Photo by Huasonic
I’ve been thinking about the PLE (Personalised Learning Environment) project, and Scott Wilson’s recent presentation Architecture of virtual spaces and the future of VLEs

The PLE project recognises the fundamental flaws in Virtual Learning Environments or Learning Management Systems (VLE, LMS), but falls short in its vision of an alternative. At this stage in the project it is suggesting that the PLE be a desktop application for a student (sounds a bit like my old Perfect LMS idea) or a singular portal online.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll have to repeat my defining question about Internet enhanced learning, but this time in response to the PLE.

Question to the PLE: Why do we need a PLE when we already have the Internet? The Internet is my PLE, ePortfolio, VLE what ever. Thanks to blogger, bloglines, flickr, delicious, wikispaces, ourmedia, creative commons, and what ever comes next in this new Internet age, I have a strong online ID and very extensive and personalised learning environment. Actually I think the PLE idea is better envisioned by the futurist concept known as the Evolving Personalised Information Construct (EPIC). I think we already have EPIC, so why do we need the PLE?

To extend the statement: We insignificant little teachers and our out of date schools and classrooms don’t need to be investing in media projects like VLEs, LMS and even PLEs. Our dam walls of knowledge have burst! and no amount of sand bagging will stop the flood that is clearly discrediting our authority over learning. Media, and with it communications, will evolve (as it certainly has in the last 50 years or more) well beyond the limitations of our classrooms, with investments and broadcast influence we can’t even fathom. Why waste our precious money and time on projects that only serve to suspend our true position within that media scape. The PLE makes me think of ELGG, and it all makes me wonder why it is we educationalists still think we are even relevant anymore. The people (yes that includes us) are learning how to read and write for themselves, and in an amazing act of collective generosity, the people are teaching each other – why do they even need our classrooms… is it perhaps only credentialism that we offer? Or is it also sense of security and safety? Is it false?

Photo by Charybdis
What is it I am missing here that everyone else seems to be getting. Why do we need a PLE? Why are ePortfolios so popular? Why are LMS still not dead? Why are teachers so afraid?

Scott Wilson is more cautious than I am. His presentation attempts to bridge this gap between the supposed radical position I take and the reluctant position of institionalised edcuation. He suggests that it is fear that drives current educational decision making in regards to the Internet. He takes time to explain the division between open and closed systems, but tries to balance between the two camps. And in the end he promotes the PLE with a gentle preference for open systems.

So while I whole heartedly agree with the PLE and Scott’s reasoning for rejecting the LMS/VLE, I can’t say I’m with them on their alternative. In my view, the VLE, LMS and PLE are the same. A suggestion that the Internet, and informal networked learning are not enough. That people still need to come to school to learn. That people need to distinguish learning from life, that people need to download and install an application that will solve their learning needs.

Photo by StefZ
My thinking is that we need to build media literacy in our institutions, and not prevent it by building replicas. If it is fare to say that the open Internet has liberated information, and to a large extent knowledge, and that media is all pervasive, then we need people working within education who are media and network literate. Such people understand what is meant by liberated information and knowledge, and should be able to comprehend the new relationships between teaching and learning. I would rather see more projects invested in firstly recognising this literacy need (honestly and openly), and then addressing it out in the real world Internet, not with replicas, desktop classrooms, or virtualised portals.

Perhaps teachers are not the best people to be teaching anymore!

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