by Thomas DeVere Wolsey
Personal learning environments (abbreviated as PLEs), are a way of organizing, curating, and bringing coherence to the many digital interactions students have with other students, teachers, digital others on the Internet, and the content they find online and on paper. Personal learning environments provide entry points, organization, and a network that makes sense; these entry points serve as a table of contents to an individual user’s multiple digital interactions. As important, the class learning environments teachers create can become important components of the personal learning environments their students create.
A key aspect of the personal learning environment is that it is created by individual users. My personal learning environment will look quite different from yours, for example. Personal learning environments may also intersect in a network. For example, Sabrina is a 10th-grade student. Her science teacher shared a set of readings via links on Delicious. Her English-language arts teacher has assigned a reading from a digital library (for example, SunSITE), and her social studies teacher has asked her to examine several artifacts from the World Digital Library. In mathematics, she created an online presentation in SlideShare showing practical applications of triangulation. Keeping track of the assignments and emails from teachers and classmates can be difficult. In addition, she maintains her own digital presence on Facebook and collects links about her interest in the piano on Diigo, which she shares with friends.
Sabrina could be overwhelmed with all the digital content with which she is expected to interact; however, her homeroom teacher helped her design a personal learning environment using SymbalooEDU as one entry point. With Symbaloo, Sabrina can add links to web sources and her teachers’ assignments and schedules, code sources by color, and produce task lists to be sure she accomplishes her goals. In addition, she can choose webmixes created by other users on topics such as writing tools or biology resources. As important, Sabrina can integrate her own interests via links and RSS feeds. She shares the elements of her personal learning environment that she chooses, while keeping other elements private. In this video, a student, JJGeorgy, describes how to get started using Symbaloo.
Because personal learning environments are, indeed, personal, they take many forms. The graphic organizers linked on the Edtechpost http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams wiki illustrate the many variations of the PLE. A PLE is an approach users take to aggregate content, organize it, and lend context to it. Owners can create their own content and gather it from teachers, peers, and other Internet sources. Sometimes, teachers provide a basic framework and share elements of their own personal or classroom learning environments to help further learning.
In the video below, a technology coordinator explains how teachers and students use Symbaloo in first through third grades in Memphis, Tennessee.
Thomas DeVere Wolsey is a literacy specialization coordinator in the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
Technology Professional Development Sessions at the IRA Annual Convention