaring our Learning

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I am ultra impressed by the idea behind the Declare-It web app. The site says

Declare-It is a tool that assists you in creating, tracking and being held accountable to your goals. For every declaration you make, Declare-It requires you to add supporters. Supporters are notified of your declaration and receive progress reports along your journey. If you start to fall off track, your supporters are sent an ALERT message. They can send you comments and even add incentives to help you stay motivated.

Sadly, Declare-It is a commercial site. Although it allows a ten day free trial, it then costs $9.99 per month. And I don’t honestly see enough people being prepared to pay that money for the site to gain critical mass. But the idea is simple enough and could easily be adopted or extended to other web tools.

Essentially all it is saying is that we set our own learning goals and targets and use our Personal Learning Networks for support. Then rather than just selecting friends to monitor our progress and receive alerts when we slip behind, as in the Declare-It app, we could select friends from our Personal Learning Network to support our learning and receive alerts when we achieve something or need collaboration.

Of course many of this will do that already using all kinds of different tools. My learning is work based, and most of this work is undertaken in collaboration with others – using email, forums or very often skype. Having said that I have  never really got on with any of the myriad task setting (lists) and tracking tools and astikll  tend to write my lists on the back of envelopes.

But rather than a separate web site like Declare-IT (which admittedly does have some Twitter and Facebook integration), I need some way of integrating Declare-It type functionality with my everyday workflow. A WordPress plug-in could be wonderful, particularly for project work.

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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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Smart technologies will take the classroom into the world

July 26th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

This presentation by Steve Wheeler has been causing some comments around the edubloggers networks. George Siemens responded saying “The development of the semantic web, linked data, and open data, coupled with location-awareness, recommender systems, augmented reality, data overlays, and similar developments is having a dramatic impact on how people interact with information and each other”.

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All about Personal Learning Environments (Part 1)

July 20th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Multi media was very much in evidence at the PLE conference in Barcelona earlier this month. Besides the live streaming and a dazzling array of ipads and other handheld devices, we were able to use CitiLab’s own wonderfully appointed multimedia studio. Joyce Seitzinger interviewed a number of organisers, unkeynote speakers and participants as part of her “What my PLN means to me” project. There is some good stuff here, well worth viewing.

More videos to follow

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PLE2010 Conference – what did we achieve

July 17th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Dave shows off the super sized Manchester PLE
Photo Samscam

Its been a week off from the blog. Following the PLE2010 conference in Barcelona I took a short holiday. And since I have been back I have been fighting (unsuccessfully) a power failure in my office. So now I am squatting in a friend’s house and using my laptop.

I have much to say about the PLE2010 conference – I am not quite sure where to start.

Firstly it was a truly social conference – social in the both face to face and distant participants were involved in the different sessions. Social too, in the way the pre-conference discussions ran into the conference proper and then into the discussions at coffee breaks and in the evening. The formal conference was just one part of the whole event. And social in the use of media. Besides the live streaming of many sessions, it woudl appear the conference generated over 5000 tweets on the first day (the tweets are archived here).Indeed, for many of us it was the first chance to meet face to face people we have been collaborating with on line for a long time.

Much of this was down to the design of the conference. the pre-conference publicity and discuxxiosn had been focused on social media and in particualr twitter. And the programme design, from unkeynotes to cafe style sessions, debates amnd workshops, was signed to facilitate social interaction and participation. And it is encouraging that many have said they will relook at how they are organising conferences and draw on our ideas.

But what about the ideas? Firstly it was very heartening to see that we seemed to have moved beyond the stage of defining a PLE by what it is not i.e. not a VLE. Instead participants were looking outwards, at how to support learning. I am not sure how much we shared common understandings and meanings around PLEs (sadly I cannot find a record of the session which tried to arrive at such a common definition) but there seemed sufficient understanding for common debates.

One controversial issue was how far it was possible to provide an institutional PLE. This debate was driven by the folks from SAPO Campus in Portugal who are trying to do just that (and still managing to find time for late night and in depth analysis of the failings of the Portugese football team!). My own take is that I do not mind where the tools for a PLE come from as long as the leaner is in control.

Two ‘discourses’ particularly heartened me. The first was between educational researchers and practitioners and software and technical developers. This is an oft troubled discourse in the ed tech community. It may be that the common understandings around the idea of a PLE are allowing these different groups to work together in new ways. I particularly enjoyed the session on using Google Wave as a PLE and was impressed by the Talkingabout video sharing site. But what charatcterised these ideas – as in others I could not attend but heard from others about – was the innovation in appropriating technologies for pedagogic innovation.

Another – and more problematic but recurrent discourse was the issue of motivation. Participants were trying to develop PLEs with students inside the schooling and university systems. But surveys and anecdotal evidence suggests students are wary being overly focused on what work they need to do to pass exams, rather than exploring ideas and learning. And most students view direct didactic teaching as the best approach to passing their exams. As such they have little time for reflection or indeed little understanding as to why they should engage in such activity. This is problematic. We may consider their longer term learning important and thus view the development of meta-cognition and problem solving a priority. But perhaps inevitably under the present education systems their major concern is just to jump the next hurdle in the education race.

My only personal disappointment was that the major focus for PLE development and implementation for the vast majority of participants was for learners within schools and universities. There was limited interest in work based learning or in learning outside teh existing systems – the very areas where I think PLEs have the greatest potential.

Indeed, I think we have to consider the wider issue of where to locate the PLE debate. Clearly it is not just another instance of educational technology. But neither can it be easily subsumed in considerations of pedagogic approaches to the use of ICT for learning. I increasingly feel that the whole issue of PLEs is closely related to the ongoing discussions around open education. The very promise of PLEs is to understand the use of technology for learning in a new way, in a context where learning becomes part of society and is free and open to all.

But now there is a lot of work to be done. We have over 70 papers and many offers of publications. Most participants seemed to assume that PLE2011 was already on the cards (watch this blog for more news on that). And the bigger question is how we can use the ideas and networks generated by the conference to build a collective community of practice based on networking and sharing. Any thoughts or ideas  very welcome.

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Making it personal and meaningful

July 13th, 2010 by Cristina Costa
We’ve made it! I just can’t believe that the first edition of the PLE Conference already belongs to the past. But it’s true. It happened last week. And YES, I think I can say we have achieved our main goal which was to invite people to contribute to the event in different ways. Before I go on [...]

Personal Learning Environment multi media goodness

July 6th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

In Monday’s edition of weeks series of blog posts around the PLE2010 conference being held in Barcelona, I commented on the use of social media. Indeed, from the level of on-line activity the conference has already started! You can pick up on what is happening through following the #PLE_2010 hash tag. And the #PLE_BCN daily newspaper – http://paper.li/tag/PLE_BCN provides a surprisingly rich picture of what is going on. But here are a few posts which have caught my eye.

Firstly George Couros has blogged that he is “honoured to be asked to moderate a session at the PLE Conference in Barcelona (#PLE_BCN on Twitter) to talk about what exactly is a Personal Learning Environment.  In this session, myself and 3 other educators (Cristina Costa, Ilona Buchem and Wolfgang Reinhardt) that are located all over the world, will work with participants to figure out a definition for the PLE term. ” George has posted the following diagramme to start the discussion.
PLE diagramme

Sia Vogel has contributed the following Prezi towards Alec Couros’s and my joint unkeynote presentation.

PLE_BCN Conference Jordi Adell from epdrntr on Vimeo.

Jordi will be doing a joint keynote with Ismael Pena Lopez. Here is his contribution.

That is all I have time for today. More tomorrow – live from Barcelona.

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