The VLE vs PLE debate

13 July 2012

The PLE conference 2012 Aveiro 11 - 13th July 2012

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
6 July 2012

I did an (un)keynote on 13/7/2012 with Ricardo Torres Kompen for the PLE conference. We wanted to gather some views in advance and used these as the basis for the talk. We would like to carry on the debate, so if you can take a few moments to answer these questions or add links of relevance that would be great! We plan to try and synthesise the main arguments and will post back. Will also upload the fantastic videos we got from people! Thanks everyone - talk about collective intelligence! 

1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?
2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?
3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 
4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

Extra content

I've added a couple of links one to the PLE conference website and one to Ricardo's blog about the (un)keynote. We will upload our presentation and the videos in due course.

Gráinne Conole
08:22 on 6 July 2012 (Edited 10:34 on 15 July 2012)

Blog post reflecting on the process of preparing for the unkeynote and a summary of the content and discussion. 

Gráinne Conole
11:51 on 15 July 2012

Another contribution to the debate via Clem's blog.

Gráinne Conole
12:55 on 16 July 2012

1.     What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

Are there any boundaries for a PLE? Can we consider all our presence and contributions in the Cyberspace as PLE? Then, it’s considerably vast by now. There are two main dimensions of this presence, a more personal one, considering websites with biographic and cultural interests, and a professional one linked to Education, since I work at the Ministry of Education. I have recently tried to gather part of my presence in the Web, in a Pinterest - http://pinterest.com/idabrandao/ida-in-web/  -  but I've only collected a few examples.

This is a list of part of my presence in the Web:

  • Personal webpage in Weebly – biographic, CV, master degree, art interests
  • Personal webpage, with a social flavour in Multiply – blog, reviews, videos, links, photos
  • Personal spaces in Posterous – space dedicated to MOOCs in which I participate and  space dedicated to my PhD
  • Freeware for Special Needs webpage in Weebly – a personal website with professional goals
  • Blog in Edublogs, with professional goals -  repository of blogs on Special Education Needs, Disability and Rehabilitation
  • Website in Webnode on a family member who was a sculptor, deceased, with the collection of his works (sculptures and paintings)
  • Website in Wix, promoting a house sold in the current year

I use many organizers and curation tools to collect and disseminate resources/news on thematic issues:

  • Pinterest (several boards on Grounded Theory, Design based Research, Social Networks, Technology Infographics, Structuralism, Animation, etc)
  • Scoop.it (I curate two themes: Educonnet and Special Needs).  Robin Good published an interesting mindmap presentation (Mindomo)  about Content Curation for Education - http://www.mindomo.com/pt/mindmap/content-curation-for-education-and-learning-robin-good-emerge2012-98ccaad217074a07b9bff8b76effab8e
  • Livebinders  and Pearltrees (to collect articles for my PhD)
  • Symbaloo (collection lesson plans and other resources for special needs)
  • Vidque – videos on Education issues
  • I’ve produced several screencasts with JING as tutorials of freeware - mindmap, webquest, AAC, etc and used Universal Subtitles to subtitle in portuguese (for accessibilities to the deaf) and in english.
  • I use many tools for diagrams and mindmaps – Gliffy, Mindomo, Mindmeister, Webinspiration, etc
  • I make presentations with PREZI and Knovio (tried a recent one Zentation). Some older powerpoints are in Slideshare.
  • I use many image and video tools – older stuff in Imageloop – some MSN freeware like ICE, Autocollage, windows movie maker, One True Media, Masher, Capzles, Pho-to, Photovisi, etc. Infohgraphic tools like Piktograph.
  • Videoconferencing tools – BigBlueButton and Hangout (used for group work in my PhD course), WizIQ , Skype (together with iDroo), etc. I have used Adobe Connect in professional situations. Skype is used regularly to communicate with SEN teachers of the virtual community I run.
  • Courseware like MyUdutu – a developed a course on OER
  • Timeline  Tiki-Toki (recent experience to have a timelike of researchers and works on Grounded Theory)
  • I test many free tools – my favorite repository is Cool Tools for Schools, which gathers more than 300 free/shareware tools.

2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

The main obstacle is to keep feeding all the Websites, Blogs, Scoop.it  that need to be maintained and updated. Dispersion is one of the dangers because everyday you get access to more free and sophisticated (easy to manage) tools. As you find them useful, you keep adding more and more artefacts made with these tools. As I have some webspaces for some years now, with much stuff published, I have no courage to abandon them or redo in another tool.


3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 

Technologies have evolved in the last years impressively. So many new tools and networks have emerged. I’m amazed with all the novelty I keep receiving, daily,  either through newsletters or Scoop.it I follow.


4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

VLE is, at the moment, still one of my main professional tools, since I monitor virtual communities of SEN teachers in Moodle.

VLE have the advantage of preserving some centrality as well as some privacy among groups. We need to have reserved virtual environments for certain purposes, as workspaces and learning environments.

VLE continue to be important for distance learning.  My master was obtained in eLearning model, Moodle was the platform used and, at present, my PhD course is also in eLearning, using Moodle as well.

My first participation in MOOCs started this year. I’ve participated in (i)  Instructional Ideas/Univ. Indiana  that used Blackboard platform; (ii) First Steps to Learning and Teaching in HE/Oxford Brookes, used Moodle platform; (iii) at this moment, I’m participating in Google Power Search that uses Google Groups, Google+, Hangout and other tools like Twitter.

The fact that one uses a VLE doesn’t hinder to use other complementary tools.

Ida Brandão
14:21 on 18 July 2012

Embedded Content

Conole_Kompen_Unkeynote

Conole_Kompen_Unkeynote

added by Gráinne Conole

Alternative unkeynote - more traditional ;-)

Alternative unkeynote - more traditional ;-)

added by Gráinne Conole

Helen Keegan (1 of 3)

Helen Keegan (1 of 3)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Helen Keegan (2 of 3)

Helen Keegan (2 of 3)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Helen Keegan (3 of 3)

Helen Keegan (3 of 3)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Jane Challinor

Jane Challinor

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Jane Challinor

Jane Challinor

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Cristina Costa (1 of 4)

Cristina Costa (1 of 4)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Cristina Costa (2 of 4)

Cristina Costa (2 of 4)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Cristina Costa (3 of 4)

Cristina Costa (3 of 4)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Cristina Costa (4 of 4)

Cristina Costa (4 of 4)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Stephen Downes (1 of 2)

Stephen Downes (1 of 2)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Stephen Downes (2 of 2)

Stephen Downes (2 of 2)

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Joyce Seitzinger

Joyce Seitzinger

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Ilene Dawn Alexander

Ilene Dawn Alexander

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Chahira Nouhira

Chahira Nouhira

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Dave Cormier

Dave Cormier

added by Ricardo Torres Kompen

Contribute

Antonella Esposito
3:33pm 7 July 2012 (Edited 4:30pm 7 July 2012)


Hi Grainne,

just an attempt to articulate some short responses to your questions:

1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

It happens to me to use a plenty of tools on the open Web (including a blog that I horribly neglect...), but on a daily basis I use the following tools:

Twitter: I like its nature of open asymmetric social network, which enables me to continously find new sources of knowledge and usually pleasant interaction, pearls of wisdom or a mere, precious LOL ;-) It took time to build a good network, but I increasingly appreciate the value to be connected in a web of conversations. Especially love 'intercepting' conferences and sharing links to reports, blog posts and published articles. But sometimes some great chats occur, despite the 140 characters.

Delicious: it is becoming a sort of 'monstrum', full of resources often bookmarked with the wishful thought 'I will read it later'.

Scoop.it: a recent discovery for me, fairly useful to convey interesting (really checked!) resources into identifiable channels. So, I created one space focusing on Call for papers, Digital scholarship and Doctoral education and PhD e-researchers. All themes that are integral part of my study/work as an apprentice researcher.

Academia.edu: after my MRes and attending my doctoral program, I decided to 'land' on this academia-focused social network. Waiting for the related publications, it has been amusant to follow access statistics to my thesis :-)! However, I am not still sure of the advantage to be there.


2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?


It comes to mind the necessary efforts for a continuing engagement in building and maintaining a PLE.  Someone in a MOOC mentioned 'gardening' as a compliant metaphor. Moreover, one has to iteratively  re-focus her own objectives in order to get the most from this 'hanging out and moving around'. However the most difficult thing it is grappling with two opposite but productive behaviours: 'keep control' and 'let the river run'. Serendipity and intentionality.

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 


I think you need a 'niche of co-evolution' (e.g. a MOOC) to make sense of the current plethora of social media and understand what it is worth for you doing with them. For me since 2009 Cloudworks has worked as a niche, in which I imitated others' digital behaviours, progressively acquired self-confidence and finally tried to propose my contributions, as content curator, occasional blogger or tireless twitterer. To tell the truth, my current digital behaviours have been shaped by attending Cloudworks for about two years.  Now I adopt different tools and have different objectives, but I have experimented there the type of online engagement that I currently undertake. The nice thing is that there are still 'traces' of these early attempts. These traces would deserve a more careful reflection...

4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

The VLE is alive and healthy, and in many cases keeps on effectively serving institution-bounded educational offerings. However, its importance in the life of a learner is closely linked to the timespan of the course/class/forum in which s/he is enrolled in. A PLE affords data portability, it can become your e-portfolio among the formal educational initiatives and work tasks in which you take part.

José Mota
6:43pm 7 July 2012 (Edited 7:16pm 7 July 2012)


Hi Gráinne & Ricardo,

Good questions but not easy to answer briefly. I'll try :-).

1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

I see the PLE not as a technological platform or a set of tools, but as an ecosystem or an ecology of people, tools and resources you interact with online. It's very dynamic and keeps changing and adapting according to my needs and interests. In that sense, it is hard to define it precisely. There's the people I have a relationship with (weak or strong) and those whose activity I follow but don't even know I exist; there's an overwhelming abundance of resources from which I choose whenever I need to for any purpose; and there's also a lot of tools and services that I use and that keep changing according to the circumstances. Those I rely the most on are, currently, Google Reader, Twitter, blog (Wordpress), Google+, Diigo (synchronized with Delicious to use the Firefox add-on), Gmail and Google DOcs. I also use Scoop.it, but mostly for teaching and am going to focus more on Mendeley while writing my Phd.

I use it to gather information from the people I follow (you could call it my PLN) and from resources I identify as valuable, process, organize and make sense of that information, store the good stuff for future reference, share some ideas or resources I find interesting, communicate and collaborate with others, both professionaly and for whatever other reason life is made of.

Basically, I use my PLE for personal and professional activities without much difference in terms of the tools and services. The biggest difference here would be the people in my PLN (the "people" part of my PLE) in each context. Anyway I use it, it is always a learning process.


2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

The first obvious difficulty would be, I guess, the lack of enough technical proficiency and enough online experience to develop an effective and rewarding PLE. Many people need help in this regard. Understanding online culture, getting familiar with modes of communication, developing enough technical skills to be autonomous takes time and effort, that can, often, be minimized with some modelling or guidance. Another difficulty is keeping the participation level and being an active and valuable contributor, so that your PLE isn't just a black hole that sucks everything but from where nothing comes out :-). Being active and sharing knowledge, ideas, artifacts, questions, resources, experiences, etc. is a crucial part of one's PLE, but that is not always easy to keep up continuously.

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years?

I cannot pin point major differences, apart from the tools and services that come and go - some disappear, others become obsolete, new ones are created, some of my interests and needs change, etc. I guess I am using the technologies more or less the same I did five years ago, for the purposes I stated above.


4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

This would take a while to discuss :-), but the brief answer is no, of course not. Formal education and institutions have requirements that need to be met, and the LMS (I prefer to call them that, because all web environments can be seen as virtual learning environments) is useful in many circumstances. The idea of an open, distributed environment for learning is not equally appealing for everyone, especially when there are assignments and grades and certifications involved. On the other hand, the LMS provides a secure, centralized and practical way for formal educational contexts, despite its many shortcomings. The LMS has been evolving and many platforms are now trying to become more usable, more personalized and more social, Furthermore, there are some experiences with the so called intitutionally supported VLEs (which are, in most cases, VLE 2.0, actually) that provide an experience that, to some extent, is similar to that of a PLE but with some of the strong points of the LMS (centralized, secure, managed by institution, "all-in-one-place"), so I guess we are still a long way to declare the death of the LMS. Currently, for formal education, my favourite set up is using an LMS like Moodle for some core course components (information, learning contract, some base content and resources, some of the assessment, support forum, elements that may require privacy within the cohort, etc.) and than the students' PLEs for searching, managing information, publishing their work, cooperating/collaborating/communicating with other relevant people outside the course, etc., making the most of what a networked learning experience has to offer. That is what we try to do in the Master's program in eLearning Pedagogy at Universidade Aberta.

Well, that's all :-). I'm looking forward to your unkeynote at the PLEConf in Aveiro.

Cross posted from my blog.

Martin Dougiamas
1:39pm 9 July 2012 (Edited 1:47pm 9 July 2012)


1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

There are two parts:

A collection of feeds that I generally check daily, carefully selected to maximise the signal to noise ratio.

The rest are larger projects that I give myself, to learn this or that. They are usually hands on activities where I construct something useful for others to see and perhaps use.

2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

Curating it. What do you need, and what do you not need.

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years?

It used to be mail, then iGoogle for years but now it's Flipboard and Reeder on an iPad.

4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

Not at all. An institution has to "be" somewhere on the web.

They are also rich sources of information like any other web sites (a lot of my feeds are RSS from Moodle, for example), and places to get involved in collaborative projects.

Steve wright
4:06pm 11 July 2012 (Edited 4:53pm 11 July 2012)


Hi Grianne,

Interesting topic - hope this hasn't got too long and ranty! As I lost my shorter post right now I am more cynical about othe mobile bit of my PLE - however it has now changed as I'm back in the office.

1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

See above - to me my *personal* learning environment is digital, its the digital environment I have with me or with access to *at the time*. 15 minutes ago that was my Galaxy S3 but as it hartes copy/paste in cloudworks and the event I was at is over it's now my desktop at work. Soon (hopefully) it will be my laptop at home. 

All of these are linked together though - the input device here is far better than a small screen with touch screen and sometimes I'll choose the task that I can do with my current PLE - I'll read a PDF and make short annotations or highlights on any of them but longer writing? I'll wait for a keynboard.

Each PLE links me to my core learning resources: VLE for the course, twitter (hence now being here - more likely to be noticed and used on my mobile), the Actor-Network Theory group on facebook, my PDFs from my DropBox-hosted EndNote library, my mahara-based ePortfolio where I keep my learning/reflective and supervision journals.

My work desktop, smartphone and home laptop all access these spaces - that's my personal learning environment: the device that aggregates them. 


2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

Inter-operability. interface and input device: it's easy to post an image (typically a photo of a book page I'm reading that I want to use/quote/reflect on later)  to mahara from my phone but a PITA to post a journal entry. It's easy enough to read a PDF and make short notes on it on all 3, but for note-making I prefer to use EndNote and there's no mobile app so that's computer based only. 

Another obstacle is data security: I'm limited what I can use dropbox for though now with truecrypt I can put some of my research data on for moving about but that knocks out accessing data from mobile phone. I can't access Uni drive from mobile device or via web.

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 

Five years is a LONG time! Smartphones is biggest change in last 2 years. I've become MUCH more mobile and much more integrated. My choice of smartphone and use is very learning focussed now. DropBox has also been a huge shift and central to sharing resources and accesing them anywhere. 


4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

This sounds a lot like academic posturing and trying to be "cutting edge" and "visionary" in spirte of all the evidence of reality. It sounds like a claim from one of those NME covers procaliming "Rock is Dead" only to see whichever new band (technology?) is the "new kings of rock" two weeks later. So PLE's are th new VLEs? Is it iLE's next week then? 

I think that's comparing apples and oranges: a PLE is *personal* and *temporal*and VLE is *institutional* and *archival*. So a PLE may aggegate content and information from a VLE but won't have all the information all the time for a course or programme - but what I as a learner am using then (the PDF for this week, this weeks discussion forum etc) it is dynamic and changing with access to the past but focussed on the present. A VLE is (or should be) a single place you can go and get all the materials and information for a course/module/etc. So if your PLE is printouts and books and notes in margins you can still go to the VLE and printout the discussions and course info to bring into your offline paper-based PLE and compose a response to post. But you go to the VLE to get that information so the VLE is essential as a organisational institutional tool where those oyou interact with are authenticated as being "on the same course" and "who they say they are" and it is a secure space for you to go to, interact in and submit assignments to - like a virtual extension of the lecture theatre, seminar room and assignment submission box. And like a non-digital world where those were physical but learning was personal and connected to others and formal componenets e.g. with others in the pub after the seminar with the handouts or at home with recommended readings so a PLE is connected to others (facebook twitter etc) with resources from the VLE and to the assessment.

In that way the VLE is far from dead but the PLE emphasis should help ensure it is permeable, accessible and aggrregatable into people's PLEs as easily as taking the handouts and lecture notes or readings to the pub and talking about them there. The risk is seeing the digital as equivalent and applying a logic that goes something like: because students are talking in the pub (well hopefully they are - probably at home with cheap cans more's the pity!) the seminar and lecture are 'dead' and the lecturersand seminars should be down the pub too.

The lecture is the lecture: an efficient robust and proven way of presenting an intellectual argument to a large group, the seminar allows group exploration , discussion with scaffolding, support, rpomtping and guidance, the pub allows discussions among peers without a prescribed agenda. The study room allows you space to draw on all these other learning spaces and do your reading, reflecting, writing etc.. I see a PLE as being like a digital study room and a VLE as being a digital lecture/seminar space. With Facebook and twitter as virtual pubs. None is best and none is dead or worthy of killing in the name of the department of digital improvements.

Sylvia Currie
6:24pm 11 July 2012


1. What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

I think of my PLE as a set of daily routines, which includes keeping an eye on twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, etc, and pulling in bits and pieces that grab my attention using a variety of  tools such as Diigo, Evernote,  Chrome Pocket, etc (long list of tools for the job!)  

For me the real value of a PLE  is the incidental learning, so I try not to get boxed into an environment that causes me to pay attention to only a shortlist of people and topics. I'm also always mindful of how I can demonstrate my interest in what others are doing, and my gratitude for open sharing. 

2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

  • Training myself to turn off the tap. 
  • Finding and listening to all those quiet geniuses out there.

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 

  • I rely less on what lands in my inbox. I seek more. Powerful search tools are my friend.
  • I gravitate toward tools that allow me to access my PLE from any computer or device. 

4. What are your views on the PLE vs VLE debate? is the VLE really dead?

VLEs are very much a part of my PLE, and I've never been clear on why there is a debate. It's just another set of tools. A VLE does a brilliant job of rounding up people for projects, courses, CoPs... But it also doesn't have to be main hub. 

Suzanne Aurilio
7:41pm 11 July 2012


What is your personal digital learning environment and how do you use it?

 The interface of my device, which is mainly a MacBook Pro. This is where I configure and control my ple. It's the place and space of it. Now mind you, most everything is and happens in the cloud, although I have a couple of "off the grid" locations. These would be downloaded apps/software. I use these off the grid locations on my other devices more so. For example, I'm learning Italian and I have a course and other nifty software/apps downloaded on all of my devices to do that.  

2. What are the main obstacles for building and maintaining a Personal Digital Learning Environment?

Trying to keep up with and stay connected to the people, places and things I find of value. Being ok with the fact that "what I find of value" is an ever changing thing. What follows then is being ok with the fact that trying to store and retrieve stuff from a time gone by is not a good use of my time. If it's a resource whose metadata (i.e. metadata for my brain) is so utterly obscure, then I save it, hoping the tag will ring my bell in the future. Otherwise I just leave it, in the cloud, and google around for it.  

3. How has your use of technologies changed in the last five years? 

 I've become more intentional about my ple being the interface of my device/s. One way I do that is like this. 

I use a 3rd party password manager (Lastpass), so creating accounts and logging in and out of them is relatively painless. This frees me up to create accounts and go different places somewhat easily. If a place is useful, I use it. When it no longer is, I "move on". I use bookmarks/folders on my browser, but they tend to change and so i move the less used ones "off to the side" and the currently more used ones "up-front." 

 Less and less I use technologies that get in the way of doing what I want to do. If it doesn't work, I move on. I' ve become more skeptical of hype and the rhetoric of game-changing innovations,  I'll give it a go, if it doesn't deliver with ease, I move on.

Mark Brown
12:59pm 12 July 2012


1. Ever evolving and I use it intentionally, purposefully and strategically! 2. Lack of time 3. Greatly since acquiring an iPhone. Concept of convergence is really important. 4. Pointless debate as they coexist. The PLE isn't a new concept and nor is formal learning with and through institutional systems. The debate needs to be understood in the context of differences between informal, non formal and formal learning.

Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.