PLENK Week 1

Week 1 of the #PLENK2010 course on Personal Learning Environments,  Networks and Knowledge is devoted mainly to getting used to the terminology.

Among the responses to Dave Cormier’s post in the readings is a post by Viplav Baxi which notes among other things that Cormier’s view of the PLE as a container for the PLN is in a way a reversal of Alec Couros observation in 2008 that respondents to a survey he conducted held that

PLEs are the tools, artefacts, processes, and physical connections that allow learners to control and manage their learning. This definition supports Martindale’s and Dowdy’s observation that “A PLE can be seen as a manifestation of a learner’s informal learning processes via the Web” (chapter 9). Definitions of PLNs, however, seem to extend this framework to more explicitly include the human connections that are mediated through the PLE. In this framework, PLEs become a subset of the substantially humanized PLN.

George Siemens has initiated a Moodle discussion of the topic also.

It seems to me that what I would call my Personal Learning Environment includes physical aspects and items (such as books, workspace and f2f colleagues) as well as virtual ones[1], and the virtual part of that environment includes both local and networked resources, including networks of personal relationship and other networks for essentially impersonal data access. So my personal learning network is the intersection of my learning environment and my network envrionment – which has me leaning toward Dave’s analysis. This personal learning network is then the entire network of people with whom I exchange ideas and information – only some of which is electronically mediated. And what makes all of the electronic communication possible (whetehr for learning or “merely” social) is a particular subset of my environment consisting of tools (both hardware and software), corresponding to what Alec’s respondents might have been calling the PLE but which might better be called the Personal Environment for Networking which includes an Environment for Networked Learning.

But the purpose of all this abstraction for me is just to get it out of the way in order to focus on what I really need.

Terminology aside, the main thing I hope to get from this course is a better understanding of how to effectively integrate different networking tools – especially to facilitate learning both as a student and as a teacher.

What I need in this environment is not just links to various tools for social and data networking but also a way to seamlessly switch between tools and multicast anything I create to an appropriate subset of my social professional and learning networks.

Also, of course, learning still involves input at least as much as output and so another important aspect of the Learning Environment is access to information resources be it via a physical library or a web search.  But for all its sophistication, pure search prioritized by google rank does  not necessarily yield the most appropriate material for me. So another part of the PLENK is some kind of search result ranking that is personalized to the learning (or other) need which prompted the  searching.

This is where social bookmarking tools can do better than google because their algorithms can in principle give the rankings that others have provided on a new to me  resource a weighting based on the degree of similarity in our rankings of things we both have seen.

But again there are so many such services that I find it difficult to sort input and deliver output organized logically by content rather than by medium of interaction (ie to have my environment organized into math, politics, travel and music rather than moodle, facebook, flickr and twitter).

In a course such as this the interaction between different data streams can be facilitated centrally by something like GRSShopper (along with adherence to common conventions such as all agreeing to the SAME course tag please!), but away from the course context the problem will remain and I will need some local (or at least personal) tool for doing the same kind of thing.

[1] Back in the day of Learning Object Repositories I argued both for less emphasis on centralized storage and more on catalogues to facilitate access to items from their “home” locations, and for inclusion of real objects such as books and lab equipment as well as virtual objects. So perhaps it is no surprise that now I am similarly inclined to want to include physical aspects of the Personal Learning Environment.

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