Yesterday, Kevin Prentiss asked me to provide some concrete steps for launching a PLE. In one sentence, I'd say "think up some personally meaningful questions, search for some juicy RSS feeds, subscribe to them in your feed reader and set-up access to that reader for when you're wireless or on your cell". Here's a longer version of some concrete steps to launch a PLE:
Personal learning environments are very different from completing school assignments or complying with a job description. A PLE is something we make up on our own because we feel like doing it. We learn what we want to learn without formal instruction or training. PLE's are not about jumping through hoops. When we figure things out on our own, they make much more sense to us than something we were taught.
I hope it seems really strange for me to tell you how make a PLE up on your own. Why not just wing it and discover what works for you? All I can contribute is my familiarity with what you can look forward to and what's important about different steps you can take. Your PLE is entirely up to you and depends on how you feel for it to work like it should.
Start with your vague and scattered interests: Most learners I've known have very clear ideas about what is expected, graded, or required to learn. They have much more vague ideas about whatever really interest them. Those personal ideas don't get developed equally because they don't count for whatever hoops they're jumping through. So an online search is going to be difficult and possibly unproductive with these personal, yet scattered ideas. Early searches will mostly about which keywords work best, not what's available to learn that looks interesting. By refining which tags, phrases, people and books -- relate to your vague ideas, you'll get an initial sense of how to successfully load up your PLE with fascinating resources.
Check in with your feelings: While your exploring which keywords work best for your scattered thoughts, notice how you're feeling. If the interest you assumed was yours personally has you feeling energized and more curious than before -- it's the real deal. If you're finding this topic is boring or something you're making yourself explore, forget it and try a different idea. PLE's are self propelled. Unlike homework and jobs, PLE's only happen when they energize and fulfill you. The thing you're learning has to be your baby, not somebody else's that you're babysitting.
Search for RSS feeds to subscribe to: PLE's are different from hanging out in a library or searching archived web pages. The sources for personal learning are alive and growing. The people to learn from are expressing themselves and changing their minds every day. They may link to and quote inert text, but they wrap it in paragraphs about what it means to them, how they find it useful and what else the text ties into. Most everything that changes regularly has an RSS feed to add to your PLE. You can even subscribe to an RSS feed of searches for text or tags in web sites, blogs, wiki and bookmarks. Your feed reader will have new stuff to read and think about every day. You'll get the idea that learning is a vibrant process that defies prediction and control. You'll realize that disagreements and contrasting viewpoints induce more realizations for you than consensus and confirmations of one right answer. You'll discover you're learning from the combination of RSS feeds in your feed reader, not just one subscription at a time or each feed in isolation.
Interact with your best finds: After watching your RSS feed subscriptions for several days or weeks, you'll get a sense of your favorite contributors. You may admire how they think, become fascinated with how they learn, or get inspired by how they continually change. Writing to them or about them online will start a conversation and inspire you with more to write about. Notice how your learning doubles when you start expressing yourself, joining into dialogues and sharing your insights with others. You'll gain confidence in what you've learned, value your process more than before and want to go deeper in this direction because it's so rewarding. You'll appreciate your PLE as a process that continually unfolds and surprises you.