What is a PLE?

This week we were introduced to the idea of PLEs and asked to make a mind-map of our PLE as we see it.

So what is a PLE?

Castañeda. L & Soto. J, describe PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) as ‘a set of tools, information sources, connections and activities-experiences-that every person uses to learn assiduously'(Castañeda. L & Soto. J, 2010). This seems straight forward enough until you try to draw one on Popplet. Then you start to realise, as your mind-map gets bigger and bigger, that it’s an endless web of tools and people with everything connecting to everything else. Towards the end, I even started to question my own existence as a conscious entity.

The extended nervous system

Last week we discussed the shift from CALL to TELL, with computers/devices and web 2.0 ‘tools’ becoming part of the environment in which language is situated. But are we not also part of this environment?

Cousin. G, questions the idea that digital tools are neutral to pedagogy, seeing them as being inextricably linked to our identity, or even ‘an extension of our nervous system’.(Cousin. G, 2005). This challenges the assumption that pedagogy should be leading the use of digital technology in education because this ‘set of tools’ changes the way we view our world, interact with it and ultimately learn. As a result, technology should have an effect on pedagogy and visa versa.  If our PLE is, among other things, a collection of tools connected to our nervous system, then we become part of our learning environment and our learning environment becomes part of us. Therefore, when we interact with and create digital artefacts letting them loose on the world wide web, we are, in a sense, recreating our self.

Carving out an identity

Before digital technologies and the internet my nervous system was largely confined to my immediate surroundings, I could only really interact with and learn from my local community and environment. Obviously, I could write a letter or maybe even pick up the phone, but the level of interaction and emersion was nothing compared to what we can do now. Nowadays, we can interact with more people/things, from further away, in more ways and often at little cost. My digital nervous system can, or will one day be able to connect to almost anything or anyone in the solar system. If people learn from experience and interaction with their environment, there is now a lot more that we can learn. At the same time, other people can learn from me and my digital artefacts while I carve out my identity from cyber-space and the cosmos.

So, to sum up, my PLE should, include anything my senses can take in and anything/one I can have an effect on, whether it be next to me or in Australia, or on Mars via a robot. The only problem with this concept is that it is very difficult to draw.

Here is my first attempt:


In the next post I will look at my role in my PLE and the role of PLEs in education.


Castañeda. L & Soto. J, Building Personal Learning Environments by using and mixing ICT tools in a professional way. (digitalEDUCATION 2010),  18 [http://greav.ub.edu/der/index.php/der/article/view/163]

Cousin. G, Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. (London, RoutledgeFalmer. 2005) pp. 117-129.