PLE and PLN = Personal Learning Ecologies

In reading articles, blog posts, discussion boards and perusing diagrams I find the fine points of defining the difference between PLE (Personal Learning Environment) and PLN (Personal Learning Network) a small portion of the dialogue.  Especially when you add the information that one term evolved in America and the other evolving from Europe.  In  Emerging Technologies for Learning, Stephen Downes states that it is not in the technologies themselves, but in the thinking that underlies the concept.

It is the idea of “rich tapestr(ies) of resources, dynamic and interconnected” (Downes, 2007) that draws me to the term suggested in Dave Cormier’s blog post 5  points about PLE’s PLN’s for PLENK10 and also introduced by Josh Underwood in the PLENK2010 forum of Personal Learning Ecologies.

As I see it some of the key concepts of the PLE/PLN conversation are

  • People being accountable in their own learning
    • The idea of responsibility/accountability of one’s own learning.  The willingness to change, grow, adapt. An understanding of and a drive for knowledge acquisition; not simply for accumulation but to modify, connect and create new personal knowledge. As Downes (2007) states, “The idea behind the personal learning environment is that the management of learning migrates from the institution to the learner…Learning therefore evolves from being a transfer of content and knowledge to the production of content and knowledge.”
  • People connecting and forming communities
    • The key use of the online tools mentioned below is the ability to network.  To create webs of connections between people which can then be leveraged for learning.  The mentoring, partnership, criticism all come to play as connections are strengthened and learning increases. “Learning becomes as much social as cognitive, as much conrete as abstract, and becomes intertwined with judgment and exploration.” (Graham Attwell , quoted in Downes, 2007)
  • People using online tools, as well as others
    • “.. the heart of the concept of the PLE is that it is a tool that allows a learner (or anyone) to engage in a distributed environment consisting of a network of people, services and resources. It is not just Web 2.0, but it is certainly Web 2.0 in the sense that it is (in the broadest sense possible) a read-write application.” (Downes, 2007)
  • Personal knowledge and learning growing and expanding
    • One of the amazing things of a community of learners is the capacity to increase knowledge.
  • A life-long portfolio of learning
    • In reading through the articles this idea of PLE/PLN vs. the LMS – student centric vs. institution directed – freedom vs. controlled – dynamic vs. static.  It would appear that if one’s PLE/PLN were maintained it could become a life-long portfolio of a learning journey.

There is more to come on the Personal Learning Ecologies.  The living, breathing, adapting, sustaining nature of a system, an ecology.

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