Archive for March, 2011

Integrated PLEs?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The first time I read about PLEs and talked about them with Steve Wheeler, I was intrigued about the simplicity of PLEs. It’s so easy, take the tools you are already using and use them for learning. In order to improve, just mix and match. But why aren’t more people doing it? Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are using those tools, just not for learning.

Inspired by the #elearning2020 discussion of Steve, I started thinking of the future of PLEs. What happens in other domains and areas? How are people improving and changing their tools?

Steve Wheeler once said to me: “You can create a tool and maybe suggest what the user is doing with it. But you can’t control what the user is actually going to do with it”. People will always use the tools for what they need it for. But does that mean it is optimized for it? I don’t think so.

Potato printingEven if you can print with potatoes, which is quite popular within elementary school in Germany, the process of printing has been improved over time. People, that had to handle with the technique on a daily basis, thought about the process and tried to eliminate drawbacks while improving the advantages.

Couldn’t that happen to learning tools? Isn’t there potential to improve some angles of learning tools?

I mean there will definitely be some downsides, like the freedom of using whatever the heck you want. But in my opinion a combined “building-block-kind-of-system” could offer the upside of integration. The system could be able to “know” what you did in all these tools and help you to find connections. You could easily add people you know from Facebook within your blog, point out the connections you have with a fellow blogger on and so on. There would also be the chance of using computing power to personalize certain things for the current user, which is just not possible in a class room and which current tools don’t have the features for. Even suggestions, based on your behaviour or your learning history could be useful.

For the current generation it is easy to use what they already know but the digital natives and the upcoming generation will probably use different or at least modified tools anyway. Think about MySpace it was quite popular some years ago and is now languishing away as a special place for musicians to upload their music.

We just have the chance to contribute to this modification at an early stage and try to push it into the right direction. What is you opinion on integrated systems for learning? What does outweigh, upsides or downsides?