I spent most of my semester break messing with looking at some social networking apps and how to link them up. I was familiar with a few of them already and had been using them regularly: flickr, delicious, facebook (not so regularly), tumblr, twitter. I added brightkite, friendfeed, and ping.fm. Righ away, brightkite and friendfeed struck me as useful for what I wanted to do, and ping.fm less so. Brightkite fuses image and text and geotags them both. Friendfeed aggregates feeds to a common stream and allows connecting those feeds with others.
On the browser side, I tinkered with Flock for a day, but went back to Firefox and installed add-ons to coordinate some of my feeds; I wanted to put them in the same app if not the same frame. I’m currently working with Flickerfox, Sage-Too for rss feeds, TumblrPost, and Twitbin. I’m watching for a Brighkite add-on, but Sage-too makes it possible to put an rss Friendfeed stream in the sidebar.
I haven’t added browser-based notes, however. I’m still using the browser mainly for access to content and working with other apps like Evernote and DevonThink for collection and text production.
This catalog of web apps, social apps, and plug-ins looks geeky, I know, put there’s a point to it.
Spurred on in part by using an iPhone more and more, I started to get interested in how to pull the apps together in some kind of more or less coherent set. I got interested in creating an informal PLE.
Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to
* set their own learning goals
* manage their learning; managing both content and process
* communicate with others in the process of learning
and thereby achieve learning goals.
A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services.
Roughly, a PLE is a more or less hacked together system or space to work in – and that’s a pretty good idea of it, for me, for right now. My wife has a PLE for her work. It’s her studio. Al Gore has one. It’s called his office.
But PLEs extend beyond office and studio walls to include sites and sources, the devices used to access those sites and sources, and the devices used to manipulate the content of those sites and sources. Desktop computer, laptop, iPhone, mobile, digital camera … You get the idea. Hardware, software, people, content, places.
The memex was an early conception of a PLE. Englebart’s Study for the Development of Human Augmentation Techniques a 1968 overview of the idea. And his mother of all demos is an early demo of one: hardware, software, people, content, and places.
Martin Weller has a lot more to say on the matter than I do right now. Brian Lamb has posted on PLEs recently. And he’s picking up on comments made by Stephen Downes. A Collection of PLE diagrams presents a range of visualizations about PLEs.
To my mind, proboscis.org is experimenting with informal PLEs. In their work, streets and parks and buildings become part of the PLE, which also includes other people, both present and past. Their work emphasizes the material in the environment, where learning takes place by creating and manipulating maps and boxes, and by physically and virtually annotating physical spaces. See Social Tapestries, for instance.
Creating or using a PLE of any complexity is going to demand some fluency in transliteracy.
I made some remarks on PLEs from a side angle in Wikis, Blogs, and eFolio: How wikis and weblogs trump eportfolios and No One Stop Shop. My sense of PLEs is the learner mashup rather than the prepackaged OfficeMax D2L. Having just reread these drafts and notes, it looks like the PLE is a common thread in my thinking, one that might open into a more extensive article.
I’m a late-comer to the PLE party, so a review is in order: