Personal Learning Environments – the future of eLearning?

“ A Personal Learning Environment is a facility for an individual to access, aggregate, configure and manipulate digital artifacts of their ongoing learning experience” ~ Lubensky (2006)

According  to Attwell (2007), the idea of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) recognises the role of the individual in organising thier own learning process, and that present day technology can now be used to support that learning. The pressures for a PLE are based on the idea that learning will take place in different contexts and situations and will not always be provided by a single learning provider. Along with PLE’s, there is also an increasing interest in the idea of informal learning and that teachers can use informal learning in their classrooms to allow the students to use other modes of education that they find useful to support their learning.

Attwell (2007) argues that a PLE is not a software application, but that it is a new approach to using technologies for learning. The main problem with PLE’s however questions the role that schools and teachers play in the students learning process. If students are able to use new technologies to create their personal learning environment, where do teachers fit in to these environments? Aside from this, PLE’s can be useful within the classroom and need to be integrated as the face of education changes with the introduction of new technologies.

Personal learning environments can be used to help students take control of their learning. It moves away from the traditional teaching and learning pedagogy and allows students to create their learning to revolve around the students own learning styles. PLEs maintain interest, encourage optimism and promote positivity around learning. They are student centred and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. The question is to where the teacher fits in to students personal learning environments. Teachers no longer have the dominant position in the classroom, however the teachers role will be to guide the students learning processes by placing the work needed to be completed on to the PLEs.

I do not however necessarily agree with students having personal environments. Yes, they are useful and productive to students however personal learning environments can be detrimental to student progress as teachers may be unable to properly assess student work. Much of student work needs to be demonstrated one on one with the teacher to enable the teacher to give necessary feedback to students regarding areas of improvement and weaknesses. If this is done all through the medium of technology, students may not be able to understand fully what is required to improve. One way the teacher explains to the students may not always be understood and may need to be re-explained first hand to the student work completed on personal learning environments may also be difficult to asses to begin with. Teaches need to be able to observe the processes and skills in which students use to problem solve and complete the work set.

Personal Learning Environments are spaces in which students can organise their own teaching and learning envrionment. An example of this is symbaloo.com.au. Personal learning environments may be the future of education, but will this always be a good thing? There are advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately I think the answer lies with how the students learn best and what works with your class, which again will be different for every student.

 

Attwell, G. (2007). Personal Learning Environments – the future of eLearning?. eLearning Papers. Vol. 2 (1).

Lubensky, R. (2006). The present and future of Personal Learning Environments (PLE). Blog Entry.

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