This is the PLE project at Bolton University, working towards defining the tools for personal learning. The project is being funded by JISC and carried out by CETIS

The project is part of the e-Learning Reference Models programme for the e-Framework. Read a very short project summary.

the personal learning environments blog

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Scott Wilson, August 15, 2007

Organisational perspectives on the PLE

Last month I presented a paper at Ed-Media titled Preparing for disruption: developing institutional capability for decentralized education technologies. This month, Michele Martin has a great post called Seven Strategies for Supporting Personal Learning Environments at Work.

I think what we are starting to see emerging is the sheer practicality of the PLE as both an individual and organisational response to the challenges and opportunities of networked learning. While some concentrate on the key empowering aspects and learner perspective, there is also a complementary organisational perspective, which sees the PLE as a key opportunity to gain the benefits of e-learning in the organisation without the substantial capital cost and management overhead of centralised learning provision.

The next stage is where we start to see the services that provide the complementary coordination for PLE-enabled learners operating in organisations. This month I posted on the CircleUp message coordination service, for example. I think we'll see more of these kinds of services emerge to support the type of coordination needed to support course groups and work teams but operating in a very different way to traditional groupware and VLE/LMS solutions.


Scott Wilson, April 16, 2007

PLE as conceptual intervention

A worthwhile observation by George Siemens on the nature of PLE: PLE is a concept, not a product. Its an unfortunate tendency especially in our sector to take a concept (PLE, e-Portfolio) and attempt to reify it as a product.

In my own view, the PLE is different for each individual, but can make use of common tools and conventions. One of the aspects of PLE that hasn't been elaborated on much is the establishment of conventions - as it is these that make 'interoperability' even worth considering. For example, it is the conventions of 'blogging' (the process) that makes the interoperability of blog content via Atom and RSS meaningful.

The scope and nature of the interoperability we can provide to connect different PLEs is in one sense determined by the conventions that emerge in the practices of personal learning. (In another sense we make new practices and conventions possible by offering new tools and interoperability features)

What has been emerging in the past year or so has been more about conventions than technology as such - the educational use of blogs, use of bookmarks, and use of tagging and filtering. These conventions are emerging from the use made of the technologies by pioneering teachers and learners.

What are far less developed are the conventions of association and rendezvous - the conventions and patterns for coordinated activity such as community-forming and collaborative work using distributed technologies. Distributed identity (e.g. OpenID) provides one of the important building blocks for the technology base that would allow such conventions to emerge, but there is a lot more work to do.


Scott Wilson, April 16, 2007

McLuhan and the PLE

Some of my major influences when working on the PLE project were McLuhan, Stafford Beer, and Ivan Illich, so its interesting to see an application of the Tetrad to the PLE concept.

There is a commentary on this by George Siemens, however I'd like to add a comment of my own regarding reversal; perhaps a simple way of expressing reversal is to say that a PLE, when pushed beyond its limits becomes impersonal. (For example, this would be like the mandating of ePortfolios that turns them from personal into institutional artifacts.)

However, I'm not sure the tetrad is the right way to look at the PLE, but a way of looking at media that might be incorporated within an individuals' PLE, or perhaps a mechanism that a PLE might employ as a tool for helping its owner understand media.


Scott Wilson, March 23, 2007

Map of a PLE

Ray Sims has produced a fascinating mind map of his PLE.

It reminds me of Katharine Harmon's book You Are Here with its maps of personal geographies.

Ray has blogged more recently about the need to separate out the learning aspects of the PLE from aspects of 'doing'. This fits with a model of PLE as being more closely aligned with strategic rather than operational activity, with a different scope.


Scott Wilson, August 14, 2006

Flock to add "People" view

Its great watching Flock evolve, especially as some of the things we started working on in Plex seem to be being implemented (usually very well) in Flock, which is getting some good reviews and is already pretty usable.

The latest news on the next milestone of Flock is the addition of a people view. In Plex we effectively had a completely different UI perspective for working with people as opposed to working with content-type resources. It'll be interesting to see how Flock tackle the HCI issues, not to mention the question of how to relate identities to people.

and ... will it support FOAF?


Scott Wilson, June 23, 2006

PLE workshop papers online

You can now find all the papers submitted by attendees of the PLE workshop online at

There are also a lot of other interesting resources also on using the PLE tag.


Scott Wilson, June 16, 2006

Another look at Flock

Prompted by Derek's recent post I downloaded the latest version of Flock to have a play with. Its come a long way since I first looked at it, at the start of the PLE project, and its interesting to see how both the prototype work on Plex has followed a similar approach to Flock - perhaps a validation of our using a pattern-based approach?

In this Flickr photoset (or use this tag instead) I've compared some of the ways Flock and Plex handle the management of web services using a very similar model. (I've written comments on each screenshot)

Not all patterns are implemented in both applications: for example, Plex has no notion of notifications (nor a photo manager), while Flock has no concept of rating resources. However, its easy I think to see how these could operate in both applications.

Flock has done an excellent job in some places of "hiding the plumbing", whereas Plex has been keeping everything more or less exposed (its not, after all, really intended to be a tool for typical users, but a testbed and demonstrator for people interested in this topic). In particular they've done well at implementing service discovery - something we knew was an obstacle to users was locating API endpoints and Flock has made a decent stab at this, whereas Plex's "exposed wiring" approach requires a fair knowledge of where to locate things like REL tags, for example.

I think the separation of "bookmarks" and "blog posts" as distinct types of resource has pragmatic value at the UI level, although within the prototype development work it became very clear very quickly that at a deeper level there is no real distinction. Perhaps under the chrome, Flock does the same?

Of course where Flock is currently lacking is the other kinds of instruments relating to people and activity (community?) - essentially Flock mostly contains the capabilities found in the "resources" perspective of Plex. However, I think it would be interesting to see if and how these other dimensions fit into the application as it progresses.

For more information on Flock, visit


Scott Wilson, June 04, 2006

Mike's PLE

Mike Seyfang's PLE is his mp3 player, his camera, a bike, and a fair amount of riesling...

Mike has blogged his learning journey with his PLE here.

Mike's blog entry made me smile, but I think the point is well made - it really is about personal technology for personal learning, right?


Scott Wilson, May 02, 2006

Presenting Plex at the ELF Developers Forum

A presentation Scott made on the architecture of Plex, one of the prototypes developed in the PLE project.

Download the powerpoint slides. Note that the download address for Plex is actually


Scott Wilson, April 11, 2006

Firefox Scholar

Scott Leslie drew this to my attention - an adaptation of Firefox to enable the direct use of scholarly materials such as journals and citation indexes.

As Scott mentioned in an email to me earlier, one option for the PLE is to enhance the browser into a complete personal learning toolkit using plugins and other technologies such as Mozilla's XUL. Something we've seen recently with Flock.