Tuesday, December 04, 2007

E-tivity 9

Personal Learning Environments

Two buzz words in education, and indeed in the media today, are “lifelong learning” and “informal learning”. Both relate back to the fundamental idea that we do not stop learning when our formal education is over. On the contrary, studies (Cross, 200) have shown that only 20% of our learning actually takes place in institutional contexts whereas the remaining 80% takes place outside of the classroom in different periods of one’s life. I would argue that this is even more relevant in the case of language learning because if you do stop, you will forget, and if you don’t learn outside the classroom, you will make little improvement.

One possible solution to help support students in their lifelong informal learning process is what is called a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). A PLE is not a new tool (don’t worry!) but rather “a new approach to using technologies for learning” (Attwell, 200). There is still no universally agreed upon definition of exactly what a PLE is. Some do not limit the concept of PLE to technology, but offer a generic definition that could include anything we do or use to learn: “a combination of the formal and informal tools and processes we use to gather information, reflect on it and do something with it, which is essentially what we mean when we talk about learning” (Martin, 2007). Others, limit the definition to the toolset used to aggregate and connect what we learn: "A Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is a collection of free, distributed, web-based tools, usually centred around a blog, linked together and aggregating content using RSS feeds and simple HTML scripts" (Fitzgerald, 2006). The fact that there are very different definitions of the concept is “reflective of infancy of the concept, and the practical applications of the read/write web itself” (LTC wiki, 2007).

You've actually been in the process of building this toolset for the past two months, your blog being the hub for your PLE. However, a PLE is personal: "It [...] recognises the role of the individual in organising his or her own learning. Moreover, the pressures for a PLE are based on the idea that learning will take place in different contexts and situations" [...] (Attwell, 2007). In other words, how do you learn and in what contexts? I don't know how much you've organized your own learning so far, but upon graduation (not too far away!) you will have to, of course only if you want to keep on learning.


Purpose: To develop a mindmap of your personal learning environment.


1 – Reflect on what you do to learn languages. This will include both your formal instruction (e.g. classes, textbooks, professors, colleagues, etc.) as well as anything outside of it (e.g. travelling, listening to music, surfing the Net, etc.). Make a list of all of the different activities, sources of information and tools you use. Try to categorize them in some coherent manner that makes ense to you.

2 - Develop a mindmap of your PLE based on your reflection and categorization in the first step. Remember, it's your personal learning environment. Just to give you some ideas, here are a few links to some PLEs:
a first draft of mine
Michele's (the one who gave me the idea)
Ray Sim's
The mindmap of a student last year (Martina Garbinato)

3 - Produce a mindmap of your PLE either on paper or using the FreeMind software that you can download for free onto your computer. If you produce it on paper, please scan it or take a digital photograph of it so that you can upload it onto your blog. If you use FreeMind, please put a link to it on your blog.

4 – Write a blog post about your PLE, building it, what you think about it, etc., including a picture of it or link to it.

5 – Prepare a 2-3 minute talk about your PLE. Next Monday and Wednesday you will be asked to present your PLE to the rest of the class. As there will certainly be similarities in your PLEs, please try and highlight something unique about your specific PLE (otherwise we’ll get totally bored!). I will be videotaping (I hope).


I would like you to focus on developing your PLE so there’s no respond part this week. Those of you who do not attend Wednesday lessons will do your mini-presentation on Monday, in addition to some of the Wednesday students. In other words, everyone come prepared to talk on Monday.

Timeline: Monday, December 10.

N.B. A personal learning environment is yours, there's no right or wrong, there's just the way you see it.


Martina said...

I need your help... I tried to download FreeMind but it doesn't function. When I try opening it, an error message appears. It says:"The setup files are corrupted. Please obtain a new copy of the program". I tried to download the program again, but the same message appears.
One more thing: today I said that the website is reliable. But the author of the program is unknown and my pc suggests me not to download files from unknown authors. Can I ignore it and download the file as well?

Thank you very much for your help!

Martina said...

It's me again. Don't worry, I solved the problem by myself!I just deleted the currupted icon from the "cestino" and then I downloaded the file again. This time the download was slower but it functions well!


ElenaCosta said...

Hi Sarah!
I downloaded FreeMind and the installation seemed to be successfull, an icon with a butterfly appeared on my desktop...But when I click on it, nothing happens...I also tried in this way: right click on it, Esegui come or Apri, but the result is the same. Do you know why? I thought to download the program again, but the process took almost an hour because I don't have broadband...should I ask someone to download FreeMind on his/her "chiavetta USB" and then copy it on my pc?
Thank you very much,
ps: during the installation, I read that Java 1.4 is required but actually I don't know if I have it on my pc. By the way, I heard that other people downloaded it easily, so maybe that is not the problem...

Alberto said...

Exactly as Elena.

Nobody can say I'm prolix! :)

Martina said...

Dear Sarah,
finally I managed using FreeMaps and I developed my PLE. Now the question is: how can I include my PLE's image in my post? I already exported my PLE as a jpg file but the image is too small. Could you help me, please?

Thanks a lot,

Elena B said...

Dear Sarah,
I have problems with the download of Freemind as well. Maybe it's because I wasn't in the last Wednesday and so I didn't listen to your instructions. Could you help me giving me more suggestions?
Thanks a lot!

Anna B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marta T. said...

Dear Sarah,
I do not know how to install Freemind...

Lamericaana said...

@ Marta - As you can see from the post I published earlier today, there is absolutely no obligation to use the software. I'm interested in what your PLE is, not the software you use to make it. I gave you the option because not everybody (like me) likes doing things like this with their hands. Do it on paper and take a picture of it. If you don't have a digital camera, I can take a picture of it on Monday.