The idea of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) recognises that learning is continuing and seeks to provide tools to support that learning. It also recognises the role of the individual in organising their own learning. Moreover, the pressures for a PLE are based on the idea that learning will take place in different contexts and situations and will not be provided by a single learning provider. Linked to this is an increasing recognition of the importance of informal learning.
In terms of educational technology, there has been little attention paid to informal learning. It is remarkable that formal learning technology and applications have only really been made available to those enrolled on an educational programme or to those working for larger enterprises.
Many institutions are experimenting with the use of blogs and other social software tools in a more restricted environment as part of the curriculum. One interesting issue is the extent to which ‘communities’ continue after the end of a particular course. This also raises questions about what responsibilities institutions and teachers or moderators have for supporting such learning, outside course times.
PLEs provide learners with their own spaces under their own control to develop and share their ideas. Moreover, PLEs can provide a more holistic learning environments, bringing together sources and contexts for learning hitherto separate. Students learn how to take responsibility for their own learning. Critically, PLEs can bridge the walled gardens of the educational institutions with the worlds outside. In so doing learners can develop the judgments and skills or literacy necessary for using new technologies in a rapidly changing society.
Attwell, G. (2007). Personal Learning Environments-the future of eLearning?. E-Learning Papers. vol. 2