by Jay Cross on April 15, 2007

Judging from the outpouring of bloggeral, PLEs began crossing the chasm into the mainstream at The eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering. The concept is right but the terminology is wrong. PLEs aren’t P, L, or E.

· Personal isn’t quite right because learning is social, and a PLEs include shared resources, folksonomies, and collaboration software

· Learning gives the impression that PLEs are limited to learning experiences. Not so. The tools you learn with become the tools you work with. Why create something that makes it easier to connect with other people and the web, only to throw it away upon graduation?

· PLEs are not an environment. The environment is the web, the workplace, home, or your playground: the Learnscape.

Stephen and I talked a bit about this over Unibroues, and we recognize that neither of us has this one pegged yet. It’s a concept in the making: practice before theory. Here’s my beta-thinking:

Learners assemble web tools, search, techniques, and defaults to help them explore, discover, record, and share life’s lessons. These days many of the tools simplify or streamline connections to the internet. A learner’s tools and techniques were once called a portal. A portal is nothing more than a front-end, a door into a system. For the moment, I’ll refer to the package of connections and settings that facilitate navigating and interacting on the net as Linkages.


In the second half of 2006, Harold Jarche, Judy Brown, and I conducted a series of Unworkshops to give people experience using Web 2.0 tools to improve learning. We concluded that the best starting point was what we were calling Personal Knowledge Management. Our rationale was that the only way to learn web 2.0 tools was to experience them. The ticket of admission to the web is confidence you won’t get lost. Once participants were comfortable moving around in an environment of “small pieces, loosely joined,” they had a foundation from which to apply web 2.0 to learning.

A good set of Linkages should make it easier for its owner to learn and to work. Naturally, it would facilitate finding things, finding people, expressing things, collaborating, asking for advice, getting help, finding relevant information, interacting with groups, being active in supporting a variety of communities, book-marking for subsequent retrieval, archiving both personal and private information, accessing generic solutions, publishing material to the web, sending and receiving messages, working together on projects, keeping abreast of new developments, initiating and taking part in conversations, maintaining a private stash of documents and passwords, publishing a public identity page, archiving material in a living portfolio, learning to learn, and more.

There’s more to this than I can fit in a blog post, especially since I’m supposed to be packing for London right now. Let’s zoom from the general to the specific by looking at where my learning on the web begins.

Across the top of the page are links to my photos on Flickr, my email account, my online calendar, a television schedule, and my RSS reader.

The second line are frequent destinations: QuickTopic for discussions, various Google Docs, and a link to my Google Account.

My blogs come next. One blog is personal, another details observations on learning, and is an online business card.

Then comes my wiki which I use to share things with others. “Flows” are the current stream of information passing through. “Stocks” contain the runoff worth keeping.

Here’s today’s thought on how the pieces fit together:

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