UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

PLEs Please Me

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Feb 2008

AJ Cann recently described his experiences of “teaching” PLEs (his quotes). In his post he described how his discussions with his peers in the elearning community began with a ‘tweet’.

Twitter post

And his colleagues (or should that, in the context of Twitter, be his ‘followers’) asked him to share his experiences. Alan then went on to explain that he felt that:

I should start by saying that I don’t believe you can “teach” someone how to build a personal learning environment, any more than you can teach them “wisdom” – it’s an experiential, contextual thing.

From previous discussions I’ve had with AJ I know that he is a fan on use of PLEs to support learning, as opposed to the more monolithic VLE approach – and, in a way, the question of whether the VLE is open source or not is a bit of a red herring. But although PLEs may please AJ, how confident can we be that it is the PLEs which helped with the “clear winners with the students, notably the Google suite.” Might not the enthusiasms shown by the students simply reflect his own enthusiasms.

AJ will, of course, be aware of such factors (and I should declare that I am a member of an advisory group for AJ Cann’s Leicester PLE project which is “Using Web 2.0 to Cultivate Information Literacy via Construction of Personal Learning Environments“). But if we are honest we (the blog readers and those engaged with Web 2.0) will be aware that there with be large scale chunky proprietary and unfashionable enterprise systems which are crying out “Love me do” – and the supporters of such systems will, indeed, be happy to use the systems – and there are also likely to be happy users of such systems, too. Indeed I can remember the first time I attended the ALT-C conference -I attended the technical standards where I heard about developments using an SOA approaches, the e-Framework and Web 2.0 developments, but in the other strands other academics and e-learning support staff were presenting about the quality of the learning and user satisfaction for services delivered by Blackboard and Web CT.

I guess we do need to be honest about how our enthusiasms, whether it’s for Web 2.0, open source, social networks, Twitter or whatever, may help to enthuse others but the indifference shown by the majority may be invisible to us.

3 Responses to “PLEs Please Me”

  1. ajcann said

    “Might not the enthusiasms shown by the students simply reflect his own enthusiasms.”
    I think not in this case:
    Although we tried to be relatively neutral in facilitating, if anything, we pushed del.icio.us as a potential solution to information overload that they should investigate. We had a few takers, but not as many as for Google Reader
    suggesting that students were indeed making personal choices about technologies. An unannounced follow-up to this session was held 10 days after the tutorial. Students were asked:

    * Which of the sites we discussed during the tutorial have you used in the past 7 days?

    The results were:
    None: 7/14
    del.icio.us: 3/14
    Google Reader: 3/14
    Blackboard Scholar: 1/14 (Student commented: “I tried using Blackboard Scholar but I wasn’t impressed and couldn’t really see what it was for.”)
    Another student commented: “I would like to use del.icio.us more, but I don’t have time”, indicating what may be a common underlying perception that these technologies represent “something else they have to do”, rather than an alternative way of working.

    One concern over the outcome of this session is the silo-jumping aspect, from the VLE to Google, without investigating the full range of tools available and their potential affordances. To someone encountering the concept of a PLE for the first time, the amount of new technology can clearly be overwhelming, so this pattern is not surprising. To successfully facilitate a session such as this it is sensible to break down the PLE concept into bite-sized pieces, and to illustrate these through practical competence-based tasks which when put together, span the whole range of a functional PLE.

  2. […] Scott Leslie weigh pro’s and cons of “loosely coupled” approaches and even one or two ed tech bloggers recognize the continuing significance of the LMS, I’ve not yet seen a full […]

  3. […] I have seen Scott Leslie weigh pro’s and cons of “loosely coupled” approaches and even one or two ed tech bloggers recognize the continuing significance of the LMS, I’ve not yet seen a full and […]

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