How to Use PLEs as an Educator


“PLEs offer a portal to the world through which learners can explore and create, according to their own interests and directions, interacting as they choose, with their friends and learning community” (Atwell, 2009)

PLEs can be a powerful tool in the classroom, but it can be difficult to know how exactly to use them. But fear not! Research shows that there are three pedagogical levels to successfully supporting PLEs in education.

Level 1: Personal Information Management
Instructors encourage their students to use a social media platform (such as a blog or wiki) to organize course content and personal learning. This will help students set their own learning goals and engage in self-regulated learning. Instructors should make sure their students are collecting and self-generating content.

Level 2: Social Interaction and Collaboration
Instructors encourage their students to engage in basic sharing and collaborative activities with their peers. This is usually done via the commenting features on the various sites. Like this, students use their PLEs to foster informal learning communities surrounding course topics, making the PLE a social learning space.

Level 3: Information Aggregation and Management
Instructors encourage students to use their PLEs to synthesize and aggregate information from the first two levels in order to reflect on their overall learning experience. This allows students to take greater control of their PLE and customize it around their learning goals. It also encourages students to self-reflect on their learning and make adjustments to their PLE as needed.

Below is a table that gives practical examples of how each level looks using different forms of PLEs.


Finally, here’s a list of potential sites/platforms you can encourage your students to use:
Google Docs

[Table and facts from Dabbagh, N. & Kitsansis, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education, 15, 3-8.]

[Other resources: Attwell, G. (2009). The social impact of personal learning environments.  In S. Wheeler (ed.). Connected minds, emerging cultures: Cybercultures in online learning. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Pp. 119-138.]


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