PLENK2010 – How Can PLEs Benefit My Students?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education

Thanks to Jan Schwartz’s Learnings from a MOOC I decided to register for PLENK2010, and thanks to Stefanie Panke’s PLENK 2010: Just Like ‘Watching Football’ I started participating. For me, this experience embodies some of the concerns, confusion, and challenges that people  have who want to be technology savvy but are not quite sure about how to get there. It also brings to light how teaching and learning can really become more student-centered through the use of the e-learning environment. Both of these issues, affective issues and e-learning pedagogy, are important to consider in the evolution of technology as a part of educational design.

I started exploring the PLENK2010 site  a few days ago, and I have mixed feelings about the experience. There is a lot of uncertainty (for me) in the process which will shape my participation. First of all, there are many people participating as one big group, which I find chaotic. My style is to work alone or with a small group of people with whom I feel comfortable. One of my first tasks, therefore, is to find my comfort zone.

The next thing I have noticed is that there are a lot of instructions and lot of places to do things but not a clear “roadmap” for how to get to any of them, at least not that I have found yet. It’s as though I’m feeling my way in the dark trying to figure out where I should be when. Next is the disparity of  levels of knowledge that people have about the technology and the issues. Some are obviously expert with all types of technology, especially Web 2.0, and seem to understand connections that I do not even see. Then there are others like me who know enough to jump in but are not quite sure what we have jumped into.

The purpose of the course is for participants to create their own PLE (Personal Learning Environment). This is the first time I have encountered this term and concept. Luckily, I did figure out that the first “topic” is exploring what the term and concept involve. A PLE is exactly what it sounds like. It is the various systems that a person needs to shape their individual learning. Unlike an LMS (Learning Management System), which is the model that many educators use, a PLE can include many different systems. Web 2.0 , in particular, has made this possible.

Personally, I function quite well as a teacher and as a learner with an LMS. They are structured in such a way that I can understand what I need to do as a learner and as a designer. In other words, I am comfortable with this type of structure. However, as several people pointed out in the articles and forums, the very consistency and standardization of LMSs make them somewhat inflexible and, therefore, for many people, less desirable than a system that is less structured and that has more options. This concept seems like sound pedagogy to me.

However, I think that since a PLE requires active engagement by learners — they are creating their own learning environment after all — some would not be comfortable; they would not want to spend the time learning how to do it; and others would not be interested in spending the time needed to create and maintain their PLE. Then, there are others who would thrive in an environment that they were able to create for themselves.

Therefore, I am using this opportunity to think about how the concept of PLE would benefit my students. Some, as I mentioned above, would be happy using our usual LMS and not having to create their own system. Perhaps, that can be their PLE. However, for others, participating in a course in which they are responsible for creating their learning environment might be the best learning experience they have ever had.

Thus, my goal during these sessions will be to re-imagine what teaching and learning are so I can see how my students can take more ownership in their learning. That really sounds like constructivist education at its finest, doesn’t it?

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this focus, Lynn. I too signed up for PLENK because of Jan’s article and while I am fascinated by the scope of it, I am also more than a little lost. I think it will help me to move through it thinking about the courses I am teaching and want to teach and how this new information will impact my teaching and my understanding of my role as a teacher.

  2. For me, a PLE is a step toward greater integration into Web 2.0. Rather than remain in a closed LMS, the instructor has moved her/his instructional environment into the open world of the web. In this environment, she can pick and choose the subsystems that she wants to create her own PLE system. The subsystems include Web 2.0 tools and media such as blogs, microblogs, wikis, and SNs. She can freely create PLNs linking her PLE to other PLEs to generate flexible networks. The ultimate value of open systems is sustainability based on continuous interaction/communication with the environment. -js

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