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Monday, June 04, 2007

Personal Work and Learning Environments (PWLE) - More Discussion

I've run across a few different posts talking about Personal Work and Learning Environments which I have tentatively started to call PWLE - pronounced p-whale.

Tom Haskins in PLEs are power tools and Cammy Bean in Be the Node tell us:
So all the talk about tools and maps has struck me as odd. How do we quantify or control something that is so unique to each of us? For me, I add -- why bother? Just do it.
The reason why I think it's worth us talking about tools and maps and basically what is your PWLE (p-whale) is that it's helpful for us to figure out how to support our own personal work and learning. This is much like all the discussion around personal productivity tools, but in this case it is more focused on research oriented work that requires learning as a component of the activity.

Michelle Martin has a wonderful post - The Psychology and Skills of Personal Learning Environments and it's definitely worth looking at some of her earlier posts on the topic that you can find through the link. Michelle also expresses concern around the focus on tools:

What I've noticed in the conversation about PLEs is that there's a lot going on around trying to get a handle on the tools for personal learning and how we use them. There's a great deal of discussion about whether or not a PLE should be a single tool or a collection of tools loosely joined.
And points us back to Stephen Downes and the skills that we need to learn to be successful in this new world. That's a great point by Michelle and a fantastic list by Stephen:

Here he talks about the skills that we should be learning for success in this new world in which we live:
  • Predicting consequences
  • Reading for deep understanding
  • Distinguishing truth from fiction
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Communicating clearly
  • Learning how to learn
  • Healthy Living (which isn't fear and anxiety-based)
  • Valuing Yourself
  • Living meaningfully--as in having a purpose in life.
But I think we need to add to this discussion more around the specific kinds of actions that we take as individuals on different types of tasks and how this relates to our PWLE (p-Whale).

We can use a models from the PKM world like the PKM skills from Steve Barth:
  • retrieving information
  • evaluating/assessing information
  • organizing information
  • analyzing information
  • presenting information
  • securing information
  • collaborating around information
Or something more along the lines of Jeremy Hiebert's:
  • Collecting
  • Reflecting
  • Connecting
  • Publishing
I believe there's quite a bit of commonality among the kinds of tasks we deal with (at an abstract level) and we need to help each other figure out how we can effectively and efficiently work through these tasks as individuals, as work teams, as part of a larger ecosystem. This is talked about a bit in Personal and Group Learning Using Web 2.0 Tools - which is something I often refer to during presentations.

Bottom line for me - the discussion of process, tools, skills is very helpful and the more specific people can be, the better. I also am finding myself ever more convinced that we are discussing basically the same thing being discussed in PKM circles and even some overlap with productivity. I'm not quite happy yet with PWLE (p-Whale) as a unifying term - but I prefer it to either PLE or PKM because both of those seem to be taken; somewhat limited in their scope and also seem to imply separation from day-to-day work. One key here is Knowledge Work is Not Separate from Learning.


Anonymous said...

Tony, I like what you're saying here about tying the tools back to PKM actions and how we use the tools for each task.

Personally, I prefer Jeremy's version, in part because I think it's easier to grab hold of conceptually. As I wade through all of this, I keep thinking about how I can help other people get excited about personal learning, so I'm looking for those "sticky" ideas that I think will help people grasp what we're saying here.

I also like how you're integrating learning with work in PWLE, although I can't say that I'm entirely sold on the actual term. For me it's hard to separate work and learning, so in the end, even when I talk about my PLE, I really mean my PWLE.

Thanks for moving the conversation along.

Reflected Knowledge said...

Thanks for the plug! More on personal knowledge management at

Anonymous said...

Steve's URL is:
The comment missed an 'l'

Manish said...

This is certainly an interesting post. Actually we all have always had our personal learning environments. Now, with the availability of new tools and technologies, we are talking about platforms which help us manage our learning environments...

It would be great to see a few case studies providing some real insight into this concept.


test said...

I haven't followed through all the literature in this field, so I may be asking a naive questions.

Theoretically, it is easy to separate corporate work and learning. In practical terms, I am afraid it is more complex. The usual command and control themes in organizations and work tend to drive personal priorities for learning - at least for the many. What I am searching for are models where we can coalesce or integrate the need for work structure and the need for personal driven learning. They are so intertwined that the more we establish a model that meets the balance, providing value for organizations and individuals, the likely self-learning is propagated. But again, I might be dreaming!

Is there really a conflict between self-learning (PWLE) and work demands for learning?
Are the conflicts philosophically deep? Can not find the right mix? Or is this the usual debate between purists and pragmatists?

Tony Karrer said...

Ray those are fantastic questions.

Is there really a conflict between self-learning (PWLE) and work demands for learning?

I think the conflict is less that people will go off and learn the wrong things, but more of ownership of the result. We are used to thinking of learning as top-down and clearly owned (LMS-course). If it is now scattered into far flung PWLEs, clearly the corporation can't control/own the results. Worse, they may lose some of the work-product when a person leaves. That's going to cause conflict.

Are the conflicts philosophically deep?

It is going to depend on the corporate culture. Some corporations won't have an issue, others are going to have a really hard time with some aspects of this and will want to make sure they control things.

Can not find the right mix? Or is this the usual debate between purists and pragmatists?

I don't think this is the usual debate. Should we allow employees to have their own blog for personal learning? Or will the corporation want them only to use a blog that is owned by the corporation?

Anonymous said...

In my experience the 'conflicts' in a combined work/personal learning environment are really questions about

a.) whether the corporate bears the cost or time involved in learning that is not work related.

b.) who 'owns' the information.

(Ownership always seems to be the stated issue when probably the more important issue is about access to the data in the PLE when the individual leaves the org)

This assumes the org has a way to identify activity that is relevant to the individuals role


Tony Karrer said...

Really good points here. Out of this, I've collected a few more thoughts in a post:

Discussion Continues