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.


Lauren said...

Prior to this article, I had never heard of a PLEF; I like to think that I am technologically savy, yet with the continual progress of the Internet, clearly, I am not. Using this resource within a classroom is a perfect solution to engaging students and keeping them accountable for their own learning. The creation of a PLEF could be a project at the beginning of the year, yet the beauty of this is that it can be continually referenced within other projects. The PLEF is the building block of all other projects, and as a teacher, I find that this is a solution that allows students to feel as if they are using their interests to their benefit. I do have one question however, can teachers monitor the specific PLEF websites that are created by each student? Also, can a teacher create a PLEF website that can be accessed by an entire class? If this is possible, teachers can provide "appropriate" resources for students to use within the learning process!

wiregrl7 said...

The process of creating a PLE is something I think most college learners are starting to do, either as a means of keeping up with their increasing volume of online education, or in response to the request/guidance of a professor. It's encouraging to find so many resources about something I've never realized had an identification. I wonder what the application is for younger learners? At what stage do children find the resources within themselves to recognize their own learning methods at an academic level? Also, I have to read more, but I was wondering how a project provided by an online group would be graded by a professor? Certainly some must contribute more than others in some situations and how does one grade a project that has recieved input from public sources? It is a lot to digest. It's exciting to think of education being a more holistic process, rather than completely instructor-driven. I look forward to the development of this learning model over time.

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