Archive for the ‘Personal Learning Environment’ Category

graham attwell

“The whole experience of developing and implementing elearning has been profoundly bad. What we’ve essentially tried to do is to replicate physical forms of learning so we try to take the classroom, the textbook and the teacher and replicate them all in software … If you ask me a different question, what’s the future of using technology for learning, then I think it’s absolutely fantastic. We’re beginning to see the possibilities through social networking and multi-user virtual environments, things like Facebook. That’s the real potential for exchanging ideas and building knowledge. It doesn’t look much like the elearning we’re used to.”

~ Graham Attwell on the future of elearning


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In 20 minutes, Stephen Downes explains how to pull together your personal learning environment in clear, simple language.

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Scott Wilson's PLE diagram

The PLE, or Personal Learning Environment, is a hot topic right now in elearning circles. It’s hard to describe although you probably already have one if you’re reading this blog. A PLE is made up of all the the ways you “explore, discover, record, and share life’s lessons“. Mostly it’s your digital information cloud. So, for instance, I have a collection of feeds that I check every day. They’re part of my PLE. There is my blog where I write and try to make sense of everything I come across. That’s part of my PLE. However, as Graham Attwell has pointed out, a PLE is a concept, not a tool. It’s the way you grab, share and make sense of information. You can’t buy a PLE application in the same way that you can buy a learning management system like Blackboard or WebCT. Furthermore, everyone’s PLE is their own.

Ok, if you understand what a PLE is, let’s go one step further. If, as Teemu Arina says, the future of learning is informal and mobile, then finding a way to bring your PLE on your cell phone makes a lot of sense. A mobile PLE would be the same as your web-based PLE except that you can take it with you wherever you go. Furthermore, Teemu Leinonen has suggested a way to achieve it (despite his objections to the idea of a PLE). He suggests using a 3G handset and a tool like Jaiku (like Twitter but lets you bring in all your favourite feeds). Phone + Jaiku account + feeds = mobile elearning? That doesn’t seem too hard, does it — especially if you’re already delivering elearning through feeds.

Is this the way to bring “education without boundaries” to learners?

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There’s nothing better than listening to a practicing teacher talk about what they’re doing. Theory doesn’t mean much in the classroom unless you can use it. The same is true of anything including participatory media like blogs and wikis. Here are a simple idea with a big effect that I picked up by listening to Darren Kuropatwa’s presentation (real media) at the Personal Learning Environments conference in Winnipeg a few weeks ago. (The whole presentation is fantastic but if you want to hone in on Darren, his bit starts at about the 40 minute mark.)

Every student in Darren’s class has their own personal blog in addition to the class blog that Darren maintains. Every day, one of the students is given a simple assignment: write a post about what you learned that day. This is handy for a couple of reasons. First of all, Darren doesn’t teach using textbooks, so the blog posts create a kind of text for the course. Second, the blog posts are great for students who have missed a day or need to review for a test. It also provides a forum for conversation since any student can post a comment or question on another student’s blog. Darren’s noticed that these conversations will carry over from the blogs to the classroom. This is great for students who are shy or may not have a chance to talk to the person who sits across the room. He’s also noticed that, because the work is published in the open, each student can see the other students’ work. Over the term, students try to outdo each other and the bar goes higher and higher. At the end, the work can become so rich that Darren says one student in his class remarked that “in this class the ordinary is extraordinary”.

It’s a simple idea. Just ask a student to blog what they learned that day.

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