What are Personal Learning Environments?


Personal learning environments are described as systems for enabling self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. PLEs are conceived as drawing on a variety of discrete tools, perhaps chosen by the learner, which can be connected or used in concert in a transparent way. Some elements that might be found in a PLE are already in place; for example, conceptual diagrams suggest that social networking tools such as tagging, blogs, iTunes, wikis, del.icio.us, and others should be part of a PLE. The underlying technologies are straightforward. Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, it is already quite easy to create customized, personal web-based environments, and craft them to explicitly support one’s social, professional, learning and other activities. Online material, once found, can be saved, tagged, categorized, and repurposed without difficulty and without any special knowledge of how web pages are put together. While the concept of PLEs is still very new and fluid, it does seem to be clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person. It involves sociological and philosophical considerations and cannot be packaged, passed out and handed around as a cell phone or tablet computer could. Widespread adoption of PLEs, once they actually exist, may require a shift in attitudes toward technology, teaching, and learning.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


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