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PLE Nominalism?…

Words are a pain. Especially when they obscure underlying concepts of value. Take Personal Learning Environments (PLE) or Networks as an example. When PLEs were first advocated by a group of edubloggers, the concept was largely in reaction to learning management systems (LMS). A concept, after all, is defined by the context in which it originates and how it is related to other terms. PLEs in this case, were a push against the structure and lack of learner control evident with an LMS. That has changed. Many people now have personal experience with blogs, podcasts, Facebook, wikis, etec. The concept of a PLE is less abstract; and as a result, more critical discourse occurs. Chris Lott expresses his frustration with the tools, concepts, and misunderstanding of PLEs (can we apply the notion of nominalism to PLEs?)

Tired of PLE Flak: “The majority of educators have no idea what resources are available to them and never leave their email client or their default MSN page. Thus, I have found it useful to sit people down and model for them the tools and techniques for networking. This often includes holding them by the hand while they sign up to follow and participate in particular groups and networks. Many people have absolutely no idea that their network can extend beyond their email box and their passive browsing.”

I’m not interested in the PLE: “All a PLE is, to my way of understanding, is a particular, personal selection of tools, contacts, and methods. Many of us are still at a stage in our evolution that we can learn much from knowing what tools others use, how they use them, and who they make contact with.”


  1. Chris L wrote:

    As much as I am baffled by the response of some peers, I am gratified to hear from students and instructors who understand where I am coming from. Clearly a lot of people are bringing a lot more background and connotation to the discussion than I intend. My query was (and is) meant to be much simpler– just a sharing of the people we connect with, the tools we use to connect to them, and the methods we have to facilitate the discussion and deal with the communication. I’m interested in the technical bits only insofar as it helps people have an idea of how to start… and I interpret the “personal” in the PLE not as limiting the concept to one thing or group of things, but as a nod to the fact that it is a personally constructed, idiosyncratic structure on top of “everything.”

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  2. Hi Chris – what I’ve found most useful for PLEs is (as I think you’ve suggested) that it gives newcomers a term or concept on which to hang ideas. While I am personally somewhat critical about what a PLE actually is – after all, as far as terms go, this one covers huge territory – it does serve to centre discussion. We held a PLE symposium at U of M last year…and it was useful for many of the attendees to have words to describe the distributed concept.

    Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  3. Hongyan wrote:

    It is the first time for me to hear and think about PLE (Personal Learning Environment). PLE is a very interesting topic. I would say, it is not only a tool that people choose to use, but also a place for people to “stay” together to learn, share, or keep contact with. In our classes, teachers love to use wiki for groups of students to use. It worked great. No matter people like it or not, it improves way of learning and teaching efficiently.

    Monday, March 10, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink