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Synthesizing NYSCATE #1 – Personal Learning Environments

nyscate2007.jpgThere was no specific session on the topic of personal learning environments (PLEs), but the concept came up many times throughout the conference as what we need to do to move forward with the new, connected, world of learning. Basically, a PLE is a learner-centered starting point, or gathering place, for an individual to create a customized space to manage his/her window to the world. See the Wikipedia article for a good overview.

A PLE make take the form of a blog, a wiki, or a customizable start page such as iGoogle or NetVibes. Obviously it is an online presence, and includes the ability to aggregate RSS feeds and link to multiple content sources. There are larger PLE environments created in the last seven years or so. One example referenced through more than one source in the Wikipedia article is Elgg.

Why did PLEs come up regularly at NYSCATE? Simple – web 2.0 tools put learning at our fingertips. We need a place to manage all this information in a way that is simple, meaningful and powerful. Attendees of NYSCATE are tech-oriented, and as such are much more likely to do some sort of PLE. For me, its a combination of iGoolge as a start page, this blog for writing, Bloglines for aggregating, and del.icio.us for bookmarking. Google can handle just about all of those jobs if I want it to – that’s something I’m pondering now (but a separate post is coming soon about that…).

More importantly, if we want to push our schools forward, both teachers and students need to learn about and use PLEs, so they can take advantage of the world of learning available to them. This is the first step, and why it has synthesized as a major take-away for me. In our district we are going to be meeting soon to reflect on the conference and share where to go next (we’re going to use a Google presentation file to collaborate on our thoughts), and I’m going to suggest PLEs as a key idea.