What are Personal Learning Environments?

Personal learning environments (PLEs) support self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. The term has been evolving for some time, but has crystallized around the personal collections of tools and resources a person assembles to support their own learning — both formal and informal. The conceptual basis for PLEs has shifted significantly in the last year, as smart phones, tablets, and apps have begun to emerge as a compelling alternative to browser-based PLEs and e-portfolios. Along with that, there has been a corresponding move away from centralized, server-based solutions to distributed and portable ones. Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, such as a collection of apps on a tablet, it is already quite easy to support one’s ongoing social, professional, learning and other activities with a handy collection of resources and tools that are always with you. While the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is 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.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • Ongoing learning and development for staff is one of the most important support mechanisms for ARLs. “Being adaptable in a flat world, knowing how to ‘learn how to learn,’ will be one of the most important assets any worker can have, because job churn will come faster, because innovation will happen faster,” writes Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat.
  • As learning organizations, libraries can actually help foster the development of personal learning networks through workshops that explore the topic with a goal of having learners leave with the beginnings of (or even more strongly-developed) personal learning networks; these could serve library staff as well as library users. Using existing resources, such as the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC developed and offered in 2013 by Northwestern University -- http://mslocopen.wordpress.com/ -- is one available resource that could easily be adapted. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli May 10, 2014
  • Albeit being mainly virtual I would like to put up the physical space to discussion as well. Libraries becoming physical meeting places for former only virtual groups, adding another dimension to PLEs. - mkloes mkloes May 11, 2014
  • The PLE could inspire libraries to think more about PRE (personal research environments) in which information retrieval, organization, and manipulation is optimized for individual manipulation and re-combination rather than standardization. - lisahinchliffe lisahinchliffe May 11, 2014
  • Librarian to design online learning tutorials app to support PLEs Jefrina May 11, 2014

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

  • I would add that the potential for low cost, global connections and learning via the PLE is an important factor. For example, another strategy might involve participating in a new, no-cost online learning opportunity like the “23 Mobile Things” created by Jan Holmquist in Denmark, along with Mylee Joseph and Kathryn Barwick from Australia. The online program extends a new twist on the Learning 2.0 model: 23 mobile applications for library staff to explore as a means to understand how people are using apps. We can learn from each other via Twitter, MOOC-like communities of practice etc. Keywords: low cost & global. - mstephens7 mstephens7 May 9, 2014
  • PLEs don't preclude advisors, mentors, etc. who might recommend, push, or help assess content, etc. - lisahinchliffe lisahinchliffe May 11, 2014

3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • Library staff on all levels should be encouraged to cultivate and use their PLEs. They might work together to discover the current technologies of the day as well as those on the horizon in a modified "Learning 2.0" program or the more recent "23 Mobile Things." Participants in PLEs will understand not only how the tools work but how they might utilize to the tools in practice. Sharing with faculty and administrators would be the next step. - mstephens7 mstephens7 May 9, 2014
  • Agree with Michael's comment just above this one, and see the impact of developing/nurturing personal learning networks as being yet another wonderful resource for library staff to have a a tool to use to the benefits of those served by libraries. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli May 10, 2014
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  • To re-think information search, retrieval and delivery. - lisahinchliffe lisahinchliffe May 11, 2014

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

  • 23 Mobile Things for Australia and New Zealand as example of large scale platform for individuals to explore and cultivate PLEs.http://anz23mobilethings.wordpress.com - mstephens7 mstephens7 May 9, 2014
  • 23 Things for SLIS Students and Alumni - This was put together by the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science students and alumni to foster ongoing learning. https://23things.sjsu.edu/ - Sandy.hirsh Sandy.hirsh May 11, 2014

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