Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Higher Ed sponsored PLEs...an oxymoron?

I was reading one of the items for this week's CCK11 session, which happens to be on PLEs. The readings was an Educause "7 things you should know about..." type of document. If you don't know what a PLE (personal learning environment) is, the abstract gives a good succinct overview:

The term personal learning environment (PLE) describes the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual educational platforms that learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals. PLEs represent a shift away from the model in which students consume information through independent channels such as the library, a textbook, or an LMS, moving instead to a model where students draw connections from a growing matrix of resources that they select and organize. 

OK, I agree, but reading the actual document created some cognitive dissonance (you ought to read this document, it's only two pages long). The scenario in this 7things document describes a photography course in which students upload their photos to a service, so that their classmates can comment on them and they can receive feedback. In turn students can subscribe to the feeds of other students and stay up to date with what their classmates are posting and provide feedback to them (presumably for some participation credit).

The problem I have here is that what this scenario is describing is essentially an LMS. You could accomplish the same exact thing in the confines of an LMS without the need to utilize things like Flickr, Blogger, Google Reader and so on.  The benefit of course is that the outside world sees you stuff and they might comment on it; thus giving you additional feedback, but the instructor doesn't seem to be interested in that aspect. So, the question then is, why not use an LMS?

It seems to me, based on the description of what a PLE is, that students should be pro-active on their own to set-up and maintain their own PLE with whatever services they deem important and useful and the develop their own PLN (personal learning network) with whichever persons/services/bots they deem that they would find useful being connected to. 

It seems to me that the University's role, if any, in a PLE-building-exercise, is to provide a information on a variety of tools (with pros and cons for each), give people hands-on time with the tools, explain the whys, hows and whos of the whole concept, and then let people decide what's best for them. It seems to me that the example in this 7things handout was essentially trying to do with a PLE what's been done with an LMS - and this doesn't work out that well.

Any thoughts?

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