Personal Learning Environments?

I must confess to being confused about what a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is. Having just watched Graham Atwell’s new slide cast on the topic, I can agree that a PLE should be an environment that allows “accessing and searching, aggregating and scaffolding, manipulating, analysing, storing, reflecting, presenting, re-presenting and sharing.” But doesn’t that mean that, in the e-learning context, a PLE environment is just a computer (desktop, laptop, netbook or mobile) and a web browser? I wonder if the introduction of any form of technological “platform” restricts at least some of the opportunities for wide collaboration, reflection, discussion and personal learning? I observe my students informally engaging in many of the activities that a PLE is supposed to promote (including face-to-face conversations). They’re engaging in personal learning, but they don’t go into an artificial “environment” to do it. Maybe PLEs, like VLEs, are more about institution and teachers seeking control, than students’ learning.


  1. I agree Chris. I can’t see how a personal learning environment can be defined by and provided for you by someone else. It’s up to the individual to define their own, otherwise it’s not personal. I think a PLE is a concept rather than a system and individuals create their own with the tools available. Mine includes Firefox, netvibes, delicious (the Learning Lab :-)) etc but varies depending on what I’m doing and where I am. For example, I’m replying to this post within Netvibes, from where I picked up the RSS feed and I’m viewing my netvibes page with Firefox, which has plugins for zotero, zoho notebook, delicious, syncplicity, capturefox etc. I’ve also heard someone describe their PLE as “a bike, a book, a bottle of wine and the French countryside”.

  2. After posting I thought that I should have added something along the lines “personal” cannot equal “institutionally imposed”. I wouldn’t mind trying the “bike, book, bottle of wine and the French countryside” myself!

    The steer from the DfES towards “Personalized Learning” and the requirement for educational establishments from primary to higher invest in technology to support it implies that institutionalization should be the model! However, having researched a little more (I looked up PLE on Wikipedia :-)) I see that PLEs may actually be the counter-movement away from institutional tools like Elgg and PebblePad. And maybe I’ve been mixing up my terms and should be supporting PLEs rather than condemning them!

  3. I think the perceived wisdom within many institutions is that a PLE is an institutionally provided system. So I think you are I think you are right to be wary of this type of ‘Managed PLE’. However, I think Pebble Pad is different in that it’s a portfolio tool. It can be used as part of someone’s PLE but here, at least, it’s not the primary purpose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.