I previously wrote about the P word in PLE and considered this follow-up post at the time -- about the L word. We often take the concept of learning for granted or dissect it into an extremely complex issue. Neither serves our refinement of effective Personal Learning Environments.
I'm fond of the notion of PLE's because it captures the possibilities of free ranging exploration, self-directed choices and intrinsically motivated assimilation of new ideas. As I've mentioned before, my experience of blog reading, writing, commenting, quoting and subscribing seems to me like a PLE extrodinaire. What's missing in those listed features of my personal learning is all the reflection I do in between all that input and activity. When I consider how much time I spend chewing on what other bloggers have written, I realize a PLE could be a "car with no keys for the ignition". Having access to lots of information of one's personal choice does not cross the line from finding it to integrating it. The power tool is only as powerful as the learner putting it to use.
It's the learner, not the PLE that generates the questions, searches and selections from the finds. It's the learner that puts the new information into a context of personal use, meaning or further exploration. The PLE is usually given too much credit for the learning, just like the car that got us somewhere needed a driver with a place to go, not just a road and fuel in the tank.
PLE's seem like leverage for an intractable problem: the rank and file members of organizations who stick to their tried and true concepts, the same old approaches and some obsolete tools. The hope is the new tool will get them to open their minds, reconsider their asssumptions, formulate new questions and explore alternatives beyond their comfort zones.
I suspect a PLE is necessary, but not suffficient to induce free range learning. The L word takes a social context to encourage it, expect it, reward it and refine it. That context may be created by colleagues, managers, or customers. Learning can occur in social isolation, but its more likely and fruitful when contextualized by other interested parties. Once the intrinsic learning is activated, the learners will find likely find a online community of like-minded thinkers to nurture the continued explorations and ruminations