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PLEs – I Acronym, Therefore I Exist.

Alan Levine on personal learning environments: “But in researching it, beyond papers, presentations, and digrams, I could not really find something I could say, “This is a PLE” — not discounting successful deployments of learning environments using a network of blogs +/- wikis, but is every instance of using a suite of web tools a PLE? In that case, my definition of a PLE is the Internet. And what does that get us?”
PLEs aren’t an entity, structural object or software program in the sense of a learning management system. Essentially, they are a collection of tools, brought together under the conceptual notion of openness, interoperability, and learner control. As such, they are comprised of two elements – the tools and the conceptual notions that drive how and why we select individual parts. PLEs are a concept-entity. Problem is, however, that we are discussing PLEs as if they were solely an entity – so we compare PLEs with an LMS and other entity-based learning tools…but if PLEs exist at all, they are very personalized and individual (hey, maybe that’s why they are called personal learning environments!). My PLE may consist of an entirely different combination and set of tools than a colleague’s. The complexity is raised when we consider the environment aspect of the definition. Theoretically, that means, as we move forward with technology adoption, the ongoing use of technology and information in devices – such as a Blackberry or RFID tags – comprise the overall notion of a PLE (i.e. there is room for growth in our definition of PLEs). Personally, I prefer the notion of an ecology that demonstrates that it’s not just us imposing order on the world around, but the ecology itself influences what is able and what we actually do.


  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been searching for a while now to get such an (and I hate this term, but it ‘fits’) organic description of PLEs, and how they fit into the current ideas behind the integration of technology and pedagogy. I’ll continue to search, but look forward to following your work.


    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Dennis McKoy wrote:

    This definition of PLE is the best and most conprehensive I have read so far. Good job!

    Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink