‘Lifestream’ as alternative to PLE/PLN – from static diagrams to dynamic flows

I dipped in to the streams of information flowing through the #plenk tags, blog feeds and Moodle forums in the first week – i’m finding now in my third iteration that in the MOOC space the first week is about orientating one’s self to the flow and finding some nodes of stability from where to make some sense of it all.ย  I began to realise that some of the discussions about ecology in relation to the PLE in this thread were pointing towards a more dynamic way of representing the PLE – not that I don’t find some of the static diagrams useful – but as Scott Wilson already said in 2005 – we need to think about content in a PLE as a flow rather than static bits of information.ย  We probably all experience our PLE’s as a flow (probably more like a fire-hydrant than a babbling brook in a peaceful meadow ๐Ÿ™‚ but have some difficulty in representing this in a dynamic way.

As an example of how PLENK2010 and tapping into this flow can have an immediate effect in a physical learning setting – last week Thursday 16 Sep I facilitated a workshop for our School of Communication where the Journalism and Public Relations majors are doing really interesting work on integrating social media into their courses.ย  I had the opportunity to ‘demo’ PLENK at the stage where the lecturers were discussing the shape of the graduate profile for the ‘digital graduate’ or as Martin Hirst defined it – the notion of ‘professional fluency’ for graduates from the School and how to develop this in the undergraduate programme.ย  I had given an overview of how a MOOC works with each participant sharing their own PLE about the course across a range of different social media tools – my colleague @jswann was in the audience and plenking away on her iPad, and was immediately able to contribute a very useful link harvested from her PLENK feeds on the concept of the digital graduate.ย  This was a really valuable contribution and helped crystallise the thinking at the right time.

There are many pointers to a more dynamic concept of the Internet as flow – for example as David Gelernter has prophetically suggested in his concept of the lifestream:

โ€œThe Internetโ€™s future is not Web 2.0 or 200.0 but the post-Web, where time instead of space is the organizing principle โ€” instead of many stained-glass windows, instead of information laid out in space, like vegetables at a market โ€” the Net will be many streams of information flowing through time. The Cybersphere as a whole equals every stream in the Internet blended together: the whole world telling its own story.โ€ย  (Kevin Kelly is also excellent in expanding on this idea.) Now there are profound implications for higher education there โ€“ not the least of which for me is the resonance between this vision and an ecological understanding of learning.

So instead of a diagram – my emerging concept of a PLE as lifestream is a bit like this crude attempt to model the evolution of PLE tools using time instead of space as an organising principle (with sincere apologies to Sheldon and Leonard ๐Ÿ™‚

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Personal learning environments 3 years on

I’m enrolled on PLENK 2010 and look forward to seeing how the debate on personal learning environments has developed over the last 3 years.ย  In 2007 I was interested in the relationship between the emerging PLE and the traditional LMS / VLE (that is, if a technology only 15 years old can be called ‘traditional’) and gave a presentation at the NZ Moodle Moot on the topic ‘Can MOODLE become more SUPPLE ?’

Since then I’ve had to explore the limitations of Blackboard in relation to the same question – to what extent is it possible to develop a PLE space for learners in an institutional context dominated by the lecture as the default mode of on-campus teaching, with the corresponding mirroring of transmission-pedagogy in the default use of the LMS ?

I think that while the PLE debates (and diagrams ! ๐Ÿ™‚ have become a lot more nuanced and complex, we haven’t really seen a shift away from the LMS into a setting where the PLE becomes the default mode of online engagement for learners.ย  One promising development that I have noted is the Open Learning Network (OLN) at Brigham Young University – but this is a distant blip on the radar for NZ universities.

I’m also interested in the theoretical aspects and will be trying to unpack some thoughts on the relationship between PLEs / PLNs and the theoretical perspectives of enactivism, biosemiotics and the emergent understandings of technology as the technium or the 7th kingdom of biological life.

Also lots of work to do in the day job but that goes for everyone I guess ….

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