Once again, with the best intentions, I have signed up for a George and Stephen (and others more now) Massively Open Online Course, Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge 2010 (PLENK2010).
My track record is poor, I easily let this stuff slide off of the radar. I’m a MOOCDO.
But they have done a good job of re-assuring people that they don’t have to try and grapple it all. And all is a lot. I get dizzy when I look at that discussion forum, and by the time I scroll down to the form field at the bottom of a long page, I’m empty of thoughts.
Week 1 is an introduction to PLEs and PLNs and msy be just the first bowl of acronym soup.
Having complained plenty about the meaningless of some of the terminology, I am aiming to keep the mind slightly ajar, if not wide open.
Among the readings I took in on this week’s there and back trip to Boise, was Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems by Scott Wilson, et al, which sets a rather strong contrast between the enterprise learning systems (VLEs in the UK / LMSes here) and the personal learning environment. It was an interesting and worthy notion to make the VLE/LMS as a “dominant design”, which in the end of the reading, is not really a desirable title to carry:
The primary characteristic of a dominant design is that, once it emerges, innovative activity is directed to improving the process by which the dominant design is delivered rather than exploring alternatives.
Or, in other words, once established in dominance, such systems tend to operate in modes that maintain their dominant position. That certainly seems to ring true of a certain large company who’s nick name is comprised of two duplicate letters.
This was thee paper that published The PLE Diagram, which originally was posted in a January 2005 blog post by Scott Wilson. This might be the mother of all PLE Diagrams (as carefully catalogued by Scott Leslie).
I can remember seeing this diagram and being excited, because all of the things in the boxes, and more so, the lines between them, was where I was focused on, all of our Small Pieces Loosely Joined kool-aid. I am sure I used The Diagram in several presentations.
It’s the middle of the diagram that bothers me, the amorphous blob with the PLE label. Perhaps more fitting was the Networked Teacher (or fill in with student) diagram by Alec Couros with the person in the center.
People talk about PLEs like it is a thing, a definable object, but its not. In this paper, it almost sounds like it is defined as being everything the VLE is not (?). It was helpful to re-read this original paper, because the authors make it abundantly clear that the PLE is not a thing:
The critical design flaws inherent in today’s learning systems can be addressed through adopting a new design pattern that shifts emphasis away from the isolated experience of the modular VLE. We characterize this new pattern a Personal Learning Environment, although unlike the VLE this is primarily a pattern concerned with the practices of users in learning with diverse technologies, rather than a category of software.
That makes more sense to me than most other readings– “primarily a pattern concerned with the practices of users in learning with diverse technologies.”
For me, the PLE is everything behind all the floating bubbles and lines, it is the entire space in the bounds of the diagram, the PLE is the entire internet (and things beyond?). Why have just a few bubbles when your learning environment can be the entire enchilada?
That’s my PLE.
But back to the dominant design paper– what I was hoping for and did not get, were some ideas how dominant designs are overturned. Some are just not budging (their example of the QWERTY keyboard), but others are un-dominant (Betamax losing out to VHS? Neither are viable now).
And I listen with empathy to emails from colleagues of horror stories they deal with their dominantly designed systems- uphill battles just to create content, down times, content lost or mangled by the time it gets to the screen, limits on what it can do– they seem, rather dominated. They seem to spend more time working to fit their needs to the allowances of the system, rather than the system serving them.
Enough of this dominant design! Time for something new!