A definition of a PLE is not easy

The term as the reading suggests has not settled upon or agreed definition and therefore is possibly an “emerging” idea rather than a specific set of practices. As the Educause article states:

“Even as defined here, the concept remains somewhat amorphous, made up of disparate resources—including people—often beyond the boundaries of the institution or the user, that can come and go, creating a lack of continuity. For academics, a simple reference to sources may not be enough in such an environment, as data can easily disappear. As a learning platform that is by definition always evolving, a PLE requires students to engage in ongoing decision making to maintain, organize, and grow their learning environments.” Educause 2009 p2

The other problem is that it is not settled enough as an idea that everyone is so familiar with the idea of it that it will work. This is particularly relevant to my research as I was hoping to get people to set up and use PLEs and then study what learning occurred but as the Educause article goes on to suggest:

…despite their ability to quickly learn new online tools and computer applications, many students lack the information fluency necessary to recognize when a writer speaks from authority, for example, or when a narrative is opinion. Educause 2009 p2

That ability “to recognise” is added to the general lack of agreed uses for or familiarity with why or how a PLE might be used.

So the largest issue with PLEs is that some students are not easily enticed into using them even if they are required to. Explaining how to use them and why – becomes tedious and sort or undermines the autonomy that is supposed to be fostered by students being able to be in charge or responsible for the way their PLE operates and what is posted there and therefore able to learn in ways that best suit them.

What I thought was interesting was the high expectations that the Educause article held up for future use of PLEs:

..where information is ubiquitous and needs only to be located, there is a greater premium on skills that support fast and accurate access to information and on the ability to assess that information. In this regard, teaching is less a matter of data transmission and more a collaborative exercise in collection, orchestration, remixing, and integration of data into knowledge building. The goal for the student shifts from a need to collect information to a need to draw connections from it—to acquire it, disseminate it, and collaborate in its use. Furthermore, the use of PLEs may herald a greater emphasis on the role that metacognition plays in learning, enabling students to actively consider and reflect upon the specific tools and resources that lead to a deeper engagement with content to facilitate their learning. Educause 2009 p2

So the shift away from”transmission” to ” fast and accurate access” is interesting in terms of Siemen’s principles of connectivism – added to this is the above quote’s emphasis on the “shift”  from “collect” ing “information”  to “drawing connections from it” – which possibly but not necessarily is a connectivist – just because it uses the word connections does not mean it is connectivist. However that article is not written from a connectivist perspective and therefor reading connectivism into it is perhaps presumptuous, The article in the end – that is in the last statement is promoting the value of “meta- cognition” as where learning might be heading with the help of PLEs – not heading down the connectivist – learning through networks and their connections. so in a way it is suggesting at the end the real value of PLEs is the reflection that individuals do as “cognition” or in mind learning  and less emphasis is given to the connections to the network or “out of mind learning”.

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