Discussion Forum 1

Hi and welcome to Discussion Forum 1. Your moderators will be Chris A and Gillian S. We look forward to your ideas.

Question:  What does the increased number of PLEs mean for the educator? How will these changes affect the educator, the learner, and the learning environment?


38 Responses to Discussion Forum 1

  1. Danielle says:

    I feel that the increased role of PLEs will help educators and their students create more personal and therefore more effective learning environments. By shaping and reshaping our learning environments, we create more opportunities to learn and share our knowledge. Advances in technology have created an age of collaboration and creativity with much greater access to both information and people. PLEs help learners customize how they learn, thus enhancing differentiated learning. The key is to avoid becoming too overwhelmed and/or frustrated by the sheer number and varieties of learning opportunities!

    • baek12 says:

      Hi Danielle
      There are an overwhelming number at our fingertips due to access to the internet. I think you make a very good point about the possibility of learners becoming frustrated and or overwhelmed by the vast number of resources available to them. As facilitators, teachers would need to monitor closely to ensure that this does not happen as students experiment with their PLEs.

      • gillian says:

        Danielle and Valerie,
        You make a very good point about how teachers and students can become overwhelmed by the number and varieties of learning opportunities. PLEs if implemented ad hoc can certainly exacerbate this problem. However, if the implementation of PLEs are structured and scaffolded, hopefully some of these feelings can be alleviated.
        One of the easiest ways to implement PLEs is for users (both students and teachers) to realize that they already have an existing PLE – they just may not have put it all together before.
        Thank you for your contributions to this discussion.

      • Danielle says:

        Hi Valerie and Gillian,

        I think it could be the case that teachers are more overwhelmed by the number of resources than students – especially those new to Web 2.0. Just as teachers are helping learners create PLEs with their students, teachers can approach their professional development in a similar way to ‘ease the pressure’. This will enable them to support the use of PLEs and other technologically enhanced resources in a way that offers authentic learning experiences in class.


    • Donna says:

      Hello Danielle,

      I agree with what you mentioned that the teachers would be more overwhelmed with the number of resources that are out there than students would be. I myself was amazed at the amount of educational tools that are available for PLE’s. I wouldn’t know where to begin if I wanted to set up, Moodle for example, with my classes. Those teachers who are used to the traditional method will need the most encouraging (or a kick in the pants), to get them out of their “safety zone” and try something new. Not only will they need to learn how to use the technology (such as iPads etc.) but they will also need to be convinced that all of the amazing sites and tools that are available can actually be extremely helpful in their teaching. It will require a lot of changes and “buying – in” on the teachers’ part.


      • Marie-France Hétu says:

        Hello Donna,

        I agree that all these technological resources can be overwhelming. Teachers have to be tech savvy and also have to find the time to explore these tools, as well as find out ways to integrate this technology within their course delivery. Yes technology can bring amazing possibilities to learning and teaching, but sometimes I feel it is all moving too fast, and there is too much choice out there.


  2. The increased number of PLEs are both confusing and clarifying for the educator and the learner. On the one hand they make it easier to learn and put more of the learning in the hands of the learner, which assists both the learner and the educator. On the other hand, the huge variety of excellent resources for building PLEs means that we all need to develop our linking of resources. It is worthwhile to sample as many as possible, but when it comes to streamlining communication, that can mean a whole new skill set of remembering where we organized information and finding our completed and in-progress tasks amidst our myriad of learning tools (and what happens if one of the tools goes out of business?). These tools will assist in developing connected, global, self-directed learning and move the teacher further into the role of learning facilitator.

    • chris aitken says:

      Hi Chelsea.
      I think educational institutions are beginning to feel the pressures of teaching in a digital era. As you mention, we now have to acquire a whole new skill set in order to stay relevant. George Siemens recently wrote that in higher education, senior leadership has missed the boat on providing necessary professional development opportunities for faculty to teach effectively in a networked environment. He says further that, “In order to try and ramp up capacity today, they have to acquire the skills that they failed to develop over the last decade by purchasing services from vendors. Digital content, testing, teaching resources, teaching/learning software, etc. are now being purchased to try and address the capacity shortage.” It is this “capacity shortage” that has likely resulted in so many successful ed tech start ups. I wonder if we will see some companies capitalize on the PLE model?

      Siemens post: http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2012/06/16/the-future-of-higher-education-and-other-imponderables/

  3. baek12 says:

    Due to the varying needs in any given classroom I think PLEs will help personalize and differentiate the learning environments for our students. One size learning environments no longer are applicable to our classrooms. Educator roles will shift with the use of PLEs as teachers become facilitators in the learning process. PLEs will enable learners to take responsibility for their own learning and work in environments that will support and extend their learning, promote collaboration and facilitate access to a variety of resources to meet the learning styles of all learners. Educators may in turn have time to spend with students who require extra support.


    • gillian says:

      In the interest of keeping this very interesting discussion going … Who do you think is responsible for implementing such as shift – is this a systemic shift, or can the implementation of PLEs be realized at a classroom level?
      PS thank you for your contributions so far 🙂

      • baek12 says:

        Hi Gillian
        Good question. I think that if we wait for it to be a systemic shift we will be waiting a long time. For me I see this as a classroom implementation and through discussions with colleagues move to other classrooms and so on. As with anything related to technology it will be a slow process but for those willing to go there will be advantageous both to them and their students.


      • blog admin says:

        HI Valerie,
        Thanks for your response to my question. I agree that with most technological change it comes slowly with early adopters – at least without provisions for dedicated in-service professional development. BC’s new Education Plan is all about personalized learning and technology integration – yet there is little about how such a widespread systemic change will be implemented, especially in regards to in-service professional development.

  4. KaronW says:


    I think an increased number in Personal Learning Environments would indicate that learners are taking control of their own learning and beginning to manage their own learning. Personal Learning Environments will help learners in setting goals, personalizing their learning environment to match the learning style that they are comfortable with, managing their learning and providing them the opportunity to communicate with one another during their learning experience. Personal Learning Environments may make learning more effective for the learners as Personal Learning Environments encourages collaboration and students will receive peer-support along with teacher-support. With Personal Learning Environments in place, the educators role may change a little and the educator would need to have the flexibility in adapting to the changes.

    Karon Wong

    • blog admin says:

      A very astute overview of the effective changes the implementation of PLEs would have on both students and teachers. Your response seems very positive towards changes in student learning, but somewhat cautious in respects to educators. Do you think that some educators may resist adaptation?

      • KaronW says:

        Hi Gillian,
        I think that it is possible; it really depends on how conservative the educator is. PLE’s can be can be challenging for inexperienced educators as it is quite complex so these educators might have a difficult time creating it, hence they might resist in adapting to it.


  5. I think the increasing number of PLEs will gradually enable teachers to focus on individual teaching sessions rather than authoritative lecture-style education, because the tools within each student’s PLE will provide the “textbook” information, which the teacher can then supplement, refine or explain further. When PLEs include social media items, students can not only learn from academic materials, but can create new ideas by exchanging with their peers. PLEs also allow students to explore the topics that interest them most more thoroughly, because the environment is tailored to each of them specifically. For students who are curious and motivated, this is an ideal way to learn, and for those students who made be struggling, this may allow teachers more time to go over certain elements one on one or in small groups.

    Of course, this requires teachers who are open to learning about new tools and shifting towards newer teaching paradigms, so PLEs are not necessarily the solution to all education ills – but they are a step in the right direction.

    Excellent overview of PLEs, everyone!

    • chris aitken says:

      Thanks May. I wonder if the increase in learner autonomy associated with the PLE model might put some students at risk. Say, for example, in situations where learner interest takes a student completely off the mandated curriculum. If so, might there be a market for light PLE management tools that preserve a degree of learner autonomy in constructing PLEs but somehow keeps students in the ballpark of the curriculum.

  6. Deborah S says:

    The increased number of PLEs will help with differentiated instruction, as well as differentiated assessment. Students will have an opportunity to explore areas of interest and also be able to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts in a method of their choosing that best suits their learning style (who doesn’t like choice?).

    Educators may be overwhelmed by all the choice and may not feel adequately prepared to facilitate the process. As others have noted, training would be needed to increase teacher comfort. Ideally, training would be an ongoing process with support available. Things are changing far too rapidly to assume that a one-time training session would be adequate.


    • blog admin says:

      Hi Deborah,
      I completely agree with your assessment regarding the need for ongoing training to properly implement a widespread adoption of PLEs. Unfortunately, it is rare that on an institutional or government level that resources are dedicated to such training – leaving most teachers to fend for themselves in regards to training – or to resist such a change without adequate training which in turn slows the adoption/implementation process.
      Thank you for your contribution.

  7. Leonora says:

    The increased number of PLE means that educators have to familiarize themselves with those tools and encourage and mentor students to use them effectively.
    As for the learner, PLE-s offer them diverse ways to learn, document and access their work any time in a variety of formats – an affordance that promotes creativity, responsibility and curiosity to learn new tools and new ways of presenting, documenting, sharing and learning.
    Personalization of the learning environment can help increase motivation to learn and become a part of a community of learners. Such environments can help stimulate and activate prior learning as well.
    As Gillian mentioned, PLE- s can be effective when they are well structured and scaffolded and the onus is on both the learner and the educator to make them effective.


    • blog admin says:

      Well said Lenora 🙂
      Here’s a question for you (or anyone else) to keep our discussion going …
      In your opinion, is it the responsibility of the individual educator to “familiarize themselves with these tools …” or should the responsibility rest at a higher level? If educators are left to training themselves (as we often are) – what is the likelihood of widespread adoption of PLEs?

      • Leonora says:

        You raise a very crucial question Gillian. In my opinion, the responsibility for acquiring the skills to use these tools lies with both the individual educators (as part of our professional development) and with the administration of educational institutions (to invest in supporting the educators to develop the skills needed to effectively utilize PLE-s). One of the assignments in ETEC 520 was focused on institutional planning and part of the assignment involved reviewing academic plans of educational institutions. I was really shocked to see that although the institutions had ambitious plans about incorporating technology in teaching and learning, a few of them that I reviewed, dedicated two to three lines to their plans about helping faculty to develop the skills needed to address those changes. Many of the discussions we have had during our MET courses have raised concerns about the lack of support for skill development of faculty. It seems that in many cases, educational administrators focus on investing on infrastructure but not necessarily on skill development.

      • Denise says:

        I agree with Leonora, that the responsibility should lie with both.And if an instituion is planning new technologies then they must have a solid change management and training plan.
        Part of the problem I suspect is that the institution integration is being co-ordinated by technologists with little input from users and educators. There is also the issue of the deep “chasm” between early adopters and the early majority and late majority (ie faculty) that Moore describes in the Technology Adoption model. The majority don’t want change/revolution/disruption; AND often the early adopers don’t know how to sell to the majority. Hence the importance of a focused change management plan that includes users and educators who can then “translate” the technology and demonstrate how it can be used and how it improves on the current system. I think this needs to happen before training (or at least as part of training).

        Moore, G. A. (2002) Crossing the chasm

      • blog admin says:

        Lenora and Denise,
        Thank you for your response to my additional question.
        You both make a good point that the responsibility should fall on both yet it seems to fall more squarely on the shoulders of the educator – or at least that seems to be my experience.
        Lenora, your research certainly doesn’t surprise me. You have to wonder how, at the
        policy level, decision makers actually expect implementation to occur without training. (I suppose ‘magic’? or the ‘field of dreams philosophy’ – if you build it …) It certainaly does need to be a two-pronged approach.
        Denise, thank you for sharing that article – I have read similar pov’s in my time in the
        MET, but am interested to take a look at the one you cited as well.

  8. Dennis says:

    What does the increased number of PLEs mean for the educator?

    The firs thing I thought of was more work. Not only do I have to coordinate the activities with the curriculum but need to know a number of different tools that will help deliver content. On the other hand, I love to learn this way. I like to choose my learning media and soak in many different topics delivered in many different ways. I am on Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading the newspapers (online and print) constantly looking for the newest and most educational (and entertaining) events. I am a lifelong learner.

    How will these changes affect the educator, the learner, and the learning environment?

    If we can use 21 century tools to create a diverse and unique learning environment for each learner that is fantastic. They have to take responsibility for their learning, as mentioned in earlier posts. Motivation is key! If the spark is there, even beginning with entertainment, the fire from within can burn and we will have another generation of adaptable learners. The learning environment will not be contained to the walls of the school, as it has been in the past but will move wherever we go. Teachers are increasingly taking their work home with them with access to email, files, and online content, sometimes creating a work-home conflict (Brummelhus and Bakker, 2012). Learning is beginning to do the same, but in an attempt to not create conflict, but work-home enrichment ((Brummelhus and Bakker, 2012) where students are learning at home and then taking what they learn to the classroom to share with teachers and classmates. This flipped classroom is successful because of mobile personal learning environments. I see it as another step in the right direction for education.


    Brummelhuis, L.L. & Bakker, A.B. (2012). A resource in perspective on the work-home interface: The work-home resource model. American Psychologist.

    • chris aitken says:

      Hi Dennis. I think you touched on something that we haven’t really discussed much yet – more work for teachers. How will overworked teachers respond to the idea that they should facilitate PLE creation in the classroom. Will some believe it is off course or a waste of time? What will the level of resistance be?

      • Dennis says:


        From my experience as a lead technology teacher you will see a broad range of PLE use in any school or work setting. We have some teachers that do not use a SmartBoard as they don’t see how it helps students interact with technology or are not comfortable using the boards themselves. We can offer training, assist in implementation and even mandate technology use but it has to come from within the teacher. On the other hand we have teachers on the verge of retirement who are pushing for iPad use in their classes and actively seek out technological solution to some of their classroom problems. I don’t think most teachers shy away from work if it pays off for the students.


  9. I believe that the increased number in PLEs is one of the debatable points that we educators witness in our work. What supports this debate is the fact that our opinions are based on a great level of relativity. One of the negative (or maybe it is positive) thing that can be resulted here is the overload educators can face. Nobody wants to get lost when his or her students bring something the teacher hasn’t heard of. But some other people will look at this point as positive because educators will not be “stale” in the method they follow and updating their information about what is going on around them is a “must” to hold such important position in education. I think one good solution here is to assign certain PLEs that can be followed by the students. And this is not to limit the learners but to avoid unnecessary chaotic and “overwhelming” results of using too many PLEs. We all know that the software companies are introducing such useful educational software on a weekly basis. It is not logical that we use them all. Don’t you agree with me?

    • blog admin says:

      Your point is well taken. The sheer number of different tools out there can certainly be overwhelming or have the potential for “overload” as you mention. Structuring PLEs is possible by having the instructor select tools to be used and to scaffold students in how to use them effectively. However, I do think it is important for an instructor to keep an open mind and allow students to substitute tools if they create the same or better outcome for the learner. It is not necessarily the tool(s) that should be the focus of implementing PLEs, but more so the process of the learning and discovering how they learn best and which tools enable them to do so.

  10. Tim says:

    I can see both positive and negative benefits from the increased number of PLEs. It seems to me that the purpose for PLEs is to have the students organize their online learning sources. This organization will always benefit the learning process. An increase in diversity of PLEs means more students can find something that matches their personal style, thus increasing the motivation to engage in learning. At the same time, it is likely the teacher’s role to guide students through the PLE setup and use. This means the teacher will have to understand all the possible PLE tools or be able to trouble shoot quickly on the fly. This may also create problems from one class to another as different teachers are going to have different preferences and requirements. It would be best if students took ownership of PLE development and used organizing tools such as Symbaloo that are shareable with the educator. Overall, I think the increased variety of tools can only benefit the learning environment as it gives students choice to use preferred tools. This personal aspect significantly increases personal engagement and motivation.

  11. Kenton says:

    The increased amount of information on the internet can be troubling for some students and teachers to sort through. Streaming this information from sources is a great way for educators and students to quickly find relevant information and keep up to date on new developments. However, one issue is that one cannot limit their PLE to only a few sources. It has been mentioned often that PLE’s must continue to grow to help an individual continue to learn and enhance their chances of being a true life long learner. Also, there exists a chance that some of the sources that are drawn upon may become dated and not relevant. It must be kept in mind that the information gained through a PLE must still be critically analyzed to ensure that it is effective and appropriate to the person.

  12. David McInnes says:

    PLEs may not be a new concept, as we have talked about multiple intelligences, etc. for some time now, but the current technology makes supporting PLEs much more efficient. Good educators have already evolved from didactic practices to more of a mentorship role, but it hasn’t been until more recent technological advances that have made this transition easier and have made both the learner and the educator more accountable for the learning that is taking place.

    As an educator, one needs to be open to the concept of no longer being in possession of the knowledge, and willing to be open to students learning in fashions that they are unfamiliar with, and possibly not comfortable teaching or evaluating. There is a power-shift, but there is also a shift in accountability of learning from the teacher to the student. Educators need to stay current on emerging technological tools and need to be open minded in regards to how the student learns, and how that learning is demonstrated back to the teacher.

    As a learner, it is no longer acceptable to blame a lack of learning on “a bad teacher” or that the teacher didn’t teach to their style of learning. By using some of the tools available to demonstrate one’s learning by generating an OER the learner is required to take some initiative, demonstrate enthusiasm, take ownership of their learning, and develop an archivable body of evidence that the learning took place.

  13. Ping says:

    I like the trend of PLE which is apparently a right way leading to our future “learner-centered education”. One thing interests me is to think “What will be the proper business model for PLE?” When the learner has the choice to determine his learning resources, he will not only choose the tools, but also choose the content and the people to assist his learning. The 23 roles of teacher identified by Stephen Downes are not necessary (if not impossible) to be a single person. These people and their created resources may not be in the educational system. How can they get benefit from their contribution to the PLE-based learning? As we know the present educational resources (including teachers) are paid by our governments. In an era of PLE, will our governments lose their targets to pay the educational expense? Or will they pay for whatever the learners choose in their PLEs? What’s about if the learner wants to use a non-free application, or what if the learner needs to consult a professional people not paid by his school / state / country? Will the popular digital resource suppliers get public investment to develop free versions of their products for PLE learning? I think PLE is only a part of a complicated ecosystem, which should have a positive value chain to support its long-term prosperity.

    Another question I’m interest to discuss with you is “What’s the difference between PLE and DLE (Digital Learning Ecosystems)?” I notice that these two concepts appeared in our ETEC 522 Emerging Markets Poll. They seem to me similar in some degrees as they are all aimed to center around learners. I will appreciate if someone can help me to identify the relationship between these two emerging markets. Thank you!


    • chris aitken says:

      Hi Ping. Unfortunately I can’t offer you a definitive answer to your PLE/DLE question – but I can offer some conjecture! It seems to me that a learning ecology would be a much broader architecture of web tools such as wikis, networks, blogs, collaborative writing spaces, and RSS used to support the learning for an entire class or perhaps school. A PLE may also utilize those tools but are for the use of an individual learner. Can anyone else offer some more clarity on the term Digital Learning Ecology?

  14. Denise says:

    I have enjoyed reading all your comments. I think Gillian’s point earlier, and what has been demonstrated by everyone who has posted their own PLE, is that everyone does have an existing PLE. So while the multitude of PLEs could be overwhelming for an educator, in a digital world I suspect that they are a reality already. So we need to tap into that reality as educators and make our learners more aware consciously of how they organise their learning (like team week 8 has for us). The aggregrator tools we have explored show ways to better organise our PLE and therefore our learning. They integrate informal and formal learning, and also the personal and professional parts of our life, and they help us manage the ever expanding learning opportunities and networks. To try and limit them is a bit like King Canute trying to stop the tide?!

    I have found the focus on K-12 interesting, but have been wondering about PLE in higher education and vocational training as this is where I am working. I have been considering whether our organisation should just have totally independent PLEs versus institutionally constrained PLEs (really probably LMSs or VLEs as they can’t be personal!). If PLEs are a reality for everyone (whether organised or disorganised), then I think the educator in the learning environment (and our organisation) needs to spend time supporting learners to become aware and better develop their own PLEs (as in the above paragraph). I think it has demonstrated that it isn’t a ‘versus’ ie an ‘either or’, but an integration. I came across a really interesting web article that I think describes this well with good venn diagrams
    Wheeler S. (2010) Anatomy of a PLE

    So thank you Team week 8 for modelling a learning environment for ‘teaching’ PLE!

    • blog admin says:

      thank you for your response. I agree with you that limiting a learner’s PLE is somewhat contradictory to the concept itself. A PLE should grow with the learner’s needs and be portable from learning experience to learning experience (both formal and informal). I don’t necessarily think that an educator need to be an expert in all tools that a student uses in their learning process – as it is the learner’s process, not the teachers. For example, should it matter if a student uses a paper thesaurus or thesaurus.com to find a synonymn for a word in their essay?
      As for your questions about tertiary level – I think that PLE tools can certainly
      complement LMSs – as you say it should be an integration – not an “either/or” situation.

  15. S. Harris says:

    I too believe that the increased number of PLEs will create a more diverse and effective learning environment. Educators and learners see the PLE as a personal landscape of tools and services that they can dive into with both feet to be creative, collaborative, organized and to take charge of their learning environment.
    More recently web 2.0 technologies have appeared and these have afforded shifts in our constructs of learning spaces such as personal learning environment. For teachers and learners who embrace the paradigm shift from the traditional approach of learning, see that it enables them to “pull” from multiple feeds, whether web dialogues or course feeds, to content and dialogues that they see as useful to follow and contribute to their own learning.
    I like the PLE approach, it a constructivist way of doing things and more importantly it is student-centered!
    As for students and educators who are quite new to this type of learning, do need to take it one step at a time so as not to get confused and lost leading them to be discouraged about the personal learning environment!

    • blog admin says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.
      I am also drawn to the constructivist approach to PLEs. I think having learners build and grow their PLEs is one very effective way to get them to understand and reflect on their learning process and begin to share and construct knowledge with others.

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