I was invited to talk in a very interesting conversation for the emerge folks last week and, while the reportage of said conversation was not exactly to my liking it did help me get my mind around how I feel about PLEs.
The discussion was about where the future of the VLE lies. A VLE (virtual learning environment) is usually a school sponsored tool that allows for administrative organization and coordinated course delivery. Our current course, Intro to emerging tech is being partially taught inside of a VLE (moodle) and we are taking advantage of the fact that we can monitor people’s logins… that it’s possible to have threaded discussion forums and that the user interface is very easy to organize. These are good things. The part where things get complicated is where we start to talk about power and where we start to talk about ‘Personal learning environments’.
Below is an excerpt of my written response to a blog post about an elluminate debate i was in isn’t technology beautiful. Some important things to note here regarding that. In last week’s conversations about identity I suggested that we need to be careful that we don’t say things ‘on the record’ or ‘on the internet’ that are easily misinterpreted. One of the other important issues relates to digital identity. It can be very important to monitor what people claim you have said, and to address those issues in a professional manner. Our online identity is all most people will ever know about us, and while there are some people that ‘aren’t worth the trouble’, who cause confusion for the sake of it, this was a comment by a professional that I respect in a Community of Practice that I belong to so I felt the need to address his post in the comments of his blog.
“There is a sense in which the VLE debate does bridge into a larger discussion about the validity of top down knowledge distribution from the knowledge depot… a model that started to lose its validity 10 years ago and is now working its way to the margins. We are in a post-knowledge-scarcity society and the VLE as it is currently conceived is still designed for transimitting knowledge scarcity. It presumes that the ‘value’ is in the knowledge itself, in the content provided by the university ,and that the contribution of the students is transitory and disposable. This is the old model, the model, ACTUAL student centredness not the ‘students get to talk’ model we’ve been sold for years, involves the student s creating their own knowledge in their own space… a PLE or Eportfolio or whatever you want to call it is created as a manner of course. It is the natural result of learning.”
This idea of life long learning being connected to the platform is one that I continue to feel stronger about the more that I work on these topics. If people are continuously working in a walled garden like moodle, they are going to have to make separate copies of the work if they consider it worth keeping. They are not, for instance, using that work to build a network that will last beyond the point of the course. They are also not building a body of work that they can refer to.
Why, you might ask, are we doing this course in a closed fashion? Well, I also happen to think that forcing people to work in the open without a clear sense of the implication of that action is also unfair. If people choose to blog and refer us to that work by using the course tag, and, maybe, referring to it in the blog posts… then that’s great. If they choose, for any number of reasons, that they prefer to keep all their work to themselves, that is also their choice. I don’t think its a good choice, i think that work shared is more valuable and more likely to come back to you better than when you started… I think that the best knowledge is created in an interaction… a ‘public PLE’ but that is not for me to decide for someone else.
So, I guess, for me my PLE is my community. I work in public at edtechtalk (which gathers my links and the audio that I work on), I work on the blog where i record some of the stuff that I’m doing. I work on a variety of projects, where I hope I can contribute to other knowledge creation events. (we are media comes to mind as well as the openhabitat project). But even with these projects, I post my thoughts here on my blog and then find a way to aggregate them to where they need to be… much like I’m doing now with this post to my students.