Personal Learning Environments June 4-24, 2007

Schools (etc) and PLE's getting implementational . . .

Schools (etc) and PLE's getting implementational . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 22
I have been very aware that sooner or later we need to open up another thread for the final question in the description of this seminar:

<snip>  How does this change the way we teach and learn?

Derek (W) has written a paper that has been incubating for a while, and he has just finished another draft.  It takes a descriptive and narrative approach, and while it is relevant to the school sector in particular, it has some ideas pertinent to the non-profit and business sectors as well.  He asked me what I thought.  Even in it's slightly unfinished state I thought it was worth posting here for your comment.

I've been thinking about where we go next in our dialogue.  In a personal e-mail Derek said: "Interesting to see the discussions emerge around devices vs. applications, internet vs mobiles (although that one has me baffled), and concept vs system etc - I'm fascinated to see the different perspectives!" 

This is true!!  - we have traversed a lot of foundational ideas.

We have Ann and Amy's comments on commitment. From Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . . by annbusby on Friday, 8 June 2007 11:24:00 a.m.:
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 smile Isn't that what learning is about?  :-)  :-)

Michelle: From Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . . by michelemmartin@gmail.com on Thursday, 7 June 2007 3:23:00 a.m.:
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.

Ron's little throw away comment on metadata helped me put non-digital resources in perspective.  And Tia's links take us a little into the cooperate large scale operations.

So: I'm also interested in moving on to new questions.  Given our initial discussion . . .   Given some of the convergence, and some unfinished thinking . . .  So what?  Where to now?  Given these ideas and perspectives, what do we do in our various roles?  What should (our) institutions do?
And: how should we then teach and learn??

I attach Derek's paper, now that it has emerged out of his the information processing and incubation part of his PLE.  (Three pages and a nifty diagram - I think several of us could have a version of the diagram in our brains if we looked . .) - Derek
From a chilly, clear Wintery, downunder, Christchurch Saturday afternoon.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Schools (etc) and PLE's getting implementational . . .

by Sylvia Currie -
Thanks for sharing the draft paper. I love diagrams!

Something that struck me in the section on school's OLE talking about LMS, SMS and LibMS... "Whichever is used, it is vital that the systems are accessible to users (teachers, students, parents etc) via the Web from both inside and outside the physical school environment."

Access is huge, and I agree vital. But the reality is that often these systems are not accessible  -- even to see what it going on much less do anything with the information users find or contribute to it in any way. I'm amazed, for example, at the number of Moodle sites that are no more than a login page for a visitor. Finally a LMS that allows flexible options for guest access and endless ways to customize and institutions are still serving up a login page as the entry to where the interesting things are happening.

Yesterday I attended Brian Lamb's session at the Future of Education online conference: DIY Educators Gone Wild: Where are the Instructional Mash-Ups? As always, Brian talked very casually about some pretty profound stuff. He has a knack for using examples of non-educational and everyday applications of social software to get people thinking about they could be applying this to their own teaching and learning. Here's the link to the resource Brian used in his presentation: http://openconnectedsocial.learningparty.net/wiki/page/Mashups

He used the example of a Craig's list and Google maps mashup to provide customized information about housing availability. Simple and cool. Imagine the ways we can apply this idea to education with all that data tucked away in student management systems, student advising systems, course management systems, libraries, etc. But right when we start perking up about the possibilities we're reminded that the data we need to get at isn't available, and worse it takes layers of history and mindsets to get at it.

We've talked about institutions determining the tools learners use and how that just leads to a 1 step forward, 2 steps back approach to implementing PLEs. A big part of the work then is in the data and opening the possibilities for people to be creative in how the data can be accessed and used. Will we ever get there?



In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: PLE's and teacher presence

by bronwyn hegarty -
Hello all
Thanks for sharing Derek's diagram Derek. It looks like it is getting more complex compared to the original one I have seen.....plenty of steam rising in the creation of it I reckon.

It strikes me in all this talk about personal learning ecologies and PLEs that we are paying a lot of attention to the structure of the system. I would like to explore how Derek's proposed system can help with learning. At the moment the diagram represents a mish mash of ways to collect together content - very important but not enough to stimulate engagement and reflection and deep learning.

Inherent in the use of some of the tools e.g. blogs, is a belief that communication will happen but I think we need to look carefully at this. Just because we keep a blog does not mean that someone will give us feedback on the content. We could also have a collection of tools in a system such as that proposed by D and have no interaction at all with another human being. At least in a classroom, there is a teacher to guide or control the learning.

My question is how can a PLE incorporate teacher presence and scaffolded learning and still enable the learners to have autonomy in their choices?

Is a PLE only really any good for the development of a cognitive presence online? i.e. information processing and can this truly happen without discourse and input from another human? Does a PLE automatically stimulate social interaction? I have found that there is no guarantee of a social presence i.e. interaction with other students, and even if this occurs and is unguided and unstructured, how much learning actually occurs? I believe that if any system such as a PLE is to succeed, teacher presence is very important. There is more about the ideas of cognitive, social and teacher presence in an article called:

Farmer, J. (2004). Communication dynamics: Discussion boards, weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 274-283). Perth, 5-8 December. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/farmer.html

Actual example of the use of social networking tools and strategies in a course.
In a course where I teach design for flexible learning, we have encouraged participants to set up their own PLEs using a blog, del.icio.us account, mailing list and wiki as the backbone. They also have access to a LMS discussion and content on a course wiki,and are encouraged to use a range of open source software e.g. audacity for audio, gimpshop and gimp for image manipulation,  CMap and Gliffy for mindmapping, and web-based tools e.g. Flickr (images), Bubbleshare, slideshare, Youtube, bliptv. There is variable take-up. Some really explore and try out lots of things to design and create resources and a learning space for themselves, others sit on the fringes.

The blogs which each student is required to keep and the course wiki and mailing list, and del.ici.ous accounts depend very much on an active teacher presence to keep the participants linked and motivated. It also depends on these items being connected to the course assessment. The tools are there, but without facilitation by the "teachers" the participants tend to learn in isolation apart from when they come together for f2f workshops.

We have found that unless guidance is provided by the "teachers" very few of them provide feedback to each others' blogs, contribute to the wiki or del.ici.ous account or contribute meaningful discussion to the mailing list.

What experiences have others had, and do you believe a teacher presence is vital for a successful PLE?

Bronwyn
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: PLE's and teacher presence

by Derek Chirnside -
Bron, a provocative post.  I believe these terms are from Terry Anderson and co??  I may look up the reference. 

What do I really believe now?  Having run several online courses on teaching online up until 2005, and used this as an element of the model: do I really believe in the concepts of teacher presence and cognitive presence anymore as being core and essential?  I'll need to revisit this.  n the light of a PLE lens on the process, what do I think now??

Your points incude:
  • From Re: PLE's and teacher presence by bronwynh on Sunday, 10 June 2007 9:52:00 p.m.: depend very much on an active teacher presence to keep the participants linked and motivated.
  • From Re: PLE's and teacher presence by bronwynh on Sunday, 10 June 2007 9:52:00 p.m.: It also depends on these items being connected to the course assessment.
What if you JUST assess.  Why is teacher presence also needed?
  • From Re: PLE's and teacher presence by bronwynh on Sunday, 10 June 2007 9:52:00 p.m.: The tools are there, but without facilitation by the "teachers" the participants tend to learn in isolation apart from when they come together for f2f workshops.
What's wrong in learning in isolation ?  If it is a learning outcome, and they can pass the course in isolation, isn't this a design flaw in the course implementation.

Is teacher presence vital for a successful PLE?  I'll start the bidding: sometimes, No.  But I reserve the right to change my answer.  (Now who was it that said they had difficulty committing)
Cheers - Derek
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: PLE's and teacher presence

by Emma Duke-Williams -
This thread is called "Schools (etc)" - can I check what level students you're all thinking about? I tend to associate school with the compulsory / under 18s, rather than including further & higher Education, though I know that many North Americans include Universities & Colleges in the term "school".

One of my views, and it's coming from a Higher Education (and often post graduate teaching point of view), is that you do need the teacher to get the students going, though to provide guidance, rather than answers.

I'm very unsure of the assessment issues though. Ideally, I'd see a PLE as a way of gathering information - which is then assessed in a different way. So, you could be getting students to reflect on a semester's work - which may include references to particular blog posts they've made / video they've created & uploaded to Google Video.

They may also refer to a set of material covering some aspects of group dynamics etc.

Other subjects, by their very nature, might be less overtly based on the PLE, but they might be using the knowledge gained. I'm seeing the PLE more as a super note-book - I never gave in my note book as such - I information & then used that to write the essay.

As to "learning in isolation" - that is something that is very personal to me. When I'm learning, at times I like to think things through on my own. Other times, I'll be selective over who I share with; yet other times I'm not bothered who reads it. But, I'd like that control. Ideally, I think, I'd have the select group most of the time. However, many may prefer more isolation than me, others a wider audience (I can see some interesting research - is the ideal audience related in any way to gender/ culture/ subject being studied ... or totally random. Do people differ in the way they open up their thoughts - and how they read others thoughts?)

Returning to Derek's question:
Is teacher presence vital for a successful PLE?
I think that it's going to be the very rare student who takes to the creation of a truly collaborative PLE naturally. By that, I mean the ability to create information, to share with others, to be able to query the views of others, without slating them totally, etc., etc., etc.,

If that's how we're seeing a PLE, then yes, I think that a teacher is needed at least at the outset.

If we're looking more at a PLE as a way of putting some structure to our information gathering, then perhaps the teacher isn't needed by all students - but even then, they'd have to have a good idea of what they wanted.

I'm still sceptical about assessing them, though.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: PLE's and teacher presence

by Derek Chirnside -
From Re: PLE's and teacher presence by emmadw on Monday, 11 June 2007 4:26:00 a.m.: This thread is called "Schools (etc)" - can I check what level students you're all thinking about? I tend to associate school with the compulsory / under 18s, rather than including further & higher Education, though I know that many North Americans include Universities & Colleges in the term "school".

Sorry Emma, good point.  I was thinking of more of formal taught course contexts, of whatever age.

I guess I see three contexts we could address, each of which has diferent features:
  • Informal learning
  • formal taught courses (ie credits, assessments)
  • business/organisational contexts

 
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: PLE's and teacher presence

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

What's wrong in learning in isolation ?  If it is a learning outcome, and they can pass the course in isolation, isn't this a design flaw in the course implementation.

Provocative question. I'm a firm believer that tasks need to fit outcomes, so if one of the outcomes is to improve your teamwork or to increase your tolerence for opinions other than your own, then group work is a legitimate expectation. There are a lot of hidden curriculums out there where behaviour expectations are not stated as part of the official outcomes which tend to be too knowledge/skills oriented in my opinion.

On the other hand, I have learned lots of knowledge and skills on my own because that was my personal goal.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

learning in isolation

by Sylvia Currie -
From Re: PLE's and teacher presence by derekc on Mon Jun 11 02:09:00 2007:
What's wrong in learning in isolation ?

This is a common tension in a lot of work we're doing (formal learning). Courses often become very much like the independent studies of the print distance ed delivery model. And what the heck, some students do very well in these courses.

And maybe that's what is unsettling about PLEs for some -- the emphasis on personal. Does it feel like we're slipping backwards a bit?
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: learning in isolation

by Michele Martin -
To me, personal learning doesn't mean learning in isolation. It means that I'm using a series of personally selected tools to explore and process learning. In my post describing my own PLE I talk about the social aspects of my learning and how through social networking services, the connections I've made online through blogging, etc. and through my off-line relationships I can learn more.

I think that if we think of PLEs as merely being about learning alone, we're missing both what's great about many of the web-based tools as well as how most of us learn. Learning is often a social process and the most robust PLE is going to reflect that. PLEs to me are really more about self-directed learning and wider learning that encompasses a variety of formal and informal processes, including social connection.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: learning in isolation

by Cristina Costa -
PLEs are so fashionable right now.
A PLE is individual focused . It's about his/her learning path. It is also meant to establish a (learning) digital identity...
But is the learner really alone? I don't think so. I just think that as in any reflexive exercise, there is always a time when the community participants  need to reserve a time for themselves to  understand their joints experiences and how it has contributed to their own learning path.  
In this sense, I think a PLE is just an extension of what the individual does and is in the communities he/she belongs to.
In my perspective, a PLE is a result (=the individual learning outcome) of the communal activity. While communicating and interacting in and with a group of people, one offers and gets pieces of information, ideas and different perspectives that one then works out until it makes sense to one and one's practice. I think it is in that sense that PLEs are useful. It is how my participation and my contribution to the community benefits others, and how their contributions and participation also benefits me and my learning, as a member of given communities.
PLEs also often offer interaction possibilities, in the shape of comments. It's not an isolate way of reflecting about learning.
The PLE then happens as a need to reflect and register the experiences one has made within the group. It also reflects about a little bit of oneself, and the individual knowledge that one acquires from a joint "venture".

Besides that, for me, particularly, a PLE only makes sense if it is shared with others, so that others also have a(nother) change to contribute to my learning, by commenting on it.
The way I see it, a PLE can be a personal space, which one administers, but not an isolated one, since one makes it available to everyone.
So is my perspective. I see no purpose in closing up  personal spaces with passwords, or the so called walled gardens.

Just my 2 cents....
 
In reply to Cristina Costa

Re: learning in isolation

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Besides that, for me, particularly, a PLE only makes sense if it is shared with others, so that others also have a(nother) change to contribute to my learning, by commenting on it.

While I agree in general that a PLE needs to have a community input, I think that it is vital (to ensure the *personal* side) that the owner has the ability to determine who, if anyone, has access to particular resources - and that this can change over time. I would be very wary of a PLE that is totally transparent - where one can have no private, personal areas.

For the vast majority of learners (probably large) sections will be visible to (selected) others. For the minority of users, the largest sections will be those that are invisible.

Following on from that, I'm personally rather wary of assessing PLEs. Parts of it could be assessable - but students should be able to identify those sections that are for assessment - or, better, use what they have learnt in their learning to create the artefact for assessment. (Which could be a portfolio selected from it, but could also be, say, an essay, written from the research they have gathered personally).
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: learning in isolation

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

I think we make a fundamental error in believing that the learning environment should be the same for everyone and for every subject. Problem solving and humanities are usually best learned in groups, but intricate skills may not be. As teachers, we need to be thinking about what learning environment is most supportive of this particular objective for this group of students.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

intentional learning, with new tools and attitude

by Sylvia Currie -
There is something about this topic. It's a little mind bending. I feel like things click one minute and then the next I've lost it again. thoughtful

In reviewing the discussion so far it does seem like we're beginning to cinch in the core characteristics of a PLE and the other bits are starting to float away. As soon as we snap out of tool mode and simply treat the new tools as possibilities for organizing our own learning then it opens up the brain to think about PLEs in different ways. So many of you have expressed that so well in this seminar.

I had to laugh at my own inept PLE -- when I was revisiting earlier posts I saw that I had flagged Michele's post from DAY 1 of this seminar:

From Re: Personal Learning Ecology . . . by michelemmartin on Mon Jun 4 16:55:00 2007:
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.

and I even took the time to annotate it:
This is a really helpful way to frame PLEs. We tend to jump into the tools and the how tos of it all.

Then I didn't look back at my own notes. So much for my skills in organizing my own PLE!

Anyway, some of what I reviewed this morning started to remind me of the literature on intentional learning -- particularly the work of Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia in the late 80s/early 90s. Much of that work was focused on instructional strategies and also "computer-based learning environments" as providing new opportunities for managing your own learning.

Here we're extending these ideas, but I think we're also suggesting that the instructional role is different. It is focused on developing the skills, encouraging learners to find their own solutions (routines, tools, habits, etc) perhaps modeling different options, and so on. It stands to reason that the better learners become at organizing their own PLEs, and the more freedom and flexibility we allow for them to do that, the more they will enjoy learning. It does become an attitude! It's like intentional learning with attitude. cool

Okay, you're now witnessing me losing it again!



In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: intentional learning, with new tools and attitude

by Ron Lubensky -
Sylvia, I think that you make a very useful link to the work of Bereiter & Scardamalia. I'd recommend Carl's "Education & Mind in the Knowledge Age" (2002). I wrote a rather long summary of it last year.

Amongst other ideas, Carl refers to conceptual artefacts, which are representations of our knowledge and experiences. Whilst many take firm commitments to the truth of their view of the world, Bereiter promotes the idea that our perspectives are constructions that are malleable.

It seems to me that a PLE, whether as platform or as self-organising approach, could help make that distinction between belief and artefact by affording an explicit representation (direct or by reference) to such artefacts.

Sylvia, thank you for helping me think about Bereiter and PLEs together. If there was a demonstration of the value of collaborative learning, this would be it.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: intentional learning, with new tools and attitude

by Michele Martin -
Sylvie, I think you're absolutely right here that the role of "teachers" in using PLEs is to help individuals develop the skills to manage their own learning and effectively access/use the tools of personal learning--whether on or off-line.

In my experience, learning for most people has become very passive. People wait for someone to decide what they should learn and wait for someone to teach it to them. The beauty of the personal learning concept for me is that it creates a construct for people to navigate through their own learning landscape, including deciding what they will learn and how they will learn it.

You mention the need for freedom and flexibility--I think that's absolutely crucial. My dream school would let students have considerable freedom in selecting the content of what they wanted to learn as long as that content gave them a context for developing the necessary skills. For example, Will Richardson writes about his son's passion about baseball cards and how his son could learn just about every skill he needs to learn in  second grade (and then some) by studying his cards. I think this is true for most people--we will be passionate about developing the key transferable skills that are necessary for success if we have the freedom to determine the context in which we learn those skills.

This notion also goes back to the freedom to choose your own tools. While I think it's important for people to learn how to write, I also understand that some people will learn better through speaking. I have a friend who must talk her way through to answers and writing to learn just doesn't do it for her. That suggests to me that we need to work with people to help them find the right tools for processing their learning--for example having them do a podcast vs. blogging if that's what works better for them.

To me what's exciting about the construct of PLEs is the potential to ignite people's passion for learning and to provide them with the tools and skills to pursue what gets them excited. Imagine how great the world would be if it was filled with people who were excited about personal and professional development on a daily basis!
In reply to Michele Martin

Re: teacher presence and PLE summary

by bronwyn hegarty -
I am amazed at the different ways you all have in expressing opinion abut my original question on this thread. approve

do you believe a teacher presence is vital for a successful PLE?

It looks like overall that people see the PLE as a self-directed learning tool which works best when shared with others so we get the advantages of social interaction and comment. So the teacher is probably not vital but could contribute to the learning experience for the PLE user.

Michele sums it up for me with this comment - I have put other comments below which indicate the thread of where this discussion led us:

“…what's exciting about the construct of PLEs is the potential to ignite people's passion for learning and to provide them with the tools and skills to pursue what gets them excited."

Bronwyn big grin

Summary of other comments

Derek said: “sometimes, No.  But I reserve the right to change my answer.

Emma said: “One of my views, and it's coming from a Higher Education (and often post graduate teaching point of view), is that you do need the teacher to get the students going, though to provide guidance, rather than answers”

“As to "learning in isolation" - ..very personal ..When I'm learning, at times I like to think things through on my own. Other times, I'll be selective over who I share with; yet other times I'm not bothered who reads it. But, I'd like that control.“

Deidre said: “tasks need to fit outcomes, so if one of the outcomes is to improve your teamwork or to increase your tolerence for opinions other than your own, then group work is a legitimate expectation”

Sylvia said : “Courses often become very much like the independent studies of the print distance ed delivery model. ...some students do very well in these courses. “

Michele said: “PLEs ... are really more about self-directed learning and wider learning that encompasses a variety of formal and informal processes, including social connection.”

Cristina said: “a PLE only makes sense if it is shared with others, ... others ..have a(nother) chance to contribute to my learning, by commenting on it……a PLE can be a personal space, which one administers, but not an isolated one, since one makes it available to everyone. “

Michele said: “learning for most people has become very passive. People wait for someone to decide what they should learn and wait for someone to teach it to them. The beauty of the personal learning concept ... it creates a construct for people to navigate through their own learning landscape, including deciding what they will learn and how they will learn it.”

" Imagine how great the world would be if it was filled with people who were excited about personal and professional development on a daily basis!” This is great!
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: teacher presence and PLE summary

by Cristina Costa -
Great Conclusion Bronwyn!
I think we are in synch! smile
Thanks for this great contribution.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Implementation in higher education

by Nancy Riffer -
I want to look at how a college might implement the use of PLEs in blended learning.  Would change begin with faculty initiating the use of PLE tools and attitudes in their classes.  Could it begin with the Dean "selling" his faculty on the importance of PLEs for student learning and retention?  What would be the roles of Admissions and IT departments. 

Does anyone know of examples of colleges that have been successful in this change?  Case studies?  Are professional organizations pointing faculty toward changes in their teaching that would include PLEs?  Where is there pressure for movement in the higher education system?
In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: Implementation in higher education

by Derek Chirnside -
Nancy,
We are at this point in our university here.  I am going to have to compromise in some respects. 

Check out openacademic.org

Here is the blurb and the vision:

Welcome to OpenAcademic.

OpenAcademic -- supporting learners, teachers, and institutions.

Create an intranet. Blog. Podcast. Manage the school website, and all
the club websites. Create a private workspace. Manage a class. Share files. Give
students the tools to build portfolios that cross academic years and
curricular disciplines. Support teacher professional development.
Communicate with parents. Build a safe social networking environment
within your school community.

OpenAcademic can do it.

And:
Those of us distraught by the turn suggested by Blackboard's patent announcement and suit against Desire2Learn can take heart from the following announcement from OpenAcademic:

"We are happy to announce the launch of the OpenAcademic project. This project is dedicated to integrating Elgg, Drupal, Moodle, and Mediawiki. All code developed under this project will be released back to the respective communities under an open source license, and it will be freely available to download and distribute."
http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/announcement/openacademic

I agree with Glen in a previous post: some of the PLE projects are just an attempt to tie down the free range.  But if you need something for an institution, this could be workable and give the freedom.  From the institutional POV the e-portfolio becomes the centre.

I've started to work on my suggested portfolio of tools for us, but nothing is quite there yet.  For formal taught courses, if I had to make a choice, I'd choose
  1. For the private class activity, a virtual learning space . .
    1. a good calendar
    2. threaded discussion - subscribable via e-mail, ability to embed flickr, youtube, flash etc
    3. file sharing
    4. chat (Maybe with one of these things that brings together a range of chats, like Meebo)
    5. private but sharable at a post level reflective journals
    6. taggable
    7. with an RSS reader there somewhere
    8. identity profiles "Invite me to chat about"
    9. Content sharable between courses
    10. With a public course area . .  probably in a wiki
  2. A public wiki for corperate activity.
  3. Public blog: Wordpress provided for anyone who didn't have a blog already.
  4. An RSS aggregator to bring class blogs together.
  5. a sort of e-portfolio (NOT a form filling thing) Mahara maybe if it gets finished.
  6. Maybe:
    1. Podcasting.
    2. Google docs??
    3. Class netvibes page
    4. class delicious tag
    5. plus as needed: gliffy (drawing) mind maps etc . . .
-Derek
In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: Implementation in higher education

by Emma Duke-Williams -
From Implementation in higher education by nanri on Friday 22 June 2007 11:23:00:
Would change begin with faculty initiating the use of PLE tools and attitudes in their classes.  Could it begin with the Dean "selling" his faculty on the importance of PLEs for student learning and retention? 

I would imagine it is going to vary from institution to institution! I can't quite see our Dean selling PLEs - what movements we have made is very much at lecturer (faculty) level getting students on particular courses to use particular tools. The drawback then, as I see it, is that I might be encouraging my students to create a space on Eduspaces (powered by Elgg), but others might get them to create a blog on Blogger.

To get a PLE going, a student really has to have (I think) a single blog. If we're coming at it from an individual view point, we have to have some consensus so as to get the students on board.

However, there is also the view - which I think is what I'd like to aim for long term, that students have the ultimate choice, to select what's best for them. I can make recommendations, but they have the final choice. What remains is whether there ought to be some restrictions in place (e.g. if it's a PLE, do I need to be able to access it? Suppose they prefer to post ideas in their first language - which, unless it's English, I probably can't read it. What if they prefer to create everything as an audio file? How do I then "skim" read in the same way I can if they've written stuff? [Especially when my headphones aren't working & the sound distracts my neighbours?]

What would be the roles of Admissions and IT departments. 

I'm not quite so sure about Admissions, as I don't have that much to do with them ... but are you thinking about how one can incorporate existing PLEs that students could be bringing from school / whatever into Higher Education?
IT departments are a whole different issue.... I suspect it's going to be a case of negotiation. Some might not want to support new systems - especially if you want to install new software. They have to install, check, maintain it etc. On the other hand, if we are getting students to use external sources, how do administrators cope with the perceived lack of control. Whose fault is it if Facebook gets hacked the night before a major submission? Should students keep backups, in the same way they are encouraged to if they work on their own PCs (at our university & I would imagine many others, failed hard drives etc., are not a good enough reason for late work; students are expected to keep backups)

However, I think that's running into a different set of questions.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Implementation in higher education

by Alice Macpherson -
I've been lurking all through this discussion and feel a small reply coming on

Emma wrote:
" <snip> To get a PLE going, a student really has to have (I think) a single blog. If we're coming at it from an individual view point, we have to have some consensus so as to get the students on board.
However, there is also the view - which I think is what I'd like to aim for long term, that students have the ultimate choice, to select what's best for them. I can make recommendations, but they have the final choice. <snip>"

I see this as a critical idea for PLEs
As an educator, who has tried to get a great number of participants in non credit courses to engage with a variety of technologies as a way to make visible and explicit their process, premises, and products, I find that there is a great reluctance to share what is in one's head with others.

I have also participated in courses as a student that required participants to "journal". When it was rewarded with marks it happened although, as a student, I certainly fed in what I thought the instructor was most interested in and heard similar comments from my fellow students (some more cynical than others). The one time I actually documented what was really happening for me, those marks went down and I was told that I was not "getting it".

When it is not rewarded with marks, it seems to happen occasionally. Those who have a predilection to do this may well have been writers of diaries from a young age. The majority seem to avoid it.

Your offering of "choices" all presume that there will be a visible electronic documentation of their thoughts. Perhaps David Kolb's work on learning styles might give an insight that learners will begin their engagement in a learning event at various points such as: active experimentation, concrete experience, reflective observation, or abstract conceptualization. Can the exercise be framed in ways that help the participant engage is a way that is both attractive and safe?

I believe strongly in the need for and effectiveness of reflection on learning. I am less convinced that this intrapersonal process should necessarily be laid out for a wider audience to view unless that is the choice of the learner.

thoughtfully, from a reflective lurker

alicemac
In reply to Alice Macpherson

Re: Implementation in higher education

by E.A. Draffan -

I found your reflection to be just what I seem to have learnt and feel myself when asked to blog or comment on subjects.  A colleague and I have tried to look at other learner characteristics that may impact on the willingness to share thoughts and engage with technology enhanced learning (as Europe seems to now be calling all e-learning, social networking and other computer based environments).

I am attaching a diagram that is still very much in draft as we are sure we have missed some issues!  It was used in a publication called "A model for the identification of challenges to blended learning"

 

Attachment learner_perspective.jpg
In reply to E.A. Draffan

Re: Implementation in higher education

by Alice Macpherson -
E.A.

Lovely diagram (I do appreciate graphic organizers). I also appreciate the article very much. It fits into the research that I am doing on Instructor experiences with Instructional Skills Workshop. I thank you for sharing!

alicemac