Saturday, 14 July 2012

My Personal Learning Environment

Have you ever taken time out to reflect on which tools and devices have become part of your own personal learning environment (PLE)?

We've been asked to do just that on the H800 module, which is part of the Masters in Online and Distance Education, offered by the Open University (OU) in the UK, that I am presently undertaking. I've enjoyed doing this activity as it is quite amazing to see a visual representation  illustrating which digital tools and devices I am using  on a regular basis to communicate, collaborate, create material and do my own educational research.  A PLE is all about taking responsibility for your own learning, which decentralizes the learning approach.

My personal learning environment to date: tools and devices

During the duration of this activity, I found myself reflecting on how many of these tasks I am using my mobile devices for, as opposed to working from my Mac and although it is not apparent from the above image, I came to the conclusion that social networking is done mainly from my mobile devices whereas the bulk of production, or creation of resources is done from my Mac. I put this down to the fact that the larger screen is much more comfortable to work with for bigger projects and not necessarily problems with functionality or connectivity. I've also included a category called 'other', as these are tools that I use on a less regular basis and wanted to concentrate mainly on the core tools and devices that I use regularly. There are of course other tools that I haven't listed at all as I only use them occasionally. Having said that and after having read a few other students' blogs,  I do agree that a PLE is something that is continually evolving. It is by no means static and it is as the name suggests: something personal. It's what suits you at any given time.

It is not only the rapid improvements and new developments in Web 2.0 tools that contribute to this changing process within my own PLE, but also my reasons for using information and communication technologies ( ICTs). I'm sure there will always be core ICTs that overlap with fellow students choices and there will be other ICTs that come and go according to my needs and preferences. Only this week,  a fellow student and I experimented with Google Hangout. We played with Google docs, the screenshare function, YouTube videos, browsed through the list of additional apps and how to invite others in etc. I can see myself using this tool in the foreseeable future, especially if I have language students who are already using this and feel comfortable with it. Why make them download Skype or some other software when  Google Hangout functions just as well? What makes Google Hangout particularly interesting is the number of apps that can be added to a sesson for collaborative work which is particularly important in the field of language learning. 

We use a virtual learning environment (VLE) within the OU and have been asked to give our opinion concerning arguments pertaining to the debates surrounding PLEs and VLEs. I am in favour of a future in education as perceived by Martin Weller, who  suggests that the use of a VLE, which is viewed as a centralized model due to the amount of control retained by an institution, will  fall into the background, retaining some of the vital core elements, but at the same time enabling the integration of Web 2.0 tools: tools which as stated above are continually being improved and developed; diverse in their range and an essential part of learners' PLEs. 

This is something that I appreciate with the OU. We use a VLE with a choice of collaborative tools and we are additionally given the option to choose our own personal tools for particular activities e.g. we can use the OU blogging tool or choose another platform; we can make use of Elluminate ( web-conferencing tool) or take the initiative and use Skype etc. 

So the door is already slightly ajar. We have some freedom of choice to move between the OU VLE and a choice of tools from our own PLEs. In my opinion it's a move in the right direction.

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