As I looked through the extremely large list of “PLE Diagrams” at edtechpost, I saw a pattern emerge: nearly all of the PLE (personal learning environment) diagrams used a wide variety of tools but with little explanation of what interaction the PLN (personal learning network) had with the tools themselves. There were a few, though, that connected the dots, so to speak, like Martin Weller, Jeremy Hiebert, and Michelle Martin.
This makes sense to me because the PLE and PLN are intertwined: I cannot have a PLE without a PLN because my PLN must take place in some environment (whether real or virtual or both). It is the action that is the motivating force but facilitated by the tools that create this dynamic symbiotic relationship.
To break them apart is fine, in theory, for study but it is with the assumption that there is a reason or an action for using that piece of the PLE.
Which brings me to my next point: what exactly is a PLE and PLN? I have typically defined them as a:
- PLN is the connections formed between people and the knowledge either generated or discovered through those connections
- PLE is the environment or tools in which the PLN operates
A rather simplified version of the definitions and if you want to delve a bit more deeply into what they mean, please feel free to visit or read the following:
- EDUCAUSE: 7 Things you should know about PLE’s (.pdf)
- Learning Networks in Practice (.pdf)
- Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems (.pdf)
- Developing Personal Learning Networks for Open and Social Learning (.pdf)
- Scott Leslie’s Mother of All PLE Diagram Compilation
- The Design and Development of a Personal Learning Environment
- Five points about PLEs and PLNs – Dave Cormier (Blog post)
- Stephen Downes: Personal Learning Environments (Video)
I find it interesting, then, that Alec Couros included both elements of a PLE and PLN in the “Networked Teacher” diagram (Couros, 2010).
Therefore, it isn’t that the PLE and PLN live apart but are part of one dynamic whole that is constantly evolving and changing as we ourselves change, learn, and grow. If that’s true, what do we call this new way of thinking of our networked lives? Is it a PLEN (personal learning networked environment)?
What are your thoughts?
Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp.109-128). Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press, Athabasca University.