Are PLEs still relevant?

From his brand new home on the web, Martin Weller asks Why don’t we talk about PLEs anymore? and then provides a handful of reasons. He is mostly right if one accepts his idea of the concept which, in my opinion, is  an oversimplified view of what a PLE is, focusing on the tools only. Although some people have taken that perspective, many others who developed the concept offer a much more complex understanding, including besides the tools also the resources you interact with/explore and the people you connect to – this would be the PLN . (personal learning network) part of your PLE. Furthermore, it has also been construed not as a set of tools a user prefers, but more as a personal approach (a “life style”, if you will) to your online actions and interactions (with people and resources) from which you learn (informally, non-formally and formally).

PLE anatomy
Steve Wheeler (click on image to see original post)

In that sense,the concept of PLE embodies the very essence of (yes, I am going to say it) web 2.0 – user control, ownership, users as producers as well as consumers (prosumers), personal choice, decentralization and rhizomatic nature, participatory culture, etc. At a pedagogical level, it means learner-centeredness, learner control, autonomy and independence, create more than reproduce, curate more than memorize, reflect and practice more than process and apply. It is related to visions of a free, user oriented web, and of meaningful and relevant learning experiences. It relates to what Stephen Downes has been saying for a long time, to Connectivism, to Jim Groom’s Domain of one’s own, to Project Reclaim, etc.
So, yes, the PLE concept has faded and now the talk is all about MOOCs – unfortunately, not the original idea, which, again, was very much tied to PLEs, but to its simplified reinterpretation by elite universities and subsequent followers (dump content on platforms for a mass of people). I bet that if someone in Silicon Valley comes forward and claims to have invented it (again), offering a simplified and monetizable version of the concept, it will become the next buzz word :-).

2 thoughts to “Are PLEs still relevant?”

  1. Hi Jose, thanks for posting a response. I wouldn’t disagree with what you say. The whole PLN approach might still be important, but I wondered why we didn’t use the term much anymore, and if that told us anything about ed tech currently. I hadn’t really made the MOOC connection. but you’re right they were very tied up with PLEs initially.

    1. Hi Martin,
      I think MOOCs have taken most of the discussion space in ed tech and the dominant perspective – content centered, formal-like, in a walled platform – makes PLEs irrelevant. If we were discussing MOOCs in a different way, much like they were intended to be – non-formal , decentralized, networked and community-based – I think we would be talking a lot about PLEs.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting :-).

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