Last week Alex Hayes in New South Wales, Australia invited me to present online at an upcoming conference there. In recent blog post, he characterized my perspective on Personal Learning Environments with his wonderful possibility of "plug and play" convenience. Over the holiday weekend, I generated more than 30 pages of new insights into how PLE's could alleviate problems, have greater impact and function more effectively than they currently do. I explored how PLE's differ and serve different purposes. I came to the realization there are cheap and costly PLE's -- low and high maintenance PLE's.
Cheap PLE's don't ask much of the learner and don't give much in return. Their impact on problems in minimal. The genre of learning they generate is the kind people keep to themselves or show off without much effect. The learning can be characterized as "nodes without links" or as "facts without meaning". They are low maintenance because they merely accumulate information.
Costly PLE's ask a lot of the learner and give much in return. Their impact on problems is significant. The genre of learning is rich with insights into the underlying dynamics of problems, people's reactions and innovative solutions. The learning can be characterized as "forging the links between nodes" or "playing with different meanings for the facts". They are high maintenance because they call for considerable personal reflection brought on by conflicting viewpoints and positional stances.
Cheap PLE's feed conflicts and arguments. They can only take sides and validate one position in a debate. Costly PLE's gravitate toward the middle of debates. They naturally see how every side has a piece of the puzzle, some validity to consider and an eye on the winning combination of solutions.
When we're in the middle of a debate, it's clear to us there are no easy answers. Everything depends on situations and the people involved. Several of my posts last June provide ways to consider how "it depends":
- PLE's in context
- Fortunate learners
- Enterprises that love PLE's
- The P in PLE
- Traits for creating PLE's at work
- The L word in PLE
- The E word in PLE (added 9/6/07 thanks Stephen!)
When we take all this complexity into consideration, we are paying a price. We are investing our time and energy into a kind of learning that is not passive consumption of content. We are reflecting on our personal practice in our own situations and learning from like minded practitioners in their contexts.