Personal Learning Environments

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years

Personal learning environments (PLEs) are described as systems for enabling self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. PLEs are conceived as drawing on a variety of discrete tools, perhaps chosen by the learner, which can be connected or used in concert in a transparent way. While the concept of PLEs is still very new and fluid, it does seem to be clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person. It involves sociological and philosophical considerations and cannot be packaged, passed out and handed around as a cell phone or tablet computer could. Widespread adoption of PLEs, once the tools and approaches are clearer, will almost certainly also require a shift in attitudes toward technology, teaching, and learning.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • PLEs may cater to students with differing learning styles; for instance, visual learners might be able to obtain material from a different source than auditory learners do.
  • Students using PLEs may benefit from the practice of keeping track of, and curating, their own resource collections.
  • Using PLEs may empower students to take greater control of their learning networks and connections with peers, experts, and others.

In Practice

For Further Reading

The "Killer App"- Professional Networked Learning Collaboratives
(Robert Jacobs, Education Innovation blog, 20 July 2010.) This post talks about personal learning networks as an app that can be tailored to fit different groups, in addition to exploring how PLEs have changed as the technology as matured, enabling more people to virtually be part of PLEs that are outside of a specific institution. Additionally, new levels of data sharing and processing can be leveraged in these networks.

The PLN Matures. The Progression of the 21st Century Personal Learning Network
(Lisa Nielsen. The Innovative Educator Blog, 18 August 2010.) Educator Lisa Nielsen discusses how PLEs have progressed into collaborative creation environments that are more interactive. She also mentions how PLEs are beginning to use social media such as Twitter to further grow and enrich personal learning networks.

5 Ways to Build Your 1.0 and 2.0 Personal Learning Network
(Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator Blog, 1 August 2010.) This post discusses how to build a personal learning network and how this has evolved as online communities and technologies have developed more robust ways to share information and collaborate. The author offers ways to create a PLE through some exercises and examples.