PLEs and MLEs

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Several posts have been made this week about personal learning environments which led me to post my most recent attempt to diagram the way I see things moving.

Christopher Sessums started me off with his post on (re)defining blogs. In this he discusses the way in which blogs are being used for a variety of purposes other than simply an online personal jounral, and asks “when is a blog no longer a blog?” . His question is:

do we need a new definition of this space we have been referring to as a blog? Is it simply a matter of adding an adjective, as in this is my personal blog and this is my academic blog? Is a blog more a personal learning environment when framed in an academic setting?

A post by Helen Barrett takes this thinking further with her mash-up of different web2.0 tools which she considers could be combined together for a powerful ePortfolio system. While I’d concurr with the direction that Helen is thinking, I’m not sure that I’d see the portfolio as the centre-piece – rather, it seems to me that she’s described a PLE from a different perspective, with the digital archive and digital portfolio being important dimensions of this.

I have been working with an extension of these ideas, in particular, how the evolving understandings about personal learning environments relate to understandings about the ‘managed learning environments’ that schools and educational institutions are developing and working with. A managed learning environment is a term used by JISC in the UK, and is explained on Wikipedia as:

A {learning management system] can be considered a sub system of a MLE, whereas MLE refers to the wider infrastructure of information systems in an organisation that support and enable electronic learning on a wider scale.

My diagram is an attempt to describe the development and potential intersection of these two systems, ie

  1. Personal Learning Environment that is “owned”, managed and maintained by the individual learner, and
  2. Managed Learning Environmentthat is “owned, managed and maintained by a school or insitution.

Both of these systems have legitimacy – it isn’t simply a matter of choosing between one or the other. Schools/insitutions must develop systems that help them to successfully manage the provision of teaching and learning services to their students, while students on the other hand are increasingly choosing to “live their lives online”, and want to be able to integrate all aspects of their learning lives within a personalised interface/environment. In my view, this sort of environment will essentially be an aggregator of the various services and applications that an individual learner chooses to have in their PLE.

A paper recently released by Scott Wilson, Oleg Liber etc titled Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems provides further useful insight/ This paper uses a design theory approach to argue for the evlolution of a VLE (virtual learning environment) into a PLE. This paper contributes significantly to the discussion around PLEs – although I am still wondering about the extent to which a school or institution-based VLE/LMS canbe morphed into a PLE, or whether we shouldn’t accept that, with modification, these sorts systems will be required, and that our efforts should work in parallel to develop the sort of PLE that I’ve tried to illustrate in my diagram.

No doubt these thoughts will continue to evolve…

3 thoughts on “PLEs and MLEs

  1. Derek your model above suggets, by the red lines around personal learning environment and school based MLE, that the two are quite separate. I’m interested in the space between these two. I think there is a significant opportunity for teachers to be working with students both in the school based systems and to educate students in the use of PLE’s. In my opinion the best way for teachers to start thinking about how to do this is to get in and experiment themselves. Since I started blogging seriously this year I am constantly coming across material and ideas for using web2.0 tools with pupils. Teachers viewing your model ought not get caught in the view that the school based MLE is all they have to think about. All those other aspects will influence the learner.
    The significant factor is ownership. In a school based MLE the teacher controls the access and the content. In the PLE this ownership is with the learner. The teacher needs to be invited to participate in this space. The relationship changes in my view. That is why I think you are quite correct in thinking that both are required. I just see a fuzzier line between them. The other thing I wonder is whether some of these PLE tools will start to disappear or rather merge as tools like blogs, podcasts, flickr, wikis, myspace etc start to be blended together. Do you think we will see a super space that offers these tools in one location?

    Thanks as always for your stimulating ideas.

  2. Thanks Paul
    we share a lot of the same questions. I agree – there is a “fuzzy line” between the two environments. The thing I’m trying to demonstrate through this thinking is how we might conceptualise, from a ‘systems’ point of view, the sorts of things we might need to be building/developing as we work towards the future. A concern I have is the view of some who present an ‘anarchic’ ideal of moving totally to a PLE, and getting rid of teachers, school etc. I simply don’t see that as an option – although I’m sure the nature of schools/schooling will change enormously.
    In terms of ‘ownership’ (and thus control) – you’re right on the button – this is where traditional schooling is being stretched, and where the adoption of social software is breaking new ground.

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