After week 2 of PLENK2010, we are still left with the question of whether or not the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the technology used or if it is encompassing of other aspects such as people, conversations, books, and other non-digital artifacts. Also, can it be a PLE if developed and provided by an organization for the use of the learner, even allowing flexibility within the design?

Dealing with the second question, such structure allows educational institutions or employers to have a degree of control. It would allow IT departments to specify what is allowed and what is not. However, this seems to fly in the face of something that is meant to be personal. A better term might be a ‘platform’ or a ‘portal,’ subject to many of the criticisms of the Learning Mangement System (LMS). It may be more fitting for a PLE if it is brought by, and under the control of, the learner.

Returning to the first question, a more encompassing approach to a PLE would include the platform and more. For example, when the learner wants to videoconfence and it is not permitted within the organization, the learner might turn to a mobile device which he or she provides and controls. Beyond technology, knowledge will be shared at the water cooler, at lunch, or in an office. The non-technological contacts might be described as the Personal Learning Network (PLN) within the PLE. At this point, I do not think the PLE exists solely as technology, and I believe the technology should be more open than closed.

This position does raise concerns, though, as an employer or institution has the right to control what occurs within its walls or on its behalf. However, absent an open and self-directed approach to learning, the label ‘PLE’ just does not seem appropriate.

Does this make sense?