What is a PLE?

Setting up PLE's for students appears to be the latest meme spreading around the K-12 schooling world. Contemplating all those new PLE's just starting out brought me back to a "beginner's mind" where I could wonder what a PLE is.

First there's the definition in the Wikipedia:

Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to:

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning; managing both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

Then there's the idea that a PLE is a cobbling together of online resources into a dashboard that is continually updated, perhaps like Netvibes or Pageflakes.

There's the possibility of sharing items with other learners, as Karl Fisch mentions in his switch to Google Reader with that capability. Sharing also occurs by subscribing to other learners' RSS feeds if they blog, edit a wiki, routinely update a web site or revise their public content in Web 2.0 sites like, Bloglines, Facebook, Flickr or YouTube.

A PLE can be the kind of learning we do when the content comes to us per our search, request, inquiry or discovery. This learning is intrinsic, self motivated and inherently more satisfying. When get a feeling of "successful finding" from learning this way.

A PLE might be something that grows in an environment of curiosity, wonder and fascination from seeds of personally meaningful questions. Likewise, a PLE is something that withers and dies in an environment of conformity pressure and obedience to imposed rules.

A PLE seems more like a process of successful exploration and personal reflection that identifies with our questions, than the actual resource environment that gets explored by identifying with our learning.

Finally there's the working definition I've come to with all my reflective practice about PLE's lately:

A PLE is the environment we create, for other learners to benefit from our ongoing learning processes, whenever we are:

  • intrinsically motivated to question, explore and discover more of what we are looking for
  • learning from sources who are changing and revealing their process of making sense
  • serving others who are facing problems with learning from their situations and experiences
  • generating content that benefits those others and ourselves in the process of giving on common ground
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  1. hmmm - how have I not heard of the PLE craze before now? It sounds a lot like what I aim for with my students (and myself) but I didn't realize it had a name!

    Thanks for introducing me to something new this morning! I am definitely going to investigate further and your blog seems to be a great starting point.


  2. Tom, I humbly point to my attempt at defining a PLE over a year ago.

  3. Tracy: Thanks!

    Ron: Thanks for the link to your profound and thorough definition of a PLE. I'll reread it several more times to get it to sink in.