What is the importance of a PLE (Personal Learning Environment) and a PLN (Personal Learning Network)?

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Why should you develop your Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and your Personal Learning Network (PLN).
These terms are sometimes used interchangeably and, although linked, they do have different meanings. The definitions themselves are still under discussion but a good rule of thumb is to think of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as where and how your learning happens.

Your PLE (Personal Learning Environment)

PLEs are about using Web 2.0 tools to enable you to participate in learning beyond your own organisation or institution. This edtechpost provides a number of excellent examples. Your PLE enables you to 'take charge of your own learning'. Some people go so far as to suggest that PLEs are an alternative to Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Moodle - and that they could replace these systems. This tutorial by Alan J.Cann gives an interesting presentation on the topic (and if you have time to work through the rest of the tutorial will also help you to review and revise some of the topics we have touched on in this course).

Your PLN (Personal Learning Network)

Your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is who you are connecting with - who you look to for help and inspiration, which communities help you to find the information you need, share ideas and support each other.

The key point is that the tools are not the network. The tools you use - whether they are wikis, blogs, nings, twitter or any other Web 2.0 tools - are what enable you to connect to global conversations. The key literacy here, as Will Richardson explains in the video that follows, is how you engage with your learning network. How, he asks, can you flourish and find the people who produce the content that you are interested in? How do we share and learn together safely and ethically? These are questions that will face those we educate - and questions that we need to address first in our own learning.

Your connections

You have probably already started to develop your PLE. If you have identified a set of learning goals, if you have explored some Web 2.0 tools, if you have examined your support network and joined a community of practice, then you have developed a personal learning environment. By joining other online communities of practice, your PLE is taken to another level where you start to connect and interact with others.

Developing, and using, a personal learning network is a long-term process. Take a look at this blog article and identify where you think you might be now in his five stages of a PLN as described by Jeff Utecht:

Immersion, Evaluation, Know it All, Perspective and Balance.

The process of building a PLN

Thinking of your PLN as a process that will take some time to mature may help take off the pressure we can feel to have everything in place. PLNs are about developing and sharing, so your own PLN will take time to emerge. This slideshare presentation is an interesting way of thinking about the process - starting with your PLE and gradually acquiring competence. Malinka Ivanova distinguishes between personal and professional learning, but this is a distinction that need not concern us here. Again it is the concept of development over time that is important.


From Personal Learning Environment Building to Professional Learning Network Forming from Malinka Ivanova

Personal Learning Networks: require a change in attitude

A PLN is a dynamic and continually evolving 'practice' of highly connected people. To be a highly connected person requires a 'change in attitude'. A change in the way you view the time spent in connections with people online requires that 'change in attitude'. You can thrive on a broad based network where the exchange of ideas, practices, plans and pedagogy draws you in to your own personal learning network on a daily basis. The number of people with whom you connect on a regular basis in this way will grow and ebb as your needs dictate, the web 2.0 tools enable you to make those connections effectively.
If you are just beginning to develop your PLN or even if you have an established PLN, take the time to take a look at some of the comments from our 'thought leaders' and have a go at completing the three activities below.

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

One of our most respected thought leaders on the web is Stephen Downes, he maintains a very active blog at: http://www.downes.ca It is in one of his blog articles from 2008 we will find his thoughts on the '7 Habits of Highly Connected People'

Circles of Influence

Several other thought leaders have written about the impact of your circles of influence on your personal learning network. First take a look at what Mary R. Bast has to say about Circles of Concern, Circles of Influence. Then go to the source of this concept, Steven Covey, and read the article Circles of Influence adapted from his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.external image 21teacher4.jpg

Keeping track of your digital footprint

A useful strategy to help your personal learning network to come together in one place is to develop a start page or aggregator (storage). This post tells you a little more about the reasons why you might want to use a start page ie. - a page you can use for all of your frequently used links, feeds, tasks - an aggregator.**Livebinders**
**Symbaloo**
**Diigo**
**Delicious**
**Google reader**
**Netvibes**
Twitter

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