Prereqs to utilizing PLEs

I've decided to play around with the latest ideas in my head about personal learning environments to see if I have the makings of a chapter proposal for a new book on PLE's.  Here's the first installment in a series of explorations.

PLE's presume that the individual learners will be able to self-direct their own learning. That ability is sometimes conceptualized as "meta-cognitive" skills. Rather than merely thinking, self directed learners can think about their thinking. This power of self-observation enables them to:
  • catching themselves going round in circles or hitting a dead end when attempting to achieve a desired outcome
  • formulating better questions when their questions in use are "getting nowhere"
  • considering a different strategy to find what they're looking for rather than simply trying harder with the same strategy
  • inventing tests of what they've found to validate it as factual and/or reliable
  • rejecting previous knowledge once it seems over-simplified or even mistaken
  • valuing mistakes they make for showing them where they've been jumping to the wrong conclusion
  • discovering what missing in their understanding that misleads them when formulating explanations
I have been optimistically assuming that digital savvy youth are functioning with these abilities. They spend large amounts of time everyday using computers, handhelds, console games and social networking platforms without being told what to do. However, much of my recent reading is giving me a different impression. I'm now seeing the possibility that digital competence does not equate with the meta-cognitive skills to self direct one's own learning.
  • Hours can be spent online passively following links without any driving questions, curiosity or purpose.
  • The voluminous amounts of uploaded "user content generation" may be merely showing off without refining the creators' own concept or execution
  • The determination to get back on line may only serve the purpose of checking for the latest inputs from friends, followers and commenters.
  • Fascination with the expanse of digital media resources can be limited to a voyeuristic enjoyment of others disrespect, cynicism or flair for the dramatic.
  • Active use of online resources can be an avoidance challenges that are more demanding, difficult and serious.
  • Immersion in online environments can reinforce a premise that life is meaningless, lacking in purpose and deserving of being wasted.
Clearly these traits do not apply to everyone who might use a PLE. When these indictments accurately characterize any learners, they are incapable of self-directed learning. They are in no shape to critique, guide and redirect their explorations. They lack the prereqs to make use of PLEs.

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