Nicola considers what a PLE is in a recent post. There are a few replies I might give, but first I'll note that I'll avoid disappearing into a philosophical quagmire on the three levels of description that the concept provides. Perhaps more on that in another post for those consumed by fervor along the lines of "its a concept" vs. "its a system" (and mea culpa here, sometimes ).
The PLE movement sprung up from a wave of disenchantment with VLEs and the centralised control model of education that they represent. Instead, an informing philosophy was learner empowerment, taking responsibility for one's own education. In parallel with this learning was seen as a social act, that significant learning (or, even, all learning) occurs in a social context -- even the act of learning something from a book on ones own is social, because language and shared understanding underpins and enables such 'solitary' learning experiences.
A useful definition is that "Personal Learning Environments are 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.
Thus more and more I have become to believe that a PLE is a social network based system; it embodies a specific educational philosophy, but importantly it enables people to decide on educational goals and help each other with their own education.
So two things make a PLE quite different from a VLE (i) learner control and (ii) social networking and peer-assisted learning.
Notes: It is true that Blackboard and other VLE suppliers are starting to fold Web 2.0 tools into their products, but I don't believe that the PLE-VLE distinction has disappeared yet. A PLE could quite adequately serve in a teacher-assisted learning scenario, and there is movement from the traditional teaching/lecture model towards teacher-assisted learning, see this report on Web 2.0 in Teaching and Learning. Finally a PLE could just be composed from various Web 2.0 systems out there on the web. Some consider that their blog is a PLE.
OK, what to recommend to look at on PLEs? Cruising around slideshare today, while writing a talk for the upcoming MIMAS Conference, I came across a new presentation by Graham Attwell. How about that for a start... and I ramble on with Graham on PLEs in a podcast on here. For an alternate view try this podcast with Niall Sclacter.
And a thought, is this Elgg a PLE? Is it in any way optimal as a PLE, however we might define optimal?
So what's my PLE? For now (but see here), definitely the web, accessed via Firefox, and with, particularly, a reasonably well organised toolbar that allows me to access web sites easily, and delicious buttons that allow me to bookmark easily.