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Personal Learning Environments :: Blog :: Personal Learning Environments Community

April 08, 2007

Wondering how long it would take for anyone to get a community off the ground, or if everyone thought that such activities had to be officially sanctioned, I decided to "Just do it" * and see what happens.

So for the interested, we can start by defining Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) as "systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning; managing both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

A PLE may be composed of one or more sub-systems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services." (defined here).

In relation t this definition, the more I think about PLEs, the more I come to the conclusion that, except in very special circumstances, they are social software systems accessed via a browser. (Ducks head...)


There is a mass of references to PLE literature here, mostly material from the blogosphere.

I suspect that if you join this community you will be able to cross post your blog postings on PLEs here, and we can build up a mass of (interesting?) material.

Feel free too to edit the community profile.


Mark van Harmelen


* "Just do it" used with apologies to underage factory workers everywhere 


Overview for Keywords: community, Personal Learning Environments

Posted by Personal Learning Environments - Mark van Harmelen


  1. Lots of food for thought.

    I need to go through the readings again, and then might be able to contribute with something.

    Have you checked the last post from Graham Attwell?

    He points out relevant issues.

    Thnaks for starting the community's discussion. THe first post are always the hardest ones, I guess!  


    Cristina CostaCristina Costa on Tuesday, 08 May 2007, 10:13 BST # |

  2. Mark,  I wonder how 'personal' relates to the kinds of structured activities that take place as part of 'courses'.  Is it possible, for example, to 'provide' a PLE for students or is it necessarily something they have to construct for themselves?

    John HeapJohn Heap on Monday, 28 May 2007, 15:16 BST # |

  3. I think Mark will be able to give you a more thorough answer, but the way I see it, PLEs are created by the individual according to his/her taste. I don’t think institutions can provide it, but educators can certainly influence students to develop it, by showing what is available for them to use.  

    I don’t conceive PLE’s as a prescribed thing, which will be replicated by a group of students. I consider it to be a personal “space”, or a set of personal spaces that reflect the student’ learning process.

    But this is just me thinking aloud.

    I really would like to “hear” your views on this, because this is an issue that interests me. I think PLEs not only reflect the individual’s learning activity, but can also be seen as a way to enhance communication with other individuals who share similar interests or are going through the same process at the time.

    Cristina CostaCristina Costa on Monday, 28 May 2007, 17:33 BST # |

  4. I consider the term 'PLE' to refer to the whole environment: personal learning tools (applications and services), plus learning networks and the wider information environment. In relation to structured activities, a PLE perspective makes us think about what aspects of the activity require particular tool capabilities at the user end, and what services need to be available in the environment. 

    For example, if the activity is of the "read, reflect, write" variety, this can be accomplished without requiring all the participants to be using the same tools - the teacher can provide the URL for the RSS feed of the readings,  and watch for the writing to emerge on their students own blogs that they've subscribed to previously.

    In other cases there really is a need to use a provided technology for an activity - for example, a simulation, game or other immersive media with an inherently centralized design.

    In a "PLE-aware" setting, you would, IMHO, attempt wherever possible to NOT require prescribed/provided applications but to enable choice. This is especially important for supporting accessibility and inclusion, for example for learners who prefer using mobile phones to computers. 

    After applying a bit of lateral thinking, the proportion of structured activities that require a special tool provided by the teacher may be quite limited. 

    Scott WilsonScott Wilson on Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 10:51 BST # |

  5. Mark, I think you are right that the word ‘personal’ can be tricky. You can read PLE as

    Personal Learning’ Environment
    which feels to me like ‘personal hygiene’, something to be done in privacy.
    So it might be tools for organising your personal notes, essays, references…


    Personal ‘Learning Environment
    which is like the usage in ‘Personal computer’, i.e. a tool that is used by you, and which you can personalise. This makes more sense to me, and suggests a tool (as Scott indicates) which provides you with a way of participating in the wider world of learning environments and networks (including institutions that provide courses). But the other associations of the word still hang in the air.

    Dai GriffithsDai Griffiths on Tuesday, 05 June 2007, 17:24 BST # |

  6. Personalised learning appears elusive in conceptualisation; the more I read the more applications of it, I am already experiencing daily. There is a plethora of technological solutions claiming to offer a "Personalised Learning Platforms", but convienently  promote centralised ceiling  and structured solutions. I think we need to be exploring decentralised delivery the marriage of some form of middleware that is user-centric and promotes applications that allows users to hold their content locally and distribute it on any platform of choice and at any point in time

    KemiKemi on Friday, 08 June 2007, 21:06 BST # |

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