Personal Learning Environment (PLE)
When I read the item—personal learning environment (PLE) first time, I do not have any concept about it. So I show some definitions made by researchers. Nada and Anastasia (2012) say that a PLE is a new construct in the e-learning literature that is premised on social media and steadily gaining ground in the e-learning field as an effective platform for student learning. Martindale and Dowdy (2010) posit that PLEs are an outcome of the tools that social media has provided learners enabling them to create, organize, and share content. Dabbagh and Reo (2011b) and Dron (2007) posit that PLEs are built on externally hosted (in-the-cloud)Web2.0 tools and services designed to help students aggregate and share resources, participate in collective knowledge generation, and manage their own meaning making. Rubin (2010) and McGloughlin and Lee (2010) posit that PLEs empower students to take charge of their own learning prompting them to select tools and resources to create, organize and package learning content to learn effectively and efficiently. Rubin adds that PLEs are inherently self-directed placing the responsibility for organizing learning on the individual.
After reading those definitions and descriptions about PLE, I think it is a kind of e-learning platform and a personal learning center, which help students to study the knowledge effectively, to share and collaborate with others, to control and manage their learning resources efficiently. Certainly, this platform must need the support of pedagogical approach and technology, just the Web2.0 (blogs, Wiki, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as the social media. We should recognize that, no matter formal learning environment or informal learning environment, the PLE can be used in both of environments.
The importance of PLE
I have said that there are two kinds of learning—formal learning and informal learning. Cross (2007) and Selwyn (2007) explain those two items. The formal learning is described as learning that is institutionally sponsored or highly structured, for example, learning that happens in courses, classrooms, and schools, resulting in learners receiving grades, degree, diplomas, and certificates. The informal learning is learning that rests primarily in the hands of the learner and happens through observation, trial and error, asking for help, conversing with others, listening to stories, reflecting on a day’s event, or stimulated by general interests. So we can see that the formal learning usually take place in the school and classroom, and the informal learning happens in the library, at home, on the job, and among peers.
Normally, the schools also use the standard model to teach their students. What the students learned are always superficial knowledge, but not deep knowledge which could foster their innovative activities. The teachers only transmit facts and procedures to students, and the students should memorize and pass the tests. After the examination, maybe there are not many knowledge in students’ brain, and they even have not known how and when to use those knowledge. So if we put PLE into the formal learning, I think the situation will be better. R. Keith Sawyer gives us an interesting term—customised learning. That means each student, he or she is in their personal learning environment supported by social media, and they can enter different classroom with different course and structure. Each student learn each subject at the different rates, they have their own paces. The advanced student needs not to wait for others, and the slower student can seek some helps and need not be shy. The research shows that every student learns best when they are in that learning environment which is sensitive to their original cognitive structures. Certainly, the role of teachers could not be neglected. They should have more pedagogical approach and knowledge about technology. In this learning environment, teachers are scaffoldings who give students support to facilitate their learning processes and foster students to have authentic learning.
The PLE is developed very well in informal learning environment. With the help of the social media, the informal learning has been the significant way for learners. Regardless of how old you are and where you are, every learner will enjoy their learning process through the personal learning environment. The students ask questions to their professors or teachers, communicate with their friends, search many knowledge related to their learning or other aspects, share some information with their peers, etc. We should point out that there are more social media in informal learning than in formal learning which support students’ PLE. For instance, students use blogs to set their learning goals and plans, use Wiki as their space to manage and control their task, use Google Calendar to monitor their schedule, and use YouTube, Flickr or Prezi to show their archive they make, use Facebook to communicate with others. In fact, the PLE is a self-regulated learning process, which from goal setting, monitor, control and manage, to react and reflect. And in the process, there are some social media to support their learning. At the same time, the PLE is also a collaborative learning process; students can allow their teachers and peers to comment their blogs, enjoy the media created by peers, share their learning topics and projects, and so on, those activities cultivate students’ social interaction and collaboration.
We have talk about the importance of PLE in formal learning and informal learning respectively, so it is time to put formal and informal learning as a continuum of learning. Attwell (2007) suggests that PLEs can be perceived as individual organizing their own learning in multiple contexts where informal learning can be used to supplement formal learning and added that PLEs play an important role in advancing the understanding of e-learning. So PLE can connect formal and informal learning so as to optimize learning. The students will learn effectively if they engage in both formal and informal learning activities in their PLE.
For me, my PLE is really very bad. Because my technological knowledge is limited, so I only use email to send message, use Facebook to communicate with my friends, use Wiki and Google to search some information, and use blog to display my assignment, that is all. And Wiki and blog I use them after I learn the LET master’s programmer. I think there are two reasons for my poor PLE, one reason is that my knowledge about technology and many social media tools are scarcity, I do not have sense or brain to explore and apply them. My ability in technology and application is very poor. Another reason is PLE is the new concept for me, I have not use it well in my learning experience. Above issues make my PLE is worse than others. After reading two articles the teacher give us, I must admit that PLE plays an important role in our learning life, and I also see my classmates get benefit from PEL. Their LET is very perfect. So I should change the current situation as soon as possible. Studying more useful social media tools and applying them better in my reality learning environment.
1. Nada Dabbagh, Anastasia Kitsantas (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education 15 (2012) 3-8
2. R. Keith Sawyer. Optimising learning: implications of learning sciences research. OECD/CERI International conference“learning in the 21st century: research, innovation and policy”