Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Personal Learning Environment Framework (PLEF)

In contrast to traditional LMS-driven e-learning solutions, a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) takes a more natural and learner-centric approach and is characterized by the freeform use of a set of lightweight services and tools that belong to and are controlled by individual learners. Rather than integrating different services into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a plethora of different services and hand over control to her to select, use, and mashup the services the way she deems fit. A PLE driven approach does not only provide personal spaces, which belong to and are controlled by the user, but also requires a social context by offering means to connect with other personal spaces for effective knowledge sharing and collaborative knowledge creation (Chatti et al., 2007).

The Personal Learning Environment Framework (PLEF) supports the learners in taking control over their learning experience by aggregating, managing, tagging, commenting, and sharing their favorite resources (e.g. feeds, widgets, and different media) within a personalized space. PLEF differs from popular personalized start pages such as iGoogle, My Yahoo, Netvibes, or Pageflakes mainly in six important points:

  1. PLEF uses OpenID for authentication.
  2. PLEF supports commenting and sharing of all PLE elements.
  3. Access control is defined at both PLE page and element levels.
  4. Besides a traditional page view, PLEF provides a tag view of all PLE elements. Learners can add tags in order to be able to classify, categorize, search and re-find their PLE elements at a later time.
  5. PLEF provides a navigation sidebar where you can (1) drag-and-drop to move PLE elements between pages or change the order of the pages, and (2) click a tag to see its associated elements.
  6. PLEF supports full-text and tag-based search of PLE elements.

You can see here an example of a PLEF page I created to follow the ongoing distributed discussion on connectivism and connective knowledge.

Technologies used for the development of PLEF include Google GWT and GWT-Ext that I would highly recommend for your AJAX applications.

Please feel free to visit the project homepage and test PLEF. This is a first step toward a personal learning environment framework which should meet the requirements discussed here. I would dearly love to hear your opinions on the ideas behind PLEF and in particular your suggestions to supplement this work. If you would like to contribute a short report of your experiences with PLEF, report bugs, support the development of this project, or take on the development yourself, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stephen Downes on Personal Learning Environments

Stephen Downes has given a great presentation on PLEs at Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning 2008 Conference, San Jose, California. Slides are available on Slideshare.

Personal Learning Environments
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cck08 downes)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Our paper "ALOA: A Web Services Driven Framework for Automatic Learning Object Annotation" has been published by Springer (.pdf, project homepage).


Generating learning object metadata is a complex task to be done manually. An automated approach is therefore required. This work presents the concepts and ideas behind the automatic generation of metadata. We propose a Web Services driven framework for IEEE LOM-compliant automatic learning object annotation called ALOA. The primary focus has been on the flexibility and extensibility of the framework, such that new metadata generation services can easily be plugged into the basic system.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PLEF Requirements

I’m currently working on a Personal Learning Environment Framework (PLEF) that needs to address the following attributes:

- Personalized: PLEF should provide the learner with ability to incorporate a myriad of tools and services; and ability to determine and use the tools and services the way she deems fit to create her own PLE, adapted to her own situation and needs. It is crucial to provide access to a wide range of tools and services that support different learning activities such as production, distribution, reflection, and discussion. It is also important to enable customized search across the collection of learning items in one’s own PLE as well as in peer PLEs. PLEF should also offer learner-defined access control mechanisms for each PLE item, as well as support for multi-views of the PLE, enabling the learner to filter the mass of available knowledge sources based on her needs, and switch between multiple learning contexts.

- Social: PLEF should support the building of interactive environments by offering means to connect with other personal spaces, such that learners can engage in knowledge sharing and collaborative knowledge creation. Social features such as social tagging, commenting, and sharing have to be supported.

- Extensible: PLEF should have a flexible architecture enabling learners to enrich their PLEs with a heterogeneous set of services. A learner should be able to easily integrate, aggregate, and mash-up different learning services (e.g. feeds, widgets, media, lightweight JSON/REST-based Web Services) based on her needs and interests.

- Open: PLEF should be based on open standards (e.g. RSS, OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial) to ensure interoperability and communication with other services. It should also provide a public API that can be used by third-party services.

- Ubiquitous: PLEF should provide means for flexible delivery and ubiquitous access to PLEs from multiple channels and wide variety of platforms and (mobile) devices.

- Filter: One concern with knowledge-pull approaches is information overload. Therefore, PLEF should provide powerful filters, that tap the wisdom of crowds (e.g. recommendations, ratings, rankings, reviews, votes, comments) to help learners find quality in the Long Tail.

- Easy to use: PLEF should provide rich experience with e.g. AJAX support. A learner should be able to copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop elements to personalize and manage her PLE with minimum effort.

What do you see are other critial requirements of a personal learning environment framework?

Monday, September 22, 2008


Last week, I attented the ECTEL conference in Maastricht, the Netherlands. I presented there our paper "ALOA: A Web Services Driven Framework for Automatic Learning Object Annotation" (slides are available on Slideshare, ALOA can be tested here) within a Firehose session. Here how it works, as described by the conference organizers:

The FireHose format aims to make sessions more interactive than standard paper sessions. There are 4 to 5 presentations in each FireHose session and the session last for 90 minutes. The presenters prepare a poster and/or a demo on their laptop and/or any kind of material that supports their presentations as well as a 5 minutes introductory talk that they give to the session chair just before the session with an USB stick. The session chair ask each presenter to give a 5 minutes talk with the beamer. It's really 5 minutes: the goals, the method and one example of result. Just enough for participants to decide if they want to know more. When the introductory round is finished, the presenters move to their poster/table and attendees join one of the presenters for a 15 minutes period for a longer presentation and small group discussions. After 15 minutes, the session chair shouts "ROTATE" and attendees move to another table in the room.

I'm not sure if this format has been applied elsewhere, but it was indeed an excellent idea. From my experience, it's much better that the normal presentation format where you talk for some time and then you just get a couple of questions from the audience. The FireHose format enables much more interaction and lively discussions with almost everyone in the audience.

I also attended the MUPPLE workshop which was indeed a very successful event, very well organized by my dear friends Fridolin Wild and Matthias Palmer. I met great people there working on PLE issues. Among others, I much enjoyed the talks by Tony Hirst who talked about flexible learning environments and used my PLE diagram as an example in his slides, Felix Mödritscher who introduced LISL as a new scripting language to define activities within a PLE, Hannes Ebner who talked about metadata management, Scott Wilson who talked about widget integration and Graham Attwell who talked about mashup PLEs. I know Scott and Graham from their blogs, and it was a great pleasure for me to finally meet them in person there. In case you're wondering whether Scott and Graham are as good as the image that you can build of them from the readings of their blogs and scientific publications, here's the answer: NO, they're better. I learned many things from them during the workshop. We had in the end a great discussion round about challenges and future directions in PLE research. I talked about PLEF; a conceptual framework that can support learners in taking control over their learning activities by creating and managing their own PLEs. Will write more about this framework in a later post.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Google Reader in Plain English

Friday, September 12, 2008

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Via An interesting video by Michael Wesch introducing YouTube.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Future of Work

A short video of William Pulleyblank from IBM sharing their views on what the future of work would be like.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Voice of the Learner: How Employees Learn in 2008

Via Michele Martin's great blog.

The results of a survey conducted by The MASIE Center on how employees currently learn...

Some Quotes:

“What I like most about how I am currently learning for work is…”

  • ‘Having a variety of delivery methods. Ten years ago it was one way or the highway!’
  • ‘The ability to use digital technology for any-time, anywhere learning.'
  • ‘I could plug in my Mp3 player in my car and learn while I wait uselessly in traffic.’
  • ‘Freedom of delivery vehicle - in person, asynchronous, synch/live, anonymous, collaborative...'
  • ’The combination of in-person classes with online reinforcement.’

“I would learn better in the future if…”

  • ‘I had more time to devote to specific tasks related to learning and advanced technology.’
  • ‘I experienced more collaboration and discussions vs. reading and learning on my own.’
  • ‘Time were permitted without outside pressure to complete learning.’

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Connectivism and LaaN

The Connectivism and Connective Knowledge online course, facilitated and coordinated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes started yesterday and I would like to take this opportunity to present my own viewpoint on connectivism by discussing what I would call the Learning as a Network (LaaN) perspective, which represents a knowledge ecological approach to learning.

The LaaN view is built upon four premises:

- Knowledge and learning are two sides of the same coin.

- Knowledge and learning are fundamentally social in nature.

- Knowledge is in the network, or even more knowledge is the network.

- Learning is a matter of knowledge networking within knowledge ecologies.

LaaN starts from the individual learner and focuses on her personal knowledge network (PKN) as the unit of analysis. A PKN is comprised of a myriad of knowledge nodes with complex connections. A distinction that is often cited in the literature is made between explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge (or information) is systematic knowledge that is easily codified in formal language and objective. In contrast, tacit knowledge is hard to formalize, difficult to communicate and subjective (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Consequently, we have two types of knowledge nodes: (a) explicit knowledge nodes are different explicit knowledge assets available in a variety of forms such as texts, images, sounds, videos and captured in distributed information repositories such as blogs, wikis, pod/vodcasts etc. and (b) tacit knowledge nodes are people performing in diverse, frequently overlapping social forms.

LaaN views learning as the personal networking of knowledge nodes. In order to learn, we extend our PKN with new explicit/tacit knowledge nodes and when needed we activate the nodes that we believe are able to help us in mastering a learning situation. What we are trying to do all the time is either to pull together explicit knowledge nodes from more than one source, reflect, detect patterns, remix and assemble it to form a new explicit knowledge asset or to expand our personal social networks with new tacit knowledge nodes by connecting to different social domains to create and share tacit knowledge in a collaborative way, through participation, dialogue, discussion, observation, and imitation.

Within a LaaN perspective, everyone is treated as a knowledge networker, one who has the ability to:

- Create, harness, nurture, maintain, and extend her PKN.

- Identify connections, recognize patterns, and make sense between different knowledge nodes.

- Locate the knowledge node that can help achieving better results.

- Cross boundaries, connect and collaborate.

- Navigate and learn across multiple knowledge networks.

At the heart of the LaaN perspective lie knowledge ecologies.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Working Smarter in KM 2.0

A good post by Dave Pollard where he describes the skills that knowledge workers do need in the 21st century. These include:
1. Personal Content Management
2. Simple Virtual Presence and Enabling Conversations
3. Environmental Scanning and Sensemaking
4. Professional Research Capacity and Risk/Opportunity Assessment
5. Just-In-Time Canvassing
6. Story Crafting, Story Telling, Story Collecting and Story Recording

Friday, September 05, 2008

The End of 'Command Control' Approaches to Knowledge Management?

In this article, David Jabbari explainis why using a 'Command and Control' approach to Knowledge Management can be limiting. David writes:

The command and control approach to law firm KM focuses on the systems and management structures needed to capture and publish knowledge. In this approach, knowledge is often created in a very centralized way, using techniques such as commissioning, or forming ‘project groups’, and then publishing the output in centralized content stores. The fact that no more than 25 per cent of material stored in databases is ever accessed does not seem to deter people from thinking that placing material in a central store constitutes a success of some type.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Google Chrome

Google announced a new browser, called Chrome. More information about Google's Chrome is available via a comic book and a video.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

OpenSocial Video Tutorials

Cameron Chapman
Mashable provided a good list of OpenSocial video tutorials. Below is a video of the OpenSocial Google Workhop. Long, but well worth a look.