We all appear to be on guard against pointless learning environments. Like learning organizations, teams and knowledge management, PLE's can be co-opted. This is most likely in those cultures that thrive on acronyms: LMS, ADDIE, KM, CLO and PLE. It's done for show without substance. The enterprises are tall with layers of hierarchy, thick with restrictive policies, and fat with bureaucratic controls. As I proposed in PLE's in context, A personal learning environment would appear "out of control" in this context -- like a license to surf, shop and socialize online during company time.Professional learning environments are possible in enterprises that are flat with delegated authority, expansive with distributed power to solve problems and thin with imposed controls. Individuals are vested with the responsibility to learn from strategic setbacks, empathize with customers, create better solutions and cooperate with diverse constituencies. This calls for learning from colleagues, rivals, journalists, industry analysts, suppliers and consultants. It involves making sense of new information, contradictory stances and opposing viewpoints. The learning is shared within the enterprise and is useful beyond the tenure of the professional who brought it into the community. These PLE's are appropriately inside the firewall.
Personal learning environments belong outside the firewall. They contribute to the professional development of the individual. In terms that Stephen Downes uses: they are outside the walled garden, free of group norms and immersed in an authentic ecological network. These PLE's do not depend on the culture of the employer. They succeed by the emergent community of links, subscribers and conversations on the outside.Paradoxical learning environments defy dualistic thinking. They only make sense as vanishing distinctions. They serve both personal and professional interests. They may bridge across the firewall without compromising the integrity of either side's content. They make valuable connections between an individual professional development and improvements in the employer's practices. They realize the best of both professional and personal learning environments without getting co-opted, compromised or corrupted. They come about when all four P's in PLE are understood and accepted.