Interesting panel discussion over at Edition 13 of Austrailia’s The Knowledge Tree. It’s described as "Ewan MacIntosh, James Farmer, Brad Beach, Clint Smith, Peter Higgs, Frankie Forsyth and editor Jo Murray bring together a range of perspectives on the use of personal learning environments (PLEs) and learning management systems (LMS) to facilitate learning." Although I’m not entirely convinced that the panelists have a shared understanding of what PLE might actually be.
To my mind, Web2 tools and applications are currently being used to supplement the limitations of Learning Management Systems (LMS, or Virtual Learning Environments as we in the UK are used to calling them), rather than compliment them.
I’m sticking in my diagram here, because I think it’s crucial to work forward from an idea of what personalisation might be:
LMS’s, as they currently stand, can deliver two elements of personalisation – they deal well with delivering. monitoring and recording institutional provision and proceedure, although you’d have to argue out on the ground how well they cope with customisation. Web2 apps offer a quick solution to the far more difficult issue of how institutions might engage with and support student-led participation. Just asking teachers to use both doesn’t give you anything like a PLE – it gives you a centralized, official and institutionally controlled and determined environment running alongside web-based, mainly commercial sites which support social media. Brad Breach characterizes a PLE in this way – as something distinct from and separate to a CMS.
Ewan MacIntosh confuses me a bit – he says in his opening that Scotland doesn’t use LMS and therefore is bypassing “centrally controlled hierarchical ways of dispensing information to students outside the classroom”. Later on in the interview he mention’s Glow – a Scotland wide commercial intranet (it’s an RM product) “this means that every school from primary, early years right up through secondary, will have the same virtual learning environment as every other school in the country and they will have the same collaborative tools.” To me – this seems like the very weird way of facilitating personalisation, let alone bypassing centralisation, unless the Glow VLE has secret abilities to intergrate with other systems I’m currently unaware of.
His definition of a PLE is also slightly odd – locating its ownership and responsibility entirely with the learner, rather than within a network of formal and informal relationships. I’m not sure what role he then sees for education in supporting PLE’s, or how learners would make use of PLE’s in terms of evaluation, assessment and accreditation.
James raises some really excellent points, and he also importantly draws attention to the role of identity and ownership in young peoples online presence, which is otherwise missing from a largely teacher-centered debate.
I was slightly alarmed that Peter Higgs doesn’t think that vocational education students would need a PLE, although it’s kind of interesting that he perceives a PLE to be fundamentally about reading and writing, rather than including learner selected elements which might include audio and visual.