Personal Learning Environments

PLE - personal learning environment uploaded to Flickr by GretchensFrage
Personal Learning Environments allow learners create and manage their own online learning environments. They provide support for learners to publish and share content, and connect with others as part of the learning process.

One of the ways that users can estalish their personalized learning environment is via the use of social networking tools and social media sites.

This topic provides and overview of Personal Learning Environments and how you can easily create one to support your own professional learning, or to develop a learning environment with your students.

It includes the following information:
  1. What is a Personal Learning Environment?
  2. Social Networking to Create a PLE
  3. Further Information About Personal Learning Environments
  4. What's Next?

Activities for this topic

Learners who are completing the Social Networking Course should refer to the Moodle site for more information about the activities provided:

1. What is a Personal Learning Environment?

Wikipedia defines Personal Learning Environments as follows:

"Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes:
  • providing support for learners toset 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 subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services."

(Wikipedia: History of Personal Learning Environments, accessed 6 July 2010.

Connected to this theory is the idea of a Personal Learning Network - that is the people that a learner connects, collaborates and shares with within their personalized learning environment. The concept of Personal Learning Networks is also informed by the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. View the Networked Learning section of the Social Networking wiki for further information .

There are a range of additional definitions for Personal Learning Environments and the tools and publishing strategies used to create them. For example, Stephen Downes says that a '[PLE] represents one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system.' (Stephen Downes, 2005, E-learning 2.0, E-learn Magazine,

Personal Learning Environments provide tools to support lifelong learning and can be used throughout all levels of education (k-20) and beyond. They can be used as part of formal learning or as an ongoing personal (and self-directed) learning tool that is owned by the learner rather than a learning institution. PLEs also allow learners to configure and develop a learning environment to suit and enable their own style of learning.

Watch 'Schools out - Personal Learning Environments', a video produced by Graham Atwell which explores Personal Learning Environments and the impacts online technologies are having on the way we learn. Graham has also produced a fantastic slideshow on Personal Learning Environments which you can access via Slideshare .

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2. Social Networking to Create a PLE

One of the simplest ways to start creating a PLE is via social networking tools, and in particular blogs and wikis. These simple publishing platforms can be used for a range of learning activities and are generally free or very low-cost. For example, the following tools and techniques could be used as first steps to creating your PLE:

  • Create a blog and publish notes and resources relevant to students or colleagues. Invite others to comment and reflect on the ideas shared.
  • Create a wiki and publish resources and information to share with students or colleagues. Include links to other websites and resources.
  • Join Twitter and share ideas and information with members of your Twitter network. Follow #hashtags or use the Twitter Search tools to search for topics of interest and locate other Twitter users you can follow.
  • Join an Educators Network and share thoughts using forum or group discussion tools. Share ideas, lesson plans and other resources with colleagues.
  • Record learning activities or educational events via photograph or video and publish the results on a social networking site like Flickr or Youtube. Invite others to share and comment on your work.
  • Join an Education Network on Facebook and contribute to the information and resource sharing.
  • Setup an RSS Reader Tool and subscribe to blogs and other websites that are of professional interest. Make comments and share your responses in the comments section.

Watch the video included here, which was created by a 7th Grade Science student and provides an overview of her Personalized Learning Environment and the impacts it has had on her learning. Consider how you could use these strategies with your students.

The resources included in this Social Networking wiki can be used to develop a PLE using web-based tools. Explore the Social Networking Matrix for further ideas or check out the Social Media Wiki Index for a full list of How-To Guides.

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3. Further Information About Personal Learning Environments

Explore the links below for further information:

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4. What's Next?

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