Personal Learning Environments (or PLE’s) is a concept that I had never heard of prior to this class. After doing a bit of research I have found that there might not be a universal definition for the term. Looking at Wikipedia, there seems to be a consensus among a least a few in the internet community that a PLE is,
“a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning:
* set their own learning goals
* manage their learning; managing both content and process
* communicate with others in the process of learning
and thereby achieve learning goals” (Wikipedia).

At first glance, this seems like a pretty sound idea. I mean, take our class for example. We are all here at the Art Institute trying to learn about web design. How can we maximize our learning to the fullest extent? Is there a way that we can not only help ourselves as individuals but also better each other in the process? This seems to be the type of things a PLE can accomplish.

In looking at different people’s interpretation of a PLE for themselves, it looks like people each have their own take on exactly how a PLE is set up and should work. When you consider this is a “personal” learning environment, that means that not all PLE’s will be the same, but will have some variation depending on the individual. As I checked out some of the diagrams people use to explain PLE’s, some seem a little confusing to me (David Delgado’s PLE and Derek Wenmoth’s PLE for example).

There was one example of a diagram of a PLE that made a lot of sense to me (Jeremy Hiebert’s PLE). This diagram seems very intuitive and clear. In this diagram, Jeremy Hiebert has created a model for a PLE. Within your personal learning environment you first have what you have already done and learned. This includes actual work, such as material in your portfolio, and general skills and knowledge you now possess. Then, you have what you are presently working on and learning, and also things you want to learn and do in the future. Hiebert has also included how you learn and do these things in the bottom of the diagram, through “Collecting, Reflecting, Connecting, and Publishing.” In thinking about this concept of a Personal Learning Environment, I would like to use this to enhance my own learning process.

In doing some additional research on the topic of PLE’s, I ran across an article on by Graham Attwell. Attwell makes a good point when discussing the necessity of PLE’s in technical industries. With the rapid rate of change in technical industries, there is a need for people to remain constantly on top of changes. This type of life-long learning can be aided by the concept of PLE’s. Also, Attwell makes an argument that much of what we learn in life is informal, rather than formally taught to us. He points out that there is not a lot of focus on this type of learning, but with a PLE people could take into account all types of ways in which they learn and take control of that. Attwell makes an excellent case for PLE’s in this white paper and I like the following excerpt (especially the British spelling 🙂 )

“The idea of a Personal Learning Environment recognises that learning is continuing and seeks to provide tools to support that learning. It also recognises the role of the individual in organising their own learning. Moreover, the pressures for a PLE are based on the idea that learning will take place in different contexts and situations and will not be provided by a single learning provider. Linked to this is an increasing recognition of the importance of informal learning” (Attwell).

I think developing a PLE will definitely make me more organized in my learning. I would like to establish a baseline in a way and see where I am right now in my learning process. What have I accomplished so far and what have I skills and knowledge have I retained? How did I achieve those skills and knowledge? Who did I interact with? Where am I right now and how can I get the most out of my education and learning process? Where do I want to go from here and how can I get there? By creating a PLE, I will be able to clearly lay the answers to these questions out and help to foster my learning. Ultimately, I think I will be able to hold myself more accountable in my learning by setting actionable goals for myself. Also, having a PLE will keep me conscious of the fact that learning is a life long process, and once you think you “have it down”- everything will change.

Attwell, Graham. “Personal Learning Environments.” 01 Jun 2006.

Wikipedia. “History of personal learning environments.” 2008.