Personal Learning Environments

Modern technology provides us with so many tools to get information we want or need in many forms: text, video or audio, and online learning is spreading widely.  People are learning skills on their own or under a teacher’s supervision. If you follow the direction education is going in as a result of modern technology, you will not be surprised by the notion of ‘personal learning environments’ concept because it is a natural result of the modern digital revolution.

Many writers and thinkers have discussed ‘Personal Learning environments’ but most of them approach it from a technological point of view with focus on the ‘environment’ and little attention to the pedagogical element in learning. They see Web 3.0 arriving in the coming few years, with much more integrated approach to authoring, more easily indexing, and wider interaction between people in social groups.

A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience, along with the power of social learning, authentic audiences, and integrative contexts, has created not only promising changes in learning but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Randall Bass, 2012

PLE is a modern learning approach based on personal environments connected by a set of applications and tools an individual uses to create an environment fit for their interests, skills, needs and situation. This environment is comprised of formal and informal learning, personal experience, e-learning, peer groups, etc… Learning is not limited to the classroom anymore, or to a rigid curriculum or standard tests. The individual chooses their tools, content and audience to create an identity, brand or portfolio.

The technical question for learners creating their own personal learning environment is what tools to use to create a portfolio. Portfolios are unique for each learner. At the same time, there are too many tools and to choose which one that fits an individual is not easy and requires awareness of the self and knowledge of the technology.

The pedagogical question remains the content, approach and methodology of learning. 

“Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience…has created not only promising changes but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Bass, 2012

The bases to developing a Personal learning Environment are: 

1. A virtual or real space where we can keep up with info on our interests, career, and skills.  In addition, we need to set time for the process of personal development and learning.

2.  Informal education will be as crucial and important, if not more than, formal education.   This informal education will be learned within a framework to form our identity and manage our skills.

3.  Ownership of learning: Learners choose what to learn, when to learn it and how to learn it. They also choose the situation in which to apply their learning.

4. The Instructor’s role has changed. The learner is the center of the learning and teaching model, and relies upon a variety of sources for learning. PLEs will require instructors to stay relevant in their field, and know how to use tools in education.

5. New technology is continually changing: Access to the Internet has changed how we teach and learn and will continue to do so. New tools, devices, and applications are changing the way we think and the values we have.  PLE is a natural product of the internet culture.

Developing a PLE is a dynamic process that changes continuously in response to new learning needs and goals. A person starts small and as he or she develops, their learning environment does.  It needs time with no rush or distraction. In addition, a person will use as many tools as he or she knows and feels comfortable with.

A personal learning environment is not a marginal concept but a trend that will reshape future curricula and teacher and educational management training.

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