PLEs are power tools

I'm on the same page as Cammy Bean about Personal Learning Environments:

So all the talk about tools and maps has struck me as odd. How do we quantify or control something that is so unique to each of us? For me, I add -- why bother? Just do it.

Learning from blogging and the rest of my life is like "drinking from a fire hose". There so many interesting things to reflect upon and utilize for changing my mind. I'm in favor of defining PLE's more broadly as Stephen Downes, Clive Shepherd and others have proposed. Yet I'm not seeing any limit to what to include in my PLE. I must be what Ray Sims mentioned as the kind of "free ranger" that Elliot Masie is calling an "extreme learner".

All the attention PLE's have been getting suggests there's a context where PLEs make perfect sense, fit the situation well and make a valuable difference. That context became clear to me thanks to one of Michele Martin's posts over the weekend: The Psychology and Skills of Personal Learning Environments. PLE's fit in a context with intense conformity pressures. The people do not have a concept of being learners. They know from experience that they are being compliant, obedient and reliable. They are confined by policies and job descriptions to do what they are told to do. Venturing outside those limits is asking for trouble, sticking one's neck out or calling unnecessary attention to oneself. They are given what to learn and do not venture out looking for more to learn, posing their own questions or discovering alternative models. They attend conferences in droves where they can be told the latest methods without having to act upon the information, make changes or deviate from their past practices.

In this context, PLE's are power tools. They empower the powerless to break out of their boxes. PLE's invites self-directed learning. PLE's become a source of discrepancy and deviation from the "party line". It becomes possible to think for oneself and disagree with the groupthink. Learning from a PLE makes it possible to see patterns of abuse, exploitation and neglect in the workplace. PLE's undermine the imposed, top-down, command & control kind of power. PLE's put distributed and democratized power in the hands of the individual. It counteracts the conformity pressures without confrontations or insurrections. PLE's are politically radical and perfectly natural.

Those of us who are empowered learners, free of conformity pressures, don't see the obvious use for PLE's. Why take time out from "drinking from a fire hose"? There's more learning to be realized from everything. Life is my PLE.

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  1. Great post, Tom--I love the analogy of PLEs as power tools that help the powerless break free and take control. That's exactly what I've been thinking about all of this and why I'm so passionate about it. As always, you've expressed it beautifully.

  2. Thank you for posting such a useful, impressive and a wicked article./Wow.. looking good!

    Power Tools

  3. Thanks for the appreciation! Good luck powering up and using the tools!

  4. Nice one, i like this more suitable are readable through entire post- PLE's are power tools. They empower the powerless to break out of their boxes.