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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Work Learning - Same Thing

Mohamed Amine Chatti (a fellow Eddie eLearning nominee) last two posts The LaaN Perspective, and Requirements of a PLE Framework are both interesting posts and worth reading.

His requirements for a PLE Framework include:

  • Personalization
  • Social features
  • Social filtering
  • Incorporate various Web 2.0 concepts and technologies (mashups, widgets, aggregation, OpenID, RSS, etc.)
  • Flexibility and extensibility
  • Web browser platform
  • Aggregation/Mashups
  • Ease of use
Several thoughts jumped out at me:
  • The concept of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) exists, but actual PLEs only exist as theoretical combinations of skills, methods and tools. The concept of a Personal Learning Environment Framework gets it even farther from some actual system. There will be Social Network Operating Systems that will allow us to pull together our highly personal environment. But, too much structure is not going to work.
Knowledge work is not separate from learning.
Yes, there are times that Knowledge Workers will step away from day-to-day activities to go do developmental learning activities that may not be directly related to their day-to-day knowledge work. But that's the exception. In almost all cases work and learning is inseparable.

To me, it does not make sense to look at using one environment (an LMS or PLE) as part of learning and another environment as part of knowledge work.

That's the reason I call these:
Personal Work and Learning Environment (PWLE - pronounce p-whale)
And there's only one for me. It's the set of methods, skills, tools that I use to perform my day-to-day knowledge work activities where I acquire information, knowledge, etc.

Luckily all of the requirements that Mohamed cites apply equally well to a PWLE.

I'm curious if anyone actually sees this different? Do we gain something by separating them?

If we are going to make progress with Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis, I think we have to think about these things in an integrated fashion.


Anonymous said...

Would you consider a pageflake a form of a PLE?

jay said...

We've been through this before, haven't we?

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.

That's from a comment made here last May.

What appears to be new is recognition that a PLE is not a thing, like a spreadsheet, that you hand a person and show them how to use it.

We need to insure that learners are equipped with knowledge at a sufficiently high level of generality to construct and tinker with their own PLEs, now and forever.

Some academics argue that the PLE be reserved for school use, as if a dose of post-graduate, corporate reality would taint the schooling.

As a number of us have pointed out, learning and knowledge work are the same deal. It would be cool if some aspects of schooling were also part of the package, and students learned to create PLEs for life, not for grades.


Prof. Dr. Mohamed Amine Chatti said...


thanks for the links. By the way I'm a fan of your excellent blog and I always enjoy following your great ideas.
I totally agree with you that
"Knowledge work is not separate from learning" and that we should have only ONE environment for learning and knowledge work (i.e. what you call PWLE). Actually I have tried to argue in this work that learning and KM are two sides of the same coin and thus solutions that can be applied to the one domain can also be applied to the other. Your valuable comments are welcome!


Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - Pageflakes might be part of a persons PLE.

Jay - you and I are (still) agreed on this. You terms "collection of tools, links, and relationships" - also there are methods and skills.

It doesn't matter if you use LinkedIn if you don't know how to get value from it as a knowledge worker.

That's what you are saying "learners equipped with knowledge" ... exactly!

PLEs for life is right. It should transition from the academic life into work life. There will be differences, but much the same.

Jay - what I don't understand is why people still refer to it as if there's a thing there.

I also don't know why they are focusing only on learning.

Is there a better term for this?

I don't like PKM as a term because it focuses on "managing" which makes it seem static.

But PLE isn't right either.

I like PWLE - but I'm open to others.

Virginia - to pick on your question. First, I don't like the term PLE. Second, Pageflake a "form of a PLE" - implies there's something other than this loose connection. Probably a better question would have been:

"Can Pageflakes be used as part of a persons PWLE?"

The answer is Yes. But a more important question is:

"How can Pageflakes be used effectively as part of a persons PWLE?"

Mohamed - I would love to read your paper - alas it looks like I need to pay. It looks like we are fairly aligned from what I've read on your blog and from your comments.

However, you also called it a PLE. And referred to a PLE Framework. Are you okay with those terms?

Environment does seem to be a good term to use because it's not a tool. But somehow people expect there to be vendors offering PLEs.

Anonymous said...

OK, another question. If it is a personal learning and working environment, is it possible that most people don't know what their PLWE is? If that is the case then using a tool such as a pageflake helps to make the PLWE more explicit (moving from apprehensive or intuitive knowledge to comprehensive or explicit knowledge, as Kolb,1980, defined).

However, just to be devil's advocate (I am new to this debate) why is it important from an organizational standpoint?

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - first, thanks for coming back and following up. I was a bit worried that my comments might deter you. And I welcome our interactions.

You said - "Is it possible that most people don't know what their PWLE is?"

I'd say that most people have never really spent the time thinking about what their PWLE is. I believe Stephen Downes said this at some point.

We all have one. If you've not consciously worked on it, then you've adopted it through ad hoc means.

On the PageFlakes (I'm assuming that's what you mean when you say a "pageflake"?) - I use Bloglines as an RSS reader and use it a bit like some people would use PageFlakes. For me, Bloglines is an important aggregator of various sources of information and especially as part of my scanning activities. Thus, it's very much part of my PWLE and I'm sure for some people PageFlakes (or similar) would be valuable.

You said - "why is it important from an organizational standpoint?"

From a top down view, I think the Long Tail explains it (see my previous post). L&D can't touch enough topics through traditional means to make a significant impact on knowledge workers.

From a bottom up view, I've had numerous presentations where people have significant knowledge gaps around knowledge work and learning skills. Because they've not consciously looked at their PWLE (or worked on building related skills), this gap causes lost productivity, lost personal knowledge, and acts like a continuous personal drag on their work and learning. Or put from the positive side, by improving their skills and tools, they get a boost in work and learning, that has a compounding effect over time.

Unknown said...

Hi Tony,

I thought I ought to weigh in on this. I'm pretty sure that I'm the first one to coin the term 'PLE,' back in 2002 on my group e-learning leaders.

It was / is meant to be an architectural construct. In other words, it would function as a stateless (web-based) platform for combining relevant information within a larger context of learning.

I do not now and have never differentiated the concept of a workspace from a learning space - in fact I believe that the arbitrary splitting of the two is why most of the solutions in IT are not as successful as they could be.

Until we get it clear within both solutions communities that all IT is in a sense a continuing learning platform we will continue to get both the processes and solutions wrong.

I intend to post some views of what a prototypical PLE ought to look like on my site.


Stephen L.

Tony Karrer said...

Stephen L - thanks for the comment. I had always wondered the source of PLE.

What's interesting to me about your comment is that while you say -

A PLE functions as a "platform for combining relevant information"

We would seem to roughly be in agreement on what it is.

But you also say ... "within a larger context of learning."

Hmmm ... why the context of learning? Why not context of information consumption and creation where work and learning occur? Learning is often not thought of as the primary activity. In fact, most people won't pay me (as a consultant) to learn - even though that's what I'm half doing when I figure something out for them.

Then you say ... "I do not now and have never differentiated the concept of a workspace from a learning space."

We seem pretty agreed. Except for the focus on learning and that I'm worried if the terminology is Personal Learning Environment then it will be harder to sell.

Stephen, I'm curious what you think of the term PWLE? Do you not have a similar reservation about PLE?

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Amine Chatti said...


You don't need to pay to read the paper. It's available for download there.
As far as "PWLE" is concerned, I think the use of work and learning in the same term gives the impression of a separation between learning and knowledge work. I believe however that learning and knowledge work are two sides of the same coin and thus can be used interchangeably rather than simultaneously in a same term (more about this in the paper). I prefer therefore to use PLE or PKE (Personal Knowledge Environment). What do you think?


Tony Karrer said...

I like the term Personal Knowledge Environment better than PLE. However, it sounds passive to me - like this is where knowledge is stored - as opposed to where you do things (like work and learning) - which are more active.

tyelmene said...

for me, this is an interesting argument that's been posed by dr. karrer, not because he takes the stance that leaning is an intrinsic part of knowledge work, but rather that any practitioner community promoting the notion of personal learning environments could conceptualize the two as being separate.

(i am always amazed at how limited the the instructional practitioners are.)

after all, this is fundamental stuff for anyone who has been thinking about how knowledge actually works. 'to know,' is to possess a design of meaning based on the construction of conceptual relationships for, and among knowers to accomplish an objective. the very definition of knowledge then infers an objective; 'to do,' and to construct meaning for oneself: i.e. learn. so, take it from me as one who has been seriously investigating knowledge work as generative knowledge development for about 18 years now, work of almost any type (especially knowledge work) and learning are inextricably tied to one another.

btw, my work has concluded that ple's as they are attempted now are not the answer. i am working with a small group to solve the support of knowledge workers doing knowledge work under a project called knortal. knortal is a platform that enables general knowledge workers to excel in accessing, using, and applying information and leaning by making explicit conceptual connections from the information they process.

my viewpoint on those who would challenge dr. karrar's argument and hold to the view of ples as a means of supporting learning apart from knowledge work, should simply.. um... reconsider.