What is a Personal Learning Environment?

“Learning is about creating your own standards and adjusting them based on your goals. Learning is about setting your own goals and monitoring your own progress. It is about having conversations with yourself and others.” (Konrad Glogowski)

When you start to pursue your own interests, both from an academic and a production standpoint, you need a way to manage your studies. But our current education system really isn’t geared toward this, and as a result doesn’t breed more autodidacts. Various educators have been trying to think through this for a while, and the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) seems to be where they end up most often.

So, what is a PLE? A PLE is a space (usually digital, but go analog if it’s more your style) where you can record notes, keep track of readings and practical experiences, and make notes of future readings and meetings you’d like to pursue on the topic. It is a place where you can review and reflect on what you’ve learned, where you can really get into the heart of the topic and develop those strong personal meanings that are critical to learning. It’s also a place where you can share your new knowledge and any resulting products with others who are interested in the topic. And it does these things simultaneously.

A good PLE keeps your past projects and learning, along with your reflection on what you did, why you did it, and what you learned from it. It gives you a tangible way to show others what you’ve done by keeping your work organized and easily displayed or shared.  It helps you develop because it enables you to focus on your interests and projects.  And because it’s yours, it’s set up in a way that works with your brain. Throughout the series, I’ll try to remember to share bits about my own PLE and how each section came about. (If I forget, feel free to remind me.)

What’s really nice about a PLE is that it can be as introverted or as extroverted as its user is. It makes sense – there are two levels to learning, a personal space (the PLE, where this series will start) and a community space (the Personal Learning Network, or PLN, where this series will wrap up).


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