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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Personal Learning Knowledge Work Environment

I've been reading a lot over the past few months around Personal Learning Environments and a lot of related material. What sparks this post is the combination of a recent post by Stephen Downes that includes a brief exchange with Jay Cross in the comments and some interesting discussions in the Enterprise 2.0 world that included a post by Bill Ives - Managing Personal Knowledge: Setting a Foundation for Transformation? In it, he points out that a stepping stone to Enterprise 2.0 adoption is getting folks to manage their personal knowledge and adopt practices like blogging for personal knowledge management (PKM) and personal learning.

What this has come to make me realize is that for the vast majority of knowledge workers (including myself), there should be no separation between my Personal Learning Environment (PLE), my Personal Knowledge Management system, and my day-to-day set of tools that enhance my knowledge worker productivity. Learning-Knowledge-Work - they really are the same and I need to do them all at once. (See also Knowledge Work Not Separate from Learning). As I compose this blog post, which am I doing? All.

Maybe there are some distinctions between personal knowledge management, personal learning and knowledge productivity. I can't claim that I really understand these distinctions, but I can say with certainty that systems or environments that provide support for these need to operate together. If you make these independent and distinct, it will be really annoying for us knowledge workers.

So, any suggestion on what the name for this system (or environment) should be? Certainly PLE and PKM would seem to be too limited, right?

And, if there's really only one environment, then what's in it?

For now, my sense is that we are all experimenting with different solutions pulled together from different tools. Take a look at a few of the following for examples:
These would seem to be summed up pretty well by Graham Attwell in Questions and Answers on Peronal Learning Environments:
Yes, I do have my own PLE, comprised of a ‘mash up’ of different desktop and web based applications I use for my everyday work and increasingly reliant on local and web based services. It isn’t particularly efficient and it has some pretty big gaps at the moment – but I hope to develop it further over the next year. Central to my PLE is the people I work with and the applications I use for communication with those people.
There's been quite a bit of other discussion around what these things might be:
And if those aren't enough you can go to PLE Links and the PLE Wiki.

One thing that I'm left wondering is how this is different from all the discussion around productivity.

For me it's become more a question of the day-to-day processes I use on top of these tools and how the tools have adjusted how I do things. My life is different now than before I used an RSS reader and wrote a blog. It's also different since I adopted the practice of taking notes only on my laptop and heavy use of desktop search instead of trying organize things as much.

I'm not sure how to make sense of all of this yet, but I know things have changed and I'm not sure that discussing Personal Learning Environments separate from the rest of these changes is helping me.


jay said...

Yesterday I wrote in a yet-to-be finished white paper,

"Learning with web 2.0 involves situated action, collaboration, coaching, and reflection -- not classes. Before web 2.0, instructors and instructional designers shaped the learning environment. The new learning is apt to be self-service, with workers serving as their own instructional designers and instructors.

An individual’s network for learning and working (which are the same thing) is an ever-changing collection of tools, links, and relationships: small pieces, loosely joined. New pieces are always being added on, as old ones are falling away. There is no center; where you enter depends upon what you are trying to accomplish."

My work environment includes online portals, bookshelves, a telephone or two, and more. From what I read in the blogosphere, most people who use "PLE" are thinking primarily about the computer-mediated aspects. The term I'm starting to use for this is "interface." It can be my interface, my personal interface, my electronic interface but if it relies on the net on one end and me on the other, my interface is my end of the connection.

Schools contend that the world comes in two flavors: in school and real life outside. It's time to stamp out this fiction. I fear that some of the PLE supporters want it understood that the "L" realm is their turf. Sorry, guys, no one has the monopoly on learning.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with the term "Personal Learning Environment" is that many of its proponents don't readily acknowledge that the notion of a PLE is a construct.

As both you and Jay point out, the personal learning environment is about learning. Technology is a tool/mechanism in that process. For some people, these tools/mechanisms include a usb key, a tivo -- Jay includes the bookshelf and the telephone -- I'd include the smart person you talk with at the coffeeshop or the pub --

In looking at the elements of learning Jay cites -- "situated action, collaboration, coaching, and reflection" -- these elements of learning are all present outside technology.

Basically, our "PLE" is what we see after we open our eyes in the morning, and we continue to see our "PLE" as we progress thoughout our day. The technological aspects of learning blur the lines because they allow for simultaneous reflection, meta-reflection, conversation, collaboration, and finding others with similar interests -- the technological piece is interesting because it limits the effect of geography and time --

However, how many times has someone approached you to talk about a book you were reading in a public place? Online profiles mimic this type of interaction, but, for all the obvious reasons, we will never be able to craft an algorithm that replaces the richness of face to face interaction -- for this reason alone, the notion of a PLE bound by what technology can offer will fall far short of what true personal learning should be.



Prof. Dr. Mohamed Amine Chatti said...

I totally agree with you Tony that there is little/no distinction between personal learning and personal knowledge management. In this post, I argued that actually learning and knowledge management can be viewed as 2 sides of the same coin.

Anonymous said...

As a High School Teacher currently doing Grad Studies the topic of PLE's intrigues me. One area I have to deal with is student motivation in that they don't always know which direction their learning should go in. Considering this has lead me to investigate the combination of a personal expert system that builds advice on potential areas of development they should enquire into based on their level of curiousity. A knowledge engine that provides suggestions on how to build on their personal learning environment. Web based expert system shells combined with Web 2.0, PLE environments could provide motivation to drive individuals to their potential. Somehow I have to develop a workable, acheivable project based on these ideas. Any thoughts?