In certain areas and institutions within the higher education sector over the last number of years a movement has been posited and tested. This movement is away from the institutional Virtual learning environment, and towards what is being termed as personal learning environments (PLE's). A number of technologies have been used to introduce this idea – elgg, ning and even Facebook. My take on the underlying motivation behind the push for the PLE is in fact to encourage a PULL mentality from our students. The ideas behind many PLE’s being that they allow the student to choose ‘pull’ the information which they wish to receive rather than having this pushed towards them as happens in traditional learning management systems and the VLE’s. I applaud this opportunity for personalisation, and feel strongly that by offering ownership of learning back to the students, and on their terms, we will increase their motivation and subsequent knowledge construction.
I started thinking about the way I currently work, and the way in which I worked as a student. In doing this I produced the below illustration. The picture illustrated to me the difficulties we face when talking about personal learning environments; a student today has so many different areas available for them to work in, and to pull information from. I started to think that the moniker ‘environment’ really is a true description, one in which our students possibly require the use of and navigate their way through many different arenas and web 2.0 tools both institutional and personally chosen in order to best complete an assignment.
My thinking is that the ‘environment’ within a ‘Personal learning environment’ should not necessarily refer to a single customisable but limited area, but rather should refer to the wider choice of tools a student chooses to use in order to complete their academic studies. This is a much wider ranging network of services, tools and people which needs investigation in order that we can better support out students development. Why are they choosing to use the tools they do? Who are they discussing ideas with? Where do they ‘pull’ from? What do they expect to be pushed towards them? All of these and more questions need to be answered before we can truly understand the 21st century students Personal Learning Environment.
Apologies, for the small image size. In future posts I will attempt to unpick my ‘environment’ further in order to offer an understanding of the role each element plays within it, and the possible issues which could possibly arise from such a diverse environment.