Capstone Project – Your PLE


The world is changing at breakneck speed, and our profession is evolving just as rapidly. We (and our users) have access to more information than ever before, and more ways of finding and interacting with that information. The tools discussed here at Colorado Libraries 2.0 are a great start in mastering some of the technology you need to remain relevant, organized, and engaged. However, you can take your learning one step further through the development of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

For a fun illustration of just how fast the world is changing, check out the Did You Know 4.0. Created by The Economist this is the 3rd video in the Did You Know series started by Karl Fisch.

The What

Personal Learning Environments have been discussed in education and learning literature for a few years, but there is no single definition of what constitutes a Personal Learning Environment.

  • Steven Downes, an expert in online learning, describes a personal Learning environment as “…a portal to the world, through which learners can explore and create, according to their own interests and directions, interacting at all times with their friends and community. “ (Emerging Technologies for Learning, vol. 2, p. 23, 2007 [ PDF])
  • While Sue Waters of Edublog states that  “…personal Learning networks (PLNs) are all about using web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, twitter, facebook to create connections with others which extend our learning, increases our reflection, while enabling us to learn together as part of a global community.”

Regardless of how Personal Learning Environments are described, they represent a definite trend away from traditional formal learning environments to increasingly informal, multidisciplinary networks that put users in control of their own learning.

Just as there is no one definition of a Personal Learning Environment, there are no specific rules for creating one. However, the literature does focus on a few key elements.

  • A PLE should be individually customized to the user. The learner decides what is relevant, and can adapt the PLE to his/her style of learning and working.
  • The learning environment should be interactive or social in nature. It should encourage collaboration and participation with other professionals, experts, and organizations.
  • The PLE acts as both an information aggregation system and a filter. By bringing information from a variety of sources together it helps the user focus on the important elements or trends.

The Why

So, why should you create your own Personal Learning Environment? While there are many reasons to invest in lifelong learning, as information professionals we cannot escape the fact that our profession is in a state of flux, and we need to take charge of our own professional development in order to remain relevant.

  • We need to stay informed of changing trends and technology to continuously meet our users’ expectations.
  • As access to information and people continues to grow, we must constantly “retool” to keep our profession  evolving
  • There is a growing trend in the workplace shifting the responsibility for professional development from the employer to the employee.

So where do you start? According to Learning 2.0 expert Helene Blowers “…The very first step in learning is simply exposure…” and by creating a customized learning environment, you will be able to create a unique toolset based upon your personal interests and learning style.

The How

By now you have hopefully had a chance to complete the rest of the Colorado Libraries 2.0 modules, and you have an idea of what tools you would like to investigate further.

Discovery Exercises

  • Login to your iGoogle page and go to Add Stuff to look for Gadgets to add to your iGoogle page
  • Add the tools that you have learned at Colorado Libraries 2.0, as well as others you find useful into your Personal Learning Environment.
  • Develop a means for incorporating these tools into your workflow. Questions to consider:
    • What is your preferred learning style (visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic)? What Colorado 2.0 tools make the most sense to you?
    • Think about the organization of the tools in your iGoogle page. What tools do you need to use daily, weekly, rarely? Are items organized accordingly?
    • Have you made iGoogle your starting homepage? If you chose not to, or cannot due to IT requirements, how will you work these tools into your workflow or daily activities?
    • What tools are you unable to add to your iGoogle page (because a gadget does not exist), and what will you do to incorporate them into your workflow?
    • Talk with some of your peers. What tools are they using on a regular basis, and what does their workflow look like?
  • One month from today, re-evaluate your current workflow. What works or does not work for you? What tools are you using frequently? What tools are you using rarely? How can you change your workflow to best suit your needs?

Once you have created your own Personal Learning Environment, and completed the other modules available here, you will have the confidence and tools necessary to maintain your PLE according to your needs. Do not be afraid to change or get rid of a tool or process that is not working for you.
Tom Haymes, in an article written for Educause Quarterly in November 2008, explains what he calls the 3-E Strategy for the adoption of technology tools that will help you as you develop your PLE. In order for tools to be readily adopted and used, the tools must fit the following criteria:

  • Evident: The tool’s potential use must be clearly identifiable on an individual basis. What tools are evident or relevant to any one individual is a personal and subjective choice.
  • Easy: Easy to use, easy to understand, easy to register for and such. The tool needs to facilitate activity. Technology in itself is not a magical fix.
  • Essential: The tool quickly becomes part of your daily life. You come to depend on the tool, in order to get things done.

So, as you become familiar with these tools, and your own workflow, you will quickly discover what tools and techniques work best for your individual learning. You will control what information you wish to pay attention to, and when, where and how to interact with it. You will have the power to take charge of your own personal growth and professional development.

More for the Curious


Articles on the theory and research behind Personal Learning Environments


Suggested Tools to include in your Personal Learning Environment