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June 09, 2006

PLE workshop

I've had a pretty good two days at the PLE workshop. Some very interesting ideas from the participants - looking back I think we were extremely lucky to get such a varied, knowledgeable, and positively engaged group - and I actually managed to do a demo without getting a firewall/proxy/gateway/dns related problem.

No doubt there will be a much more detailed wrote-up at some point; for now I think I'll just note a few things I found interesting:

  • While there are various different terminologies in use by various people, there is a very surprising amount of coherence and consensus in the community discussing PLEs
  • The acronym is more of a hindrance than a help; mostly its another pattern we use to find each other
  • There is a general concern to preserve the domain as an intervention or an approach, and not to inadvertently reify PLE into the Next Thing You Buy
  • Mechanistic assessment is a real pain, and pushes against the PLE tendency
  • VLEs, while promising greater tracking capability leading to better decision-making, doesn't really deliver in practice. So maybe we have to kill that one off early, and get providers to accept that transaction records (from services/api's provided) are going to be sufficient for the kinds of intelligence analysis they might want to do, not activity records (from applications they host). In the end, the history of commitments is probably going to be more useful than the click-tracking VLEs have provided
  • On the second day Colin Milligan gave a quick overview of a whole range of diagrams of the PLE concept from a wide range of authors - what I hadn't appreciated before was that a lot of people have never seen them all one-after-another like this.
  • Can we adopt an approach whereby a teacher does not have to have mastery of - or even familiarity with - the technology used by learners? This moves responsibility onto learners to teach their teachers to understand what they have accomplished using Blogs/Wikis/Writely/Second Life/dead trees/etc and how it relates to their learning goals.
  • Small, simple steps, and simple pieces, are the way to develop this area. Relate it to the activity, and keep it practical. Make services and glue and connect the activity together with it
  • The things that are unique to education, or rather, are more important than in the general social software world, are the orchestration of activity and the contextualization of people and resources within a shared objective. This is implicit in some SoSo (e.g. 43Things) but is mostly absent. We need a nice basic activity API, something we started on in PLEX.
  • Something which characterizes the PLE discourse is a focus on choice in terms of technology instruments, but not necessarily of services they connect with - this is the boundary between the individual and organisations
  • Another characteristic is a focus on user-created content, either by direct authorship or by remixing existing resources, and its distribution in a range of networks. The web 2.0 approach of publishing in public to maximise feedback, ratings, annotation, and reuse informs this, rather than experiences in LOs and repositories, which focusses mostly on "primary" metadata and discovery.

I'm sure there is a lot more yet, I'll see if any of it comes to mind...

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