This is a response to Personal Learning Environments by Graham Attwell.
PLEs were never about developing a new generation of educational software. PLEswere about a change in the way learners used technology to support their learning. PLEswere about reflection on different sources and contexts of learning. PLEswere about learners taking control of their own learning. PLEswere about collaborative and social learning
Web 2.0 and social software has facilitated that happening. Be it Facebook or Ning, blogs or Wikis, Webquests or social bookmarking, it has taken place. Not every learner is progressing at the same pace and has the same confidence in developing, configuring and using their PLE. Why should they?
This is an interesting phenomena in that learners and users (the many technical savvy or geeks included), and some early adopters (educators, leaders, and education or business entrepreneurs) are “leading” the way, first time in the education/business history or “evolution”. This means that the bloggers, Facebook/wiki/ning developers/users, social bookmarkers, collectives and digital natives are “quietly” moving forward, and they are learning both in the formal and informal setting based on their needs, with PLEs. The Web2.0 and various social network tools have greatly accelerated the social and educational learning in the past few years.
In the wider society, the educators, administrators, parents and some other learners are now keeping in pace with the “technical” trends and see how such gaps could be closed. Will the present development of free open courseware, blogs, wikis/nings, facebook, twitters, network learning forums and courses, network communities and open source training be able to fill the gap?
How about the affordance of technology for people in different communities? Could everyone (learners and educators in particular) afford those technologies? How about the people or communities who have limited access to such technologies? What are the support given to those who have limited access to technologies? What are the roles of government and communities on this matter?
There is also a subtle difference between Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Personal Learning Environments (PLE). To me, LMS focuses more on administration, teaching and assessment, though it is also important in consolidating learning and documenting evidence of learning. PLE focuses more on education and learning, based on personal needs, and it could also be used for documenting evidence of learning and resources.
And so there is an issue evolving out of this. On one hand, institutions and businesses (the commercial tools and technology developers) have invested lots of money in the development of LMS, and many still believe in its use in effective teaching (and learning) in the ecology. To some extent, LMS still plays an important role in the teaching and learning process. This is also likely a requirement laid down by the education accreditation bodies and the administrators: for quality audit and management. This will also ensure that the education institution is able to demonstrate evidence of “teaching and learning” to the standards required. The professionals (educators) are also expected to demonstrate competence in the use of such tools, to ensure that education, teaching and learning are “aligned” under such “e-learning” or “blended learning environment”.
On the other hand, the use of free open source tools of Web 2.0 have opened up huge learning opportunities that are vital to personal learning. Some of the tools used under PLE may be compatible with the LMS, but it is still not yet integrated with the LMS. There is little that institutions could do in combining the tools used under personal PLE and LMS, simply because such tools adopted by the uses or learners are still not yet part of the “course or curriculum requirements” in most cases. Besides, there is a problem relating to licensing, security and privacy issue in some of the Web2.0 and social networking tools used by the institutions.
In this connection, some institutions have banned or limited the use of social network tools to ensure security and child protection acts are enforced. The news Facebook posts get UK girls suspended released today prompted us to re-think about the use of such tools in the school setting. Will education based on PLE be part of the solution? What are the roles of parents, educators, institution and school leaders (principals), social network developers in relation to this matter?
PLE are here to stay, where people are learning and using all these technologies and tools differently, at different “velocity” (a vector which has speed and direction) with different contexts. There is no need to converge, as people all learn differently. However, from an education institution point of view, a sense of goal and control is important, to satisfy the educational, societal, government and business needs and requirements.
What will be the advice to administrators and educators? Are institutions going to adopt and integrate PLE? Are educators going to shift the focus from LMS to PLE? What will be the ultimate direction for government, education institutions? How could the personal needs and societal needs be met, based on the LMS and PLE?
What will be the next “industrial or education evolution” that could make learning more enjoyable, accessible and beneficial to the learner and society? Let’s wait and see.