Network Environments for Personal Learning

In week 2, the focus of #PLENK2010 shifted from the basic terminology, and emphasis on user “client-side” tools to the “server-side” area of support tools – such as might be provided by an educational institution for example. (These are what I, in a fit of foolish pedantry, identified earlier as the EPL aspect as opposed to the PEL aspect of a PLE.)

The big question in week 2 was about the distinction between “Learning Management Systems” and “Personal Learning Environments” but I don’t think that these are actually the two sides of a dichotomy.

The LMS serves institutional needs for access restriction to registered students and provides communication tools and a point of contact for instructors/facilitators and students/learners, but, despite the way it is often used, it is easy to escape from, and the instructor can easily lead from it to content placed elsewhere and to open ended activities including network-based personal learning. The fact that it does not support these things does not mean that it prevents them (and to the extent that it does make them difficult I believe that the cause is less with institutional interests than with the commercial interests of the LMS provider in creating lock-in to their own published materials).

A question which has not been responded to as yet is what tools might an institution provide so as to best support networked and personal learning – ie to provide an effective EPL. Maybe this will come later (in week 7 on tools perhaps).

One point worth making I think is that the content-bearing or knowledge-stimulating components of an EPL may be shared between many institutions (eg OCW) or provided by other organizations entirely (such as professional societies or wikipedia for example).

A couple of examples that come to mind in my own discipline are PlanetMath, CMR, Modules; and there is in fact right now a Personal Learning math course under way at P2PU

When open information sources are involved, the role of the LMS returns in providing contact with accredited mentors to validate the information and to evaluate and certify the learning.

The remaining topics in this post actually arise from the Week 1 Friday Elluminate session. This may make them past their “best before date” but they do still seem to relate well to the LMS vs PLE issue, so I’m going to throw them in even though I haven’t had time to elaborate from the point-form notes I made to myself at the time.

Network Structure

Could be p2p flat “stable” as per Downes, OR
Could be centralized (and should be where duplication of effort would just be wasted – eg in PLENK2010 for the links list where the lesson from building our own is minimal and in most other subjects would also be irrelevant.

teaching is only relevant in a subject where there really is a difference in competencies – but such  subjects do exist (surprisingly this does need to be stated)

In fact, those are the subjects for which network spikes are appropriate

Are there any for which the flat “stable” p2p network is best?
(cf Stephen in Friday’s Elluminate session)

Role of Institutions

current role of institutions : knowledge creation, knowledge transfer , knowledge certificaton

alternatives for creation? dep on discipline, cross fertilization now possible without space for f2f, but labs may need to be shared

alternatives for transfer? (either via transmission or aquisition)info has always been freely available (anyone heard of books and libraries?) but aquisition often not effective without personal support. Space not needed for virtual but f2f may be better.
Also storage and central processing of data on server for retrieval by local clients vs p2p setup – but this only makes sense when all sources are equally credible (Problem isn’t with sources that are un-informed; they can just forward the request. But it’s with those that are ill-informed. So a network for p2p education needs mechanisms, like immune system?, to detect and eliminate or correct sources of misinformation)

alternatives for certification?

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