Nine Things You Need to Know about Personal Learning Environments

So you’re interested in personal learning environments (PLEs) and want to learn more about this emerging form of online learning. Here are the nine most important things for you to know.

1) No two PLEs are the same.
PLEs are as varied as the people who use them. Since they can be formed using basically any online platforms, the different combinations are almost limitless. Also, since all of us seek different information and are interested in different things, our PLEs will automatically take on a distinctive look. They’ll basically be a reflection of our learning personalities.

2) They’re learner directed.
No one can direct your PLE for you because that would just make it an LN… as in, it would no longer be personal. PLEs are constructed by you and for you. There’s no one dictating what should go into your PLE; it’s entirely made up of things important to you.

3) They’re a combination of informal and formal learning.
PLEs provide the perfect platform for arranging information you learn both in school and out. It’s not a one-size-fits-all learning management system that caters specifically to an academic course or institution. It’s a conglomeration of things that we, as individuals, think are important. As students and teachers, it’s impossible to say that just formal or just informal learning is important, so our PLEs will end up being a combination of the two.

4) They satisfy all the different contexts in which learning takes place.
Let’s face it: we don’t just learn in school. In fact, it’s estimated that we only learn about 15% of what we know in academic institutions. The other 85% we learn at home, in play, with friends and family, experiencing different things… etc. The cool thing about PLEs is that since you create your own personal learning environment, they can accommodate for all the different contexts in which you learn.

5) Social media usually plays a huge role.
Think about how many articles and informative videos are shared every day on Facebook and Twitter. There is so much information floating around on these sites! Not to mention the helpful tips and personal advice we receive on these platforms. When you scroll through your feed, you probably don’t even realize how much you learn from it because it’s become almost second nature. But trust me, it’s a lot. And the interactions you have with your friends on social media can play a huge role in your PLE.

6) You don’t need to be a computer whiz to create your own.
Don’t know python? No worries! You don’t need to be a computer programmer to create your own PLE because you can use almost any already-available platform to get the job done. For instance, you can use a WordPress site, a Google doc, a social media stream or a combination of all three. If you know how to navigate the internet, you have all the skills you need to create a PLE.

7) They allow you to set your own learning goals.
In a PLE, there is no one goal everyone has to work toward. There is no test you’re preparing for, no entrance exam, no job interview. Since you create your PLE, you create the goals you work toward, as well. And those goals will probably change depending on your current life situation. PLEs are flexible in this regard, and they help you organize your learning whichever way you want.

8) They’re inherently social.
Even though it’s a personal learning network, it’s also personal learning network, which means that a lot of your information is going to come from the network of people you know and websites you visit. A PLE usually means both learning from and sharing information with others. And a lot of this can be achieved as simply as through commenting on sites, blogs, and social media platforms.

9) They encourage lifelong learning.
I’m just going to say it: learning shouldn’t end when a class does. But traditional learning management systems, like Blackboard and Moodle, make it seem that way. As learners, we need a place where learning can grow naturally without a cut-off date, and PLEs provide a space for that. We add to it when we learn something new, and without an expiration date, it’s easy to see that learning can happen during literally any moment in life.

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