PLEs, PLNs, Communities: It’s About the Connections!

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) allow learners to direct their own learning and educational goals. Taking advantage of Web 2.0 technologies, PLEs allow learners to be active co-creators of knowledge.

The main idea behind a PLE is that learning is continual and the goal is to provide tools to support that learning. It also recognizes the role of individuals in organizing their own learning. The pedagogy behind the PLE is that it offers a portal to the world, through which learners can explore and create, according to their own interests and directions, interacting at all times with their friends and community.

What About my PLN (Personal Learning Network)? Why Networks?

It is the organization of the network that supports learning, and that if the network is designed appropriately, it will organize itself – just as we see happening in Web 2.0 communities – in order to best support learning. Thus, when we talk about ‘learning networks’ we are talking about networks in two distinct ways:

  • the use of networks to support learning, and
  • networks that learn.

Don’t forget about Communities: Share, Share, That’s Fair!

Learning occurs in communities where the practice of learning is the participation in the community. A learning activity is, in essence, a conversation undertaken between the learner and other members of the community. This conversation, in the Web 2.0 era, consists not only of words but of images, video, multimedia and more. This conversation forms a rich tapestry of resources, dynamic and interconnected, created not only by experts, but by all members of the community, including learners.

Learning happens when students collaborate, communicate and cooperate and it is about creating an environment that enables those activities. Social Software can transform learning into a dynamic experience. learners become contributors, not passive recipients of information. Whether participating in a blog site, collaborating on a wiki assignment, or commenting on a podcast, users are actively engaged in content creation, community cultivation, and discussion moderation.

Resources: “Emerging tools for Learning Report” produced by BECTA in 2007.

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