Does the PLE make sense in the connectivist context?

So I posted a little tweet tonight that got a few raised eyebrows from my esteemed colleagues. I sent it out because i’d been thinking it for a while… I’m preparing for a “where we are two years later” paper on my rhizomy stuff (not for any journal in particular, just think its time to write one, and i feel the need to pull strands together) and am trying to think a little deeper about how i feel about knowledge and learning.

This is definitely first draft thinking. I’m more than willing to have someone explain to me what i’m missing… (I’ll accept whole hearted agreement as well) Lets start with a couple of quotes from George’s 2005 paper. These are both ‘first sentence’ quotes from summary sections of the paper.

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity.

My problem with the combination of the PLE and connectivism is that they seem to come from two different epistemic background. I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing (to someone like me) but most people I’ve met like to live by one theory of knowledge at a time. Leaving aside the unrelenting desire to acronymize everything that has led us to the term PLE and its historicity as an opposite, learner empowered version of the VLE (virtual learning environment), it is also the current candidate as the child of the enlightenment. It is the location where the one, the individual (personal) stands their ground for learning, where they store ‘their knowledge’ where they represent their learning. We often hear of people talking about PLE’s as portfolios, this is the sense in which i mean it.

The PLN and the PLE, at any one time, are instantaneous reifications of the set of (as yet, unknown) rules which govern the complex interactions between resources, individuals and their own knowledge. Pat Parslow

The key bit here (of an excellent post) is the part about knowledge ownership. The PLE (and the PLN) are a reification (interesting choice of words here as it, to me, means that it becomes a thing, something potentially real, a far stronger term say, then snapshot) and govern the interactions between a person’s different stuffs. It is MY place to keep MY things. To represent, further, how I am connected to the world and where i sit on the knowledge spectrum.

There is a distinct difference, I’m thinking, between this view of knowledge as something that can be possessed and something like connectivism where “Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements” and “learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity”.There is a desire, it seems, to return to what “I” have and what “I” know pulling things out of their connective space. It makes sense to make the attempt, certainly. The vast majority of what we call education is premised on the idea of knowledge being something that can be owned, that you can give and receive. What, I wonder, does knowledge co-created look like when it is taken back and possessed by an individual? This seems like a critical context shift that removes knowledge (and learning) from its connective state and returns it to something countable.(as opposed to knowledge and the learning thereof being non-counting nouns)

I’ve since received a few more definitions of PLE from the twittersphere (doubt, now, that this is first draft thinking?)

Share what you discover as “best”-I’ve never come up with a general def short enough to be of use; I define by processes @fncll

The essence of our characterisation of the PLE highlights its change in the locus of control of technology from institution to learner. ( via @scottbw)

In the former case, Chris seems (i’ve got a tweet which he claims doesn’t probably cover it, so i’m winging it) that it is the place from which he shares the best of what he thinks and comes across. And he does this very well. By this argument my blog would be my PLE, and if we’re using this as a definition, then i don’t really have much of a problem. But this is only talking about a publication medium. A means by which we are communicating. It is not the communication itself.

The second quote from the JISC/Cetis study is a more profound claim, I think. It’s about control and power. In it we see the student controlled classroom where they get to decide how they handle knowledge and learning… Student centred learning… there are certainly reasons to like that… but it’s not connectivism. Connectivism is networked learning, a student is not ‘controlling’ anything really, unless its the networks that they try to blend in with.

Things I understand i’ve glossed over
I understand that a cleaner treatment of the separation of knowledge and learning is necessary here. I’m not sure how I want to do it yet (that’ll be in the paper) pick the way that sounds best.
It’s PLE as “thing we should pay for and get designed and write scads about” that referring to… not the kind that is a major broadcast platform for an individual.

So what am I saying?
I’m saying that in a connectivist model, as i understand it, the learning (and i would argue knowledge) lives in the network, it lives in the connections that are part of each thought and idea. In the print world, we have an amazing maze of interconnections in references and works cited pages that go back (in some way or other) thousands of years, one cannot speak of ‘knowledge’ as being separate from that historicity nor of ‘learning’ any part of it without it being part of the whole. One of the prime affordances we have at our fingertips with the web is the ability to create these connections very quickly, and very complexly, we can also see far larger chunks of the network at any one time.

The Personal Learning Environment may simply be a misnomer. If it is, as (i think)Chris suggests, a fancy way of talking about a medium of publication, then it is more like a “Snapshot of my personal thinking platform” (SOMPTP) if it is, however, as Pat suggests, a place where my personal knowledge lives or, say, a place where my personal learning happens, then I’m thinking that it might disagree with the ‘non-individualistic’ nature of connectivism.

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