What Does Your Personal Learning Environment Look Like?

And moreover, what do you want it to look like?

On my Masters, we have recently been looking at the arguments for and against Personal Learning Environments (PLE). Some argue they are already here and that learners are forming their own hub of resources to carry out formal and informal learning. Others view the idea of a PLE as being a more precise item, a software or online resource yet to be perfected whereby a learner can centralise all their learning wants and needs, docking into ‘mother ships’ of Virtual Learning Environments(VLE)/Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Of course, this is all before we bring in another acronym. the LEP (Learning Experience Platform) which aims to go beyond the often rigid constraints of an LMS to provide a more personalised learner experience not handcuffed to linear and indiscriminate courses. Now you may say isn’t an LEP a PLE and will there still be a place for the VLE/LMS. You might say that, if you want to give yourself a headache or just really, really like acronyms. LOL.

In this blog post I am not providing or even suggesting answers but am thinking out loud and wondering what do I want my learning experience to look like? What do I dream it could be?

One blog post we read, now 11 years old yet seemingly as relevant today, was Martin Weller’s My personal Work/Leisure/Learning Environment in which he laid out all the resources he then used in his life of learning. I decided to jump on a MindMapper (I used the free Coggle.it website) and set about putting down all the learning resources I draw on and, I gave myself the challenge not to labour over it but to put down everything I could think of in the course of 10-15mins. This is what came out:

A Mindmap of learning resources

I really suggest you give this a go, it is very enlightening. And if you do, please share!

What I noticed compared to Weller’s of a decade earlier was how we have our main stayers (your Googles, Facebook etc) but also, I needed a lot of dotted lines – I just couldn’t express it without them. When I write this blog, it populates my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. My social media use includes informal learning and often sends me in resource directions for my formal studies. The overlap of informal, formal and workplace learning is probably even more ingrained than I would have first imagined.

So flipping back to the idea of a PLE, with the advancement of machine learning and AI, the interconnectivity  of such a wide range of resources and tools plus the human component of collaborative work and community, yes perhaps I do fantasise of a centralised space where I, the learner, can connect all these dots. Where I can with ease marry the scheduling of my study tutorials, with informal community networking and informal leisure learning and interests. What if by doing that, machine learning and AI were able to show me links and dotted lines I had not considered and could not have found in this overloaded world of material and artefacts? What if I had a central place that recorded and drew in my achievements of formal study next to my career studies, and in turn share those achievements as I wished with colleagues, peers etc. What if achievements weren’t recorded just in terms of exam results but if experience and our real world progress was captured alongside. Would such a PLE help me see learning as a lifelong activity and make the capturing of such easier and pleasanter? But then who becomes the arbitrar of quality? Will I always want the formal and informal recorded together? Will a ‘fail’ permeate through, no longer hidden out of sight, but there to suck your drive and confidence.

With all these questions running around my head I began to think of Jane McGonigal‘s keynote at DevLearn 2017 How To Think Like A Futurist and the part of her excellent talk that discussed imagining learning and credentialing being decentralised and continuous. She also demonstrated such a system in her ‘future artefacts’ imagining of Edublocks.

These ideas are rightly challenging and will be argued and debated for many years…decades…to come but one thing I have come away knowing is that I am blessed to live in a society where I have these resources and a level of autonomy over my learning. This is far from the case for so many today and therefore, for those of us in education and training it is vital we recognise how very precious that is. If the debate of how learning is delivered and dispersed takes us down a road of a cult of personality, the measure of success being monetary profit, a monopolised, privately held system we have, to put it bluntly, cocked up,

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