Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Personal Learning Earthquake

Sometimes tectonic plates shift and earthquakes form cracks in the crust. Tidal waves appear. This happened to me yesterday. Although it wasn't that violent.

A whole bunch of things just clicked into place and I almost audibly said "aaah, I get it now" in the middle of a client meeting.

My personal view of e-Learning is from the corporate side of the aisle. My career-wide client list includes banks, supermarkets, manufacturing companies, insurance companies, department stores, more banks, pharmaceutical companies, and yet more banks.

So the PLE conversation has been, for me, framed in terms of the LMS and tools. How do you make an LMS into a PLE? And why bother? I didn't really get it. Michele Martin wrote that excellent post, which got me thinking and then Tom Haskins wrote some more excellent posts....

And it started dawning on me that the PLE was about a revolution in learning -- about teaching people to learn -- about empowering individuals to take control of their own learning environments, their futures. And -- maybe -- also providing them with tools. And teaching people how to use the tools for their own growth.

Yesterday I was sitting in an e-Learning strategy kickoff meeting with a different kind of client for me: A non-profit organization of women that has strong affiliations with higher education. Their membership spans a lifetime. (With very little imagination, you can probably figure out what kind of organization I mean). Not the type of group with which I have had a lot of personal interaction, and certainly no professional contact.

It's a very exciting project. My job is to help this organization think about how they can use technology to support learning and community. (This is a good time to be me!)

As I sat in our kickoff, I realized what a noble vision this organization has. They take a wholistic view of education and learning. Empowering members to live their lives fully through personal development, career development, leadership, community. The care of a whole person.

And then my little earthquake about PLEs. Again, probably a no-duh for a lot of you thinkers out there: Schools -- secondary and higher education -- should be empowering students early-on to take control of their own learning, to learn how to learn, to have a PLE, to think of their own growth, to help individuals take control and expand their minds. Universities are starting to do this.

Tony Hirst writes In Personal Learning Environments are also Social... (thanks again to Downes for the link):
So if I talk of a PLE as a thing, I really mean enabling technologies that let me aggregate a range of tools into a space. And why would I want to do that? So institutional providers can give their students something - a place to go - when they arrive on day one that will provide them with access to tools and information services that they are likely to find useful over the course of their studies.
Organizations like the one I am working with now are in a unique position because they may have relationships with individuals over decades; not just over the course of their studies, but over the course of their entire adult lives.

PLE is a concept. An approach to living. Lifelong learning. Lifewide learning.

The tool, the environment can only belong to the learner.

Tom Haskins wrote, "Life is my PLE." Education and academia and parents are in a good position to teach that notion. The PLE is not a corporate responsibility, but a societal one.


Wendy said...

I don't think that teaching people to learn is a revolution in learning. That was the goal of much of my liberal arts education.
In fact - the comment makes me wonder how much we have strayed from what we, as educators, should be doing in the first place.

Great blog and thank you so much for your insights.

Cammy Bean said...

Wendy, I think you're right. But for many of us who've been in the corporate trenches for so long, there is a disconnect. I guess the earthquake for me was putting those pieces back together. My liberal arts education was a long long time ago...I don't recall there being discussions on learning how to learn. It's implicit in the process, for sure. But perhaps that meta-learning piece is getting emphasized more in education? Or am I just wishful thinking?