Response to: ‘Anatomy of a PLE’

The following is a response to a blog post by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth). I tried to post it as a comment but it was too large so here it is instead.

Hi Steve,

I like your diagrams. For what it’s worth I firmly believe that the PLE is a combination of tools that are wholly owned by the student and should be located outside of the institution for several reasons:

  1. Universities cannot provide the best solutions for a PLE. They can’t can’t give me a Netvibes or a Delicious, they can’t give me Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. If I am very lucky they will give me a WordPress blog but more than likely it will be crippled by firewalls, corporate branding requirements and the privacy legislation that hobbles what many institutions can and can’t do. They can’t give me Google Docs and Google Wave. OK maybe they can if they sign up to Google Apps but what is the point in that when the student can do it for themselves anyway.
  2. Students will study at and with many institutions during their lifetime and much of their learning will occur in situations not associated with an education organsiation. I want to be able to carry my personal learning environment with me wherever and whenever I go.
  3. I have seen at first hand institutions use products than market themselves as PLEs and then seen efforts at tight integration with university systems that subvert the products intended design. I’ve also seen academic staff attempt to use them as a modified LMS. I heard one staff member say they liked the ‘PLE’ because it had a nicer rich text editor than the LMS. Another one was running summative assessment quizzes through the ‘PLE’. When asked why they didn’t use an LMS they said they didn’t know anything about the LMS.

Now, having said all that, my original position was that universities should not be in the business of providing PLE tools. I have actually modified my position slightly following reflection from #PLE_BCN. I am actually happy for universities to attempt to provide some PLE tools as a way of introducing novice students to the concept but it must be a matter of choice for the student and not enforced by the university.

I was interested in your point about the content becoming the property of the internet company and being difficult to delete. That may be true in some cases. Notably it will be difficult to delete content from Twitter and Facebook. In fact anything placed on the open internet will be almost impossible to delete because it will live on in caches for as long as there is an internet. So all those pictures of the delightful Barcelona bars will live for a very long time indeed. Having said that I would argue that if I were to use Google Docs (for example) as a container for my artefacts that I may have created to help evidence my learning then I have quite a lot of control over who sees them and I can delete them whenever I wish. I’m not sure about rules on ownership. I’ll need to check that. As for datamining; I suspect most people don’t mind if they are getting a free service.

I need to know more about the CLE before I comment although I do note that you see it as a bridge between the LMS and the CMS. I probably find this difficult because I am concerned at the way most universities use their LMS. I mean after 10 years the uptake of LMS usage is still fairly low and the majority of that low usage is based around uploading Powerpoint notes. It seems we need to thoroughly review what we expect from our LMS before we can build a bridge to a CLE. It doesn’t help that I hate walled gardens and firmly believe in open content.

My final thoughts are, that a lot of this is not edtech but has to do with how universities adapt to changing knowledge distribution over the next few years. As a fairly radical edupunk (quite difficult for someone in my position) I am hoping for fundamental change but I’ll probably be disappointed. We’ll see. Anyway that’s my two cents.



4 Comments On “Response to: ‘Anatomy of a PLE’”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Response to: ‘Anatomy of a PLE’ | Mark Smithers --

  2. Hi Steve,
    I agree with you and when I saw your presentation in Barcelona I was wondering in my own about Twitter. Where can I place it?
    I think I’ve got the answer but I’m going to do it in your other post…
    I truly believe that PLE is personal and that universities or schools can’t provide my best solution, but…they can help me. Yes they can…
    As you say “Universities cannot provide the best solutions for a PLE. They can’t can’t give me a Netvibes or a Delicious, they can’t give me Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.” You must check @sapocampus, a portuguese platform (a PLE? I don´t think so…) built on Netvibes API where you can agregate your own Twitter, Facebook or Delicious content and managing your own blog/photo or video sharing service.
    They can’t provide me everything? No they can, but they can help me… 😉


  3. I’m usually not the kind of person to write comments on people’s blog posts, but for this article I just had to do it. I’ve been browsing in your blog a lot nowadays and I am super impressed, I think you could really emerge as the main voices for your market. Not sure what your workload is like in life, but if you started devoting more effort to writing here, I’d guess you would begin getting a mass of traffic eventually. With ads, it might emerge as a nice reserve income stream. Just a concept to think about. Good luck!


  4. Pingback: Personal Learning Environments « bridgitaorourke

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