Calling all Sages on the Side: #change11

Several weeks ago, I drafted the following post. This week as I become immersed in the ideas of Clark Quinn, I wonder if any Change11 participants would care to take on the role of Sage on the Side. Suppose I am a learner in a course you are giving or a colleague and that I have come to you in a state of frustration, somewhat akin to “rocky road of life” described by Clark. What advice would you give me, the learner? What response might you have with respect to my way of learning? What would you suggest as next steps? What could I have done differently? Other reflections or comments?

Draft of post:

Week 10 of Change 2011 was dedicated to Erik Duval’s Learning in a time of abundance. The week surfaced several troubling thoughts for me and I want to focus on one aspect of these troubling thoughts, namely a personal example of learning in the “abundance world”.

Last summer I was a novice with respect to all things tech. Nevertheless, I adopted the mantle of “self-directed” and set about designing a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). On how to go about doing so, I encountered resource upon resource and then, still more. All shared an enthusiastic do-this frame and described a variety of tools that could make up a PLE. At some point, and in a somewhat befuddled state, experimenting with this and that, I came across a webcast titled “Structuration of personal learning environments: Theoretical foundations and research challenges” with Dr. Marco Kalz, Open University of the Netherlands.

In the webcast, Dr. Kalz traces the development of PLEs from criticisms of Learning Management Systems and gives examples of early PLEs. His discussion is framed around the concept of empowerment of learners as they design learning environments.

He highlights several problems in doing empirical research on PLEs and then explains how Structuration Theory can be used as a framework for such research. Within this framework Dr. Kalz raises several questions that need to be examined in the context of PLEs in order to improve our understanding of the role PLEs play in learning.

I understand that the focus of this research is on PLEs within an institutional context, yet some of the questions Dr. Kalz intends to explore are springboards as I reflect on my experience of creating a PLE. For example, (and adapted for reflection): What assumptions and expectations did I have at the outset? Did norms (e.g., expert authority) from previous learning experiences get re-assured or changed? Why did I choose certain technologies and not others? How did the process of integration evolve? How might prior knowledge of learning technologies have influenced my process? How do I make sense of this process?

As I continue to think about the boondoggle of experience I encountered setting up a PLE, several take-aways emerge for me: PLEs are complex, empirical research into role that PLEs play in learning is in its infancy, and the product may well fall short of the promise. For me, this experience, despite being frustrating, is noteworthy as it prepares me for working with learners around PLEs in the “abundance world”. As an educator I have a responsibility of taking care in what I expect of learners and how I work with them.

Not every action has to be empirically based yet it seems that some way of learning in a less frustrating and time consuming way is necessary. Perhaps I’m asking for what Selwyn describes as “ a need for everyone working in the field to make clearer distinctions between the rhetoric and the reality of digital technology use in education…need to look beyond questions of how digital technology could be used—and perhaps should be used—and instead ask questions about how it is actually used in practice…a willingness to also consider what can be termed ‘state-of the actual’ questions…” (p. 54).

End of draft post….

6 Responses to “Calling all Sages on the Side: #change11”
  1. brainysmurf says:

    Hi, Glenis Joyne, thanks for this. What struck me from your post and Jaap’s comment is the sense that you might be thinking of a PLE as new or as separate from something you were already doing?

    I first tripped across the PLE term about 18 months ago (and lurked on my first mooc PLENK2010 on PLEs, networks and knowledge). After that, I drafted a little list for myself of all the people I considered ‘go to’ people. In my list, I recognized patterns based on my contacts’ chosen industries, their geography and my major life experiences (such as travel or people with whom I went to post-secondary education). I realized I had a PLE all along, I just hadn’t had a name for it. Next, to build on Carole’s point above, it was time to think about how collaborative technologies and social media could enhance, strengthen and/or expand my network.

    I don’t believe a PLE is dependent on technology. Rather, technology is one tool that can help.

  2. Hi Glenis,
    You’ve obviously done some deep thinking about the importance of your PLE and its refreshing to see your questions. I was at this crossroad some years back and it occurred to me then that I was looking at the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) from a technological point of view instead of a pedagogical view. With time and attention to the advice from my mentors I was able to see round the bend and realise that the PLE preferences for me fluctuate over time and that my way of sharing my Personal Web Presence (PWP) took on its own shape as my learning advanced. I’m convinced that we ought to redesign and redefine our PLE frequently (flexible mindmapping for instance) and that we continue to shape our PWP (digital identity). I am also now totally convinced that we need a way of sharing our reflections, learnings and evidence of achievement through a learner centred (eportfolio) model that enables us to define a Professional Web Presence within a Personal Learning Environment.
    Once we feel empowered to ‘take charge of our own learning’ we are better equipped to support our learners to do the same!
    These are my thoughts as I read your draft above – hope they help!

  3. Jaap says:

    Hi Glenis Joyce, good questions. I like drafts in a blog, help me think deeper and longer.
    My questions for a frustrated student:
    Your PLE as iit is now, does it work for you? Do you learn from using is as it is now?
    What is the positive in your PLE?
    What did you learn from your PLE?
    When you learn to see the advantages of your PLE we could look at dr Katz, but why should we?
    I would like to ask questions that help making you confident.


    • Glenis Joyce says:

      Hi Jaap, Your change11 posts are always insightful—-so thank you for responding to my “frustrated” post. I want to respond to your questions (I like how they lead my thinking) but need a bit more time. I promise to be concise in my response and not go on and on as I usually do! Best wishes, glenis

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