This is part one of a three-part series for educators that describes how to create a rich, robust learning network and virtual space—a personal learning environment that supports professional and personal enrichment for lifelong learning.
I plan to embrace 2013 with a new focus and direction, an emphasis that is different from a resolution. Resolutions don’t work, yet I still look forward to each New Year with a sense of anticipation, energy and a new plan. This year is no exception. I’ve spent much time considering carefully where I want to invest my time and energy, and it begins with apersonal learning environment (PLE). A PLE is the hub of personal and professional development, and what better time than the New Year to commit to a renewed focus on one’s personal development.
This year I’ve selected three areas to focus on, of which I’ll write more about in the coming weeks, but the fulcrum of all projects is my personal learning environment. In this post I’ll share briefly what a personal learning environment is, why it is an essential dimension to any educator’s personal profile, share examples of other educators PLEs, and in parts two and three will explore how-to create a personal learning environment specific to educators.
Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Defined
A personal learning environment is a concept, not a thing or an event, but encompasses formal and informal learning experiences and interactions with various resources and people through a network of Web 2.0 platforms. It becomes a system that each individual [learner] manages, creates and builds, a learner centered, self-directed environment.
Personal Learning Environments (PLE) are systems that learners create and control to manage and direct their own learning. In this environment learners do the following:
- set their own learning goals
- manage their learning, both content and process
- communicate with others in the process of learning [modified from Wikipedia]
Part of the PLE is a Personal Learning Network, which is an essential sub-system of the PLE. It is the people, the personal connections within one’s PLE that are sources for new knowledge, collaboration partners, and serve as ‘nodes’ within the personal network that contributes to the wholeness of the PLE. Individuals become interdependent within a PLE, not independent or dependent.
Lifelong Learning (Photo credit: Stephen Downes)
A Model for Life-Long Learning
The concept of a personal learning environment is based on the premise of lifelong learning, and [obviously] not a new idea given the history of the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom by Socrates and his followers. Yet a model for life-long learning was formalized as recently as 2007 by the Eurpoean Union with the launch of theLifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013,with its primary goal to support the development of quality lifelong learning across four phases: K-12, higher education, vocational training and adult education. The focus of the adult education phase is on the development of a network between people, institutions and other countries in education and training.
Examples of PLEs
Despite several excellent projects resulting from the efforts of the Eurpoean Union, describing how to create, build and interact within a personal learning environment is somewhat difficult to outline as I’ve discovered as I write this post. Mostly because PLEs are personalized, open, dynamic and unique to each person. Furthermore, environments take time to develop and are dependent on the motivation of the learner, and the direction and goals of him or her— all of which contribute to unique systems.
Below is an excellent example of a PLE where the learner describes the functions within her PLE, and the tools used for each.
Michele Martin’s PLE, The Bamboo Project Blog, April 2007
Click here to view more examples of visual representations of PLE’s from other lifelong learners. The visual images are representative of the model or framework of each learners’ PLE, showing the Web 2.0 platforms used to catalogue, curate, develop, create, connect, record and/or save an individuals work, personal connections and knowledge created.
Next Steps for PLE
Over the next two postings I will provide guidelines and suggestions for how to develop a PLE, though my experience is limited, I will share how I have started to develop my PLE, share resources and tools that may be of support to readers wanting to further develop their own. I would welcome any feedback or suggestions from readers, so please comment and share on your experience with PLEs if you are able to. Happy New Year!