Personal Learning Environments June 4-24, 2007

Personal Learning Ecology . . .

Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 16
Wow.  This is what comes of living in a 'downunder' timezone.  You wake up and come online to a LOT of buzzing ideas.

In thinking about the possible directions of the conversation Derek W came up with a couple of themes for conversations.

One was to consider our patterns of behaviours: our practices, the developing of our own personal ecology of learning, our choice of tools - or not - our own PLE.

Sylvia captures a little of this in her post a year ago:
What just struck me is how much we benefit from having access to other people's personal learning environments. How other people draw connections, decide what's important, and interpret what they come across in their own daily routines through commentary, can be so intriguing. In many ways how individuals structure their PLEs is as valuable as the information.

Maybe we all have a PLE of sorts.  :-)

This is actually at the heart of some of the debate.  Is a PLE a thing, a collection of things, or an attitude?

I very nearly moved Sylvia and Derek's posts over to here . . .
Sylvia says:
From collecting information feeds for yourself and others? by scurrie on Monday, 4 June 2007 2:20:00 p.m.:
Help! Why am I having a hard time getting personal about this?

You've heard a little of Derek's story:
From Re: collecting information feeds for yourself and others? by dwenmoth on Monday, 4 June 2007 3:26:00 p.m.:
I tend to regard that as my PLE - a sort of on-line and off-line combination.

Interesting eh? - we are stretching the boundary a little here, but what does your Personal Learning Environment look like?

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Michele Martin -
My personal feeling is that a PLE is both an "attitude" and a set of tools. You need the attitude and skills to take charge of your own learning and then you can use the variety of tools available to begin structuring that experience.

I've been writing lately about my own personal learning environment on my blog, starting with this post where I described my process and tools, and then a follow-up here on how I re-organized myself with Netvibes, and then Saturday some thinking about the skills and attitudes necessary for having a personal learning environment. Today there's been some follow-up discussion on PLEs as Power Tools and on what Tony Karrer is calling PWLE (Personal Work and Learning Environment).

What I think is going on here is that we're seeing how tools like blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, etc. give us so many ways to find and process information, that there's an explosion of personal learning going on--what Cammy Bean calls a Personal Learning Evolution. It's exciting to have these ideas floating around--more grist for the mill.
In reply to Michele Martin

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Michelle, this is fascinating.  It took me some time to read your two blog posts . .  there are some interesting links here that I got distracted with.  eg http://www.diigo.com/  ??  (How do you pronounce it??)

I like your categorisation:
  • Gathering Information
  • Processing Information
  • Acting on the Learning
I took 'acting' to include collaborating . .   I was wondering "What integrates all of this?"  Then I clicked to read your other post.  Then I found you had written this . . .

Moved Back to Netvibes
One day several months ago, Netvibes annoyed me and I switched to Feedraider. I have no idea why, really, since Netvibes is so much better for what I'm trying to do. So my first step was to head back over.

Created a Dashboard for Myself
One of the tabs I created for myself  in Netvibes is called My Work. This is the first tab in my reader and I put in a few things that have begun to help me already.

A quick bookmarks module--One of the netvibes modules you can drag and drop into your page is a Bookmarks Module. It allows you to add any bookmark you want, so I put in a few pages that I access a few times a day, such as my Typepad Account, a page with HTML codes (since I always forget), etc. I also added links to my blog and to my ePortfolio (more on that another day). This way I can reach these things directly from my dashboard. And that dashboard is always available to me no matter where I am. Sort of a mini de.licio.us, I suppose.
Much more than a mini delicious I suspect.  Dashboard is the term used in Wordpress (the platform James Farmer has advocated) - kind of like a control centre, a home page on steroids.  I'm not sure if it quite lives up to the burden he suggests it can carry.

Maybe Heather uses Google Home page in a similar way . . From Re: Into tools . . . by hmross on Monday, 4 June 2007 7:19:00 p.m.: Per Sylvia's recommendation I checked out pageflake, which also reminds me of Google, but allows for sharing, which is great (it doesn't let me add my Google Reader to it though).

Bron makes two comments: From Re: tools, an attitude or lifelong learning by bronwynh on Monday, 4 June 2007 10:00:00 p.m.: I find firefox and having lots of tabs open works pretty well so my organisation is dynamic to fit the situation and my need at the time.

From Re: complexity theory by bronwynh on Monday, 4 June 2007 10:03:00 p.m.: Surely we need to flow as our learning needs change by the hour, by the day? If I get slotted into a neat PLE system whatever that is, I have already constructed walls and barriers to some extent. The very act of selection has reduced my perceptive field of vision. I have become set in my webways, my pre-determined feeds and structures and tools. Complexity may be eliminated and in doing so I have reduced my learning potential. A PLE has now become a lineated web ...a contradiction in terms really.

I also was interested to see Ray Sim's mindmap which inspired Michelle.  My own mindmap would be much more chaotic, and a little more like Brons "Based around Firefox tabs" dynamic - but also chaotic.  But I reach a limit here.  Today in working on a workshop I ended up with 42 tabs open, and if I opened a new one it shot to the right end and how to get back to where I was, and I wasted 40 minutes looking at the extensions, there are some that claim to help this by grouping tabs.  Then I try different windows for grouped tabs . . .

But as I've moved from project to project I have tended to get impatient with the Netvibes approach which I did seriously try to use.  It did, for me, end up being constraining.  Now it just holds a few key things I need to remember often when I am not on my usual PC.  I may give it another go after reading your approach Michelle.  [And I'd be interested just for interest at some clear comparisons and contrasts with Google home pages and Pageflakes]

OFFLINE, not internet connected: Dare I say it: for projects I revert to paper to capture things and word files, and HDD folder structures (with copernic desktop search).  Where it all comes from, and comes together is a little app called Evernote.  http://www.evernote.com/en/
Client based.  No web connections . . .    This is one of the few programs where I have thought "Maybe the PC is as good as the Mac after all".
It has like an endless stream of items (pictures, text etc) with tagging - just what I want.  But I've only been using this seriously for a few months.
This manages my fragments, thoughtlets etc.  Totally collaborative.  And totally offline . . .  [Does anyone else use this?]

ONLINE, internet connected: browser + Gmail + delicious (much more regular with this now, the power of shared tags . .) + RSS agregator + skype I think are my core tools.

In talking with Derek last week I described myself as having a pretty messy PLE with only a few basic tools . .  with a trail of tools behind me I have tried and discarded . . .  in some respects a learning style/work style I guess.
Lapsed: Vootodo, lists, google notes, mindmeister (But may change), writley, academici, flickr (but that will change), GTDtikiwiki,  . . .  

I'd like to suggest most of our own "personal PLE's" will have some sort of integrating 'place' to support our working orientation.  That it will be different for different ones of us (learning style related as Ignatia suggests) - for some (like Anay and Derek) this will be browser centred . .  others agregator centred, Netvibes etc.  It's this core place/attitude the programmers are seeking to create, as Glen graphically writes .  From Re: tools, an attitude or lifelong learning by glendavi on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 3:12:00 a.m.: the only reason you would want to try and define a PLE, or wrap it up in a sexy web 2.0 wrapper and put PLE(beta) in big letters on top is if you were a developer looking for some JISC funding, or an academic looking for a new paper to write and present at the latest conference.  Going down this line will just end up trapping us in the same inflexible 'learning' systems that we may be trying to escape from. I agree with your complexity theory post Bronwyn - we need to throw the whole PLE concept out the window before higher education in general get their teeth into it.

I don't think they will - but their efforts may have some spin off.

The questions remain of course, as Emma and others say: how to implement in education and not lock it all down, how to help our students and free them to their own personal trajectory, how to help create lifelong learners etc.  Without being prescriptive.

Well, much more than I meant to write.  Need to go.  OK, ramble mode off. This is probably much more appropriate to a blog post.



In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Tia Carr Williams -

Derek,

I d like to share this document from Kineo, who supply e learning authoring for organisations. I think its relevant, in the light of your comments, because the same issues that apply to lifelong learning are addressed vis a vis aggregation of tools in order to release knowledge silos, that are effectively bottlenecking the organisational knowledge transfer. Sharing knowledge uses the same toolsets to share information around the organisation and future employees who have come from digital classrooms will be all the more adept in engaging in such initiatives. I think my point is that the future of e learning as an evolution, both educationally and organisationally, is inducting a permanency of 'learning as a culture' rather than something that is dispensed with after formal learning comes to an end. All the new social mediums provide us with conduits for 'informal learning' whether we acknowledge it or not.

In reply to Tia Carr Williams

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
I've had a look through this document.  Interested to note social stuff is only partly there.  Blogs and wikis feature, but not flickr, facebook, myspace, beebo etc.

I'd not heard of Kineo - on their website is a link to flickr and some comment.  http://www.kineo.co.uk/open-source-tools/flickr.html

In the report I think there is some interesting comment about communities of practice, which I think is a defensible way to do the learning side of activities in an organisational setting, from the organisational point of view, and still give due respect to the individual . . .

I trawled a little more.  They had a report with the intriguing title "13 Ways to Manage Informal Learning" which to me is an oxymoron, but I know what they mean.  From the point of view of an institution/organisation what to do?

Here is a quote:

First Thoughts

Informal learning is a big deal. If you aren’t thinking about it, you should be. It probably accounts for 80% of the learning that goes on in your organisation. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Or is there?

Fundamental paradox

In this Insight, we deal with this fundamental paradox: how do you control the uncontrollable? Informality, as soon as it is touched or controlled, can become formality or be lost altogether. That’s why when we talk about controlling the uncontrollable, we are really focusing on the light touch of facilitation and galvanization. It is these two dimensions which will help you to expose and promote how informal learning is delivering organisational performance. We begin by setting out our stall for what informal learning is. http://www.kineo.co.uk/shop/reports/kineo_informal_learning.pdf

"Informal Learning" - this in actually another buzz word - and I think there was a lot of talk on this in and earlier seminar.

"Control the uncontrollable . ."

I am interested to note in this document there is very little about communities (one reference) which is where I think in organisations a lot of knowledge resides, and learning occurs.  This is a little of a divergent topic, but I do know this: whatever community/environment you are in, you survive a lot better with an effective PLE.

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Irwin DeVries -
Re the Kineo piece. It's good to be reminded of the power of the "informal" learning processes that occur in the workplace, and I see this point as a strength of the article. To extend its discussion, I also believe we need to be aware that in the "knowledge-based" workplace the line between informal learning and individual or collaborative problem solving blurs very quickly. In fact I would have a hard time explaining the difference. In my admittedly informal observations, much of the information seeking, learning or problem solving in the workplace appears to be an intrinsic part of the job. In this context, it is not as though there is a clear-cut job with a quantifiable knowledge deficit as per earlier models of "training needs analysis." While for certain routine tasks it is helpful to pool information or otherwise manage knowledge sharing, many jobs are more open ended and consist largely in problem solving where no clear-cut answers exist. People in the knowledge industry to some extent create their jobs as they go. More of the effort in this case needs to be on encouraging the skills of open ended and continuous problem solving rather than on filling knowledge gaps in a certain domain, although the latter should not be neglected where necessary either. So to summarize, I think the Kineo paper is touching on something important, which deserves further consideration.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Heather Ross -
Thanks for pointing me towards EverNote, Derek. I do prefer offline applications for pulling my ideas together. I just wish that they'd come through with their plan to do a Mac version (I hate that I must use a PC at work, while I have a Mac at home).

I think that the idea of an application or Web site for a PLE suffers from the same issues as using an application or Web site for anything. We search for that ONE that will do it all and are inevitably disappointed. We need to get away from thinking, "well this is what it can do, so this is what I'll work with" and be accepting of the concept of multiple applications, Web sites, print resources, etc.

I don't see an MD for my dental work, nor do I have a plumber do my landscaping.

What are our needs? What are the needs of our learners? What are the needs of those the learners will end up working with? When we answer these questions we can determine what is the best thing or environment to make use of.

This is far more than I intended to say when I started this post and I'm not sure if it's even in the right place. Just my soapbox spewing for the morning.
In reply to Heather Ross

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
If I had a Mac I'd use Tinderbox.  It is commercial, and priced a bit high for me.  I'll amend that.  I just looked at the website, it is ridiculously expensive. 
http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

Written by Mark Bernstein, a loveable eccentric who visited NZ last year for BlogHui 2006.

But it does presentations that are cool as well, and is really personal knowledge management, an aspect of PLE attitude I think is critical for me - as well as managing fragments.

This is not morning soapbox spewing Heather.  You have hit the nail on the head with this comment: "What are our needs? What are the needs of our learners? What are the needs of those the learners will end up working with? When we answer these questions we can determine what is the best thing or environment to make use of."

-Derek
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Michele Martin -
Wow--a lot to think about here. smile

To your first question, Derek--I'm not sure how to pronounce diigo, but I know that I definitely enjoy using it!

RE: the Netvibes/Pageflakes/Google Home page smack down. I've tried all three and landed on Netvibes. For the most part it was aesthetics (I liked the look of Netvibes better than Pageflakes) and functionality (Google Home page didn't let me drag and drop my feeds all over the place, which was appealing to me). I might have considered Pageflakes more seriously because of your ability to share "flakes" (pages) with other people, but once Netvibes added that function, then there was really no difference that I could see.

Reality is, though, that all three could have worked as a personal "portal"--it was a matter of which one "felt" best to me and offered the functionality I was looking for. That's why I support the "different tools, loosely joined" approach because each person is going to have individual reactions to the tools. For me to go to the effort of using a tool and incorporating it into my life, then I need to have it "feel" right to me. In some ways, it's like my need to use a certain kind of pen and have a certain kind of paper when I'm working off-line. It has to "feel" right.

Anyway--I'm going to give evernote a look. Might be a good tool to add to my toolbox. Thanks for the recommendation.
In reply to Michele Martin

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
From Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . . by michelemmartin@gmail.com on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 1:48:00 p.m.:
Reality is, though, that all three could have worked as a personal "portal"--it was a matter of which one "felt" best to me and offered the functionality I was looking for.

I agree Michelle, PLE's really are personal eh?  Learning style, thinking styles, preferences, (platform, mobility of lifestyle . .)  Let me know your thoughts on evernote . .  You can also run it off a USB which is really cool.
In reply to Michele Martin

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Glen Davies -
>Reality is, though, that all three could have worked as a personal "portal"--it >was a matter of which one "felt" best to me and offered the functionality I >was looking for. That's why I support the "different tools, loosely joined" >approach because each person is going to have individual reactions to the >tools.

This is a simple but very inportant point in the PLE discussion, and why it is important to try and keep institutions from highjacking the concept of the PLE. Of a necessity they will want to make it conform to some set standard, for ease of teaching its use, and for ease of trying to assess whatever learning takes place in it - at which point it is no longer a PLE but and ILE.  

Although my earlier posts may have indicated a complete rejection of the PLE concept, it is only in relation to a formal institutional view of learning. I think the real power of the PLE concept comes in the informal learning situation, were the learner has the power and ability to choose the tools that 'feel best' for them, rather than the ones that work best for a given institution.  I think the bigger challenge then for institutions of higher learning is not on how to work with the various technologies involved in personal learning ecologies, but on how to 'acknowledge' (not assess) the huge amount of real and valuable learning that can take place within them, and outside their ivied walls.

Regards
Glen
In reply to Glen Davies

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Michele Martin -
"I think the real power of the PLE concept comes in the informal learning situation, were the learner has the power and ability to choose the tools that 'feel best' for them, rather than the ones that work best for a given institution.  I think the bigger challenge then for institutions of higher learning is not on how to work with the various technologies involved in personal learning ecologies, but on how to 'acknowledge' (not assess) the huge amount of real and valuable learning that can take place within them, and outside their ivied walls."

Glen, I think you're absolutely right. Anytime an organization is involved in deciding what "system" to use, I've found that it inevitably becomes a system that works for the organization, not the individual. To my mind, that's been the problem with LMS systems to this point. Tools like Blackboard were designed to run courses, not to teach individuals. There tends to be greater emphasis on the administrative and assessment components and much less on the learner experience.

One reason I think we've been seeing an explosion in learning on the web is because individuals are finding their own way through these tools and coming up with the solutions that work best for them. That in itself is a learning process, of course. But more to the point, whenever we are able to structure a learning environment for ourselves that works specifically for us, I think we're always going to end up learning more.

On a related note--I found this diagram and description this morning on Tim Hand's blog. I think it's an interesting attempt to integrate the formal institutional VLE with the informal individual PLE.
In reply to Michele Martin

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Tia Carr Williams -

My daily contribution today is to draw your collective attention to this iniative and the fine paper at the end of this post, which I believe helps us to frame some of our own concerns, potentially, as well as monitor their research to find solutions.

'TENCompetence is a 4-year EU-funded Integrated IST-TEL project that will develop a technical and organisational infrastructure for lifelong competence development. The infrastructure will use open-source, standards-based, sustainable and innovative technology. With this freely available infrastructure the European Union aims to boost the European ambitions of the Knowledge Society, by providing all European citizens, SMEs and other organisations easy access to facilities that enable the lifelong development of competencies and expertise in the various occupations and fields of knowledge.

The TENCompetence infrastructure will support the creation and management of networks of individuals, teams and organisations in Europe who are actively involved in the various occupations and domains of knowledge. These 'learning networks' will support the lifelong competency development of the participants from the basic levels of proficiency up to the highest levels of excellence. The network consists of learners, educational institutes, libraries, publishers, domain specific vendors, employers, associations, and all others who deliver services or products in the specific field.

 

The learning networks include:

  • competency frameworks for the different occupations/fields of knowledge
  • formal as well as informal learning facilities, including the sharing of knowledge, learning activities, units of learning and learning programmes
  • the learning of individuals as well as of teams and organisations
  • all levels of learning: primary, secondary and tertiary education, adult and company training and other forms of informal learning
  • social exchange mechanisms to stimulate the exchange, sharing and support between the individuals, teams and organisations within the network.

The project will:

  • develop new innovative pedagogical approaches, assessment models and organisational models for lifelong competence development
  • develop software for the effective support of users who create, store, use and exchange knowledge resources, learning activities, units of learning and competence development programmes within a learning network
  • integrate isolated models and tools for competence development into a common, easy to use infrastructure
  • run pilots, at least in the field of digital cinema, health care, water management and lifelong learning cities, to ensure the validity and viability of the approach
  • deliver training programs to learn users how to work with the infrastructure, and to train instructors and companies (specifically SMEs) to deliver services using the infrastructure
  • build a growing network of associated partners to ensure large-scale use in Europe.

A paper addressing a variety of issues, not forgetting the Peer to Peer learning functionality, that is very much a feature of contemporary learning styles and highly enabled in Gen Y through their behavioural attributes accustomed through MySpace and YouTube. To share is to teach....a kind of buddy mentoring.

In reply to Michele Martin

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Amy Severson -
I liked the outline of gathering information, processing information and and acting on learning that you expanded on in your blog posting.

I think that creating information (in the form of mind maps, memes or a traditional text document) is part of that for a kinesthetic learner like myself. Sylvia mentioned (in the Welcome thread) how her PLEs include collaboration as well (I think I'm paraphrasing there), which

I think that as a learner or owner of a PLE it helps me to have an objective. Mine right now is to continue to build my instructional design skills and place these ideas in larger contexts. I have been working in instructional design for only a couple of years, so I feel that I am still building or finding my own bias' (this is why I find blog writing so intimidating - you mean I'd have to commit to an idea ?!).

Someone else commented on having a folder of "things to read" from the last Scope discussion, and certainly my RSS feed can overwhelm me some mornings (and again in the afternoon, and again in the evening....). This is why I like having a place where I can tease out the ideas that I like, and create my own sense of learning theories and methods work in my world). That being said, I like seeing the process of learning and thinking in other people since I can them make unexpected links or go off in entirely new directions. As a side bonus, I often learn that colleagues have similar questions or are nearly as confused as me (grin).

I like the word ecology, and we all live within an ecology that makes sense to us. Personal, after all, including the levels of order and chaos, simplicity and detail, personal and communal, directed and random that work best for your own PLE.
In reply to Amy Severson

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Ann Busby -

Amy, I loved your comment, "you mean I have to commit to an idea?" I keep changing the content of my thinking from reading what others are posting, so fast I can't commit, either :) Isn't that what learning is about?

I like what you and Sylvia are saying about PLEs. It should be more a process rather than an application. I see it as a "unified desktop" concept, where like Sylvia says, keeping everything I want to read, reread, think over, etc. I won't remember where I put it if I don't have a central location, so that's the beauty, to me of PLEs. And of course, I agree with others that once an institution starts telling you what to use, it's no longer "yours" or useful. I love the idea, though of someone keeping up with all that's new so we can tell our employees what's available, and how it can help them.

I'm so excited to be reading what others are doing. Some of this stuff is new to me, so my learning curve is high, but I'm riding the wave and having fun. Thanks, Ann

 

In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
I loved Amy's comment as well, for a different reason.  Sometimes I find it hard to commit as well, because I can see several sides at once.  It takes time to think through a thought to the end.  :-)
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . .

by Karen Baker -

This is my first experience with this type of online community.  I have been a lurking consumer for quite a while (apparently for over 120 days since I last signed on) overwhelmed by the sheer volume associated with becoming a member.  In fact, as an education faculty member, I could not keep up during the school year.  Now summer in the USA, I have had a chance to review my backlog and been impressed with the intelligent, thought-provoking, informative, and helpful interaction and resources provided.  You are opening a whole new world to me to think about my own PLE particularly regarding the ever-growing technological terminology, tools and tips for us who teach adults online and F2F.   thoughtful Thank you