TLA, Ergo Sum

In education, and technology, but no different from most other fields, we sure can get mired in definitions. It seems… that the mere fact of identifying something with a TLA (Three Letter Acronym), that it exists.

Like last Decemberm when I got invited to be on the planning committee for the EDUCAUSE ELI Focus Session on Immersive Learning Environments, in conversations about said ILEs, I tried pot stirring early in our teleconference meetings by posing the question, “Is there really something that is an ILE”? No one felt like playing, so we went on the merry way, so that they included virtual worlds, simulations, remote controlled instruments, computer games, and heck why not the world famous card game of Kaiser? “Immersive” can be mighty broad.

it’s not that I have an bsession to nail down definitions, but I am not sure that I can say what is an ILE and what is not. In the end, it mattered not, as the event was great, I saw and learned quite a bit, networked with colleagues. I could say there are some general aspects one could talk about in terms of the power of “immersion” but it’s not like you can say, “To support an ILE, I need X,Y, Z and we need to do P,D, Q”. It all depends what you are talking about.

And its not that I don’t find the topics interesting. I just think we starte saying “ILE” enough times, it may sound like a real entity.

I wish I had a photo of an ILE, at least there are documented photos of learning objects.

And ergo for PLEs. Now before someone tries to lop off my head by comment- I fully support, and have lived, promoted the concepts of Personalized Learning Environments. Like Small Technologies Loosely Joined. RipMixLearn. RipMixFeed. It’s not that I do not “get” the concept of using a decentralized suite of web tools to create a personal learning environment. It’s what I have done, built, preached for the last X years.

Its more like, I do not know what a PLE is beyond a collection of flowchart diagrams with connected bubbles of web 2.0 logos. And we went through this on this year’s Horizon Project– PLEs surfaced as one of the 12 finalists for the far horizon. And heck, I voted for it myself. But in researching it, beyond papers, presentations, and digrams, I could not really find something I could say, “This is a PLE” — not discounting successful deployments of learning environments using a network of blogs +/- wikis, but is every instance of using a suite of web tools a PLE? In that case, my definition of a PLE is the Internet. And what does that get us?

And again, for those rady to throw darts, I am not belittling the concept, the aim, the cool diagrams, all the stuff cited recently (and back in eternity) by Stephen Downes), just keeps me wondering what a PLE is and what is not.

Oh, now I know, it is a form of a DLA. Or the VLE. Or another flavor of ILE. How KEWL (oops that is a FLA).

I Acronym, Therefore I Exist.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I have sent this as an article for our students to review so that they can understand the terminology. I think that what you speak of here — that if enough people use the term that others who aren’t “in” on the conversations begin to think it is a fact whereas it is really something that is being discussed and is on the HORIZON. (pardon the pun) — it is a very easy trap for students ( and teachers) who are on the cutting edge of technology trends to fall into and it is something that we are going to watch carefully as the students launch the project this week. It is part of information literacy to realize that just because one source or even several sources appear to discuss something doesn’t mean that it really exists. I’m going to think about this one.

  2. Eeek, if I knew that, I might have written for more clarity — they should know that my writing here is just short of stream of consciousness and pretty much the first draft.

    It’s more of a case of trying to figure out when people describe something like these acronyms, do they actually represent something? Are they conceptual? It’s not to say that one is better than another, but on a casual readers side it may be a challenge to discern.


  3. This is absolutely a huge issue that is at the heart of information literacy. It is almost having to judge the author’s intent and expertise, etc. when looking at a new word or definition. It is very easy for beginners to implicitly trust things and this is a great post that shows that all words are not what they seem and that even among experts there is debate whether they exist or not. I think this is an excellent post for the students to see.

    But keep posting the stream of consciousness, I just think it is great for students to see that experts are piecing together the horizon too!

  4. May I post this conversation and hyperlink into the Ning over for horizon, I’m trying to capture the most important snippets of conversation for the archive of how we are moving along here.

  5. In all fairness – when I talked about personal learning environments at MIT and at the conference in Boston this week, I prefaced my remarks by saying “PLEs don’t exist yet” (I actually said that, you can check the MP3s).

    Then I showed then things like MyGlu, RSS Writr, and Edu_RSS, all of which do exist and are in various stages of construction. I also showed them Plex, which also exists (though I said I wasn’t thrilled with it).

    So… yeah. I see your point. Though in the last few slides of my eLearning Guild presentation I did make a pretty good run at defining one. If that helps.


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