PLE definition in retrospective

Is hard but true – I have not done any blogging here for a long time.  And one post I really owe to everyome who was involved in organising, participating in and following the PLE_BCN Workshop on collaborative mindmapping of the PLE definition (more on that in my previous posts here and here). So I hope you can forgive me this late posting. What can I say, time has been wild, working like crazy, I am sure you all know it.

So what happened during the workshop? What did we achieve?

On the whole the workshop went really well … but it had its ups & downs. We had three groups at the venue, each working on a PLE definition based on the initial mindmap. Each group took a different approach and produced different results. I can only describe my impressions and final results here and it would be great to hear from those who participated, how the working in the groups really was!

So to start with, the group moderated by Cristina Costa engaged in a discussion about different aspects of PLEs digging deeper into the matter. This group came up with the following textual definition of PLE:


What it is:
“Everything and anybody I learn from.”
A set of learning objects, systems, processes people and spaces, described from a personal perspective.
A metaphor for a set of meta-cognitive skills that enable a learner to describe their learning setting.
PLEs are cognitive user models, created naturally in a process of social leanring. The PLE model represents an individual’s social learning context: they are technologies, subjects, artifacts, devices, agents.

What it does:
Travels with you throughout life
Provide choices
Produce knowledge-able students
Transformative e.g. in relation to how we understand ourselves, others and our identity

What it looks like:
It can be a set of tools
A network of interaction between human and machine agents
Organic (an ecology)
It is private / it is public -> It is allows negotiation between this boundary
It can cross real and virtual spaces, be composed of digital and non-digital objects. people, places and interactions

What processes are involved:
Meta-cognition about learning
Connection making, sharing
Provides continuity (learning as a continuous process)
It is part of our identity
Allows flow between formal, informal, and non formal learning settings
Includes all of your communities

What objects are involved?
Rich content, books articles etc.
Technology tool sets
Mixture of digital and non-digital

What it does not have:
Pedadgogy i.e. pedagogically neutral
Size (Quantifiable dimensions – no definable size?)


The group moderated by George Couros could also just not stop discussing what the PLE was and came up with the following concise textual definition:


Learner is the main focus of their own learning
PLE = the people and tools someone uses to learn
PLE = P+L+E or is L+E+P?


I was trying to have the group that I was moderating to discuss and illustrate the main ideas on the mindmap. This was really hard to do in the short time we had (about 1.5 hrs) and I am so thankful to the participants that they tried to go that way with me.  I think we produced a very interesting result, with everyone agreeing on one main thing – that “learning” is at the center of of our PLE discussion. We also added new categories, such as support and resources , and placed links between different aspects. This visual defintion can be seen here.



We also planned a remote group working on a separate mindmap from  homes/workplace moderated by Wolfgang Reinhardt. However, this didn’t work so well and there are no visible results of this activity, if there was any? The mindmap we created for this group can be still accessed and worked on, so you can visualize your ideas on what PLEs are here.


First of all a big thank you to @cristinacost, @gcouros and @wollepb for your great support and ideas. Will remember all that brainstorming we did on that 😉

To sum up the results of the workshop: my observation from the workshop is, that we are struggling with organising the PLE concept as we tend to define it pretty broadly. All definitions we came up with during the workshop have, in my opinion, the following points in common:

  • Learner & learning are (at) the heart of PLEs
  • PLEs are something more than ICT tools
  • PLEs are multi-layered and multi-faceted

… and we still need reliable means to structure it all …

Finally my question to you is:
Is the PLE concept as we tend to define it ideal (normative) or real (descriptive)?

4 thoughts on “PLE definition in retrospective

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention PLE definition in retrospective « Mediendidaktik 2.0 --
  2. it should be descriptive. ethnographic. materialistic. McLuhanistic (“media is not something we do, it is simething we become part of.”)

    there is much to much idealism connected to the PLE discourse, IMHO.

    we should look over many different people’s shoulders and derive a common, abstract structure from that analysis, informed by the new ways of looking at learning, attention, knowledge, social networks that have only been made possible by Web 2.0 and, most importantly, the User Experience research going along with it.

    • Thanx for this comment. It got me interested in doing some more reading of McLuhan 🙂

      What interests me most about PLEs is how people actually construct them and use them. So, I agree. I think we shuld be looking for patterns or as you call it an “abstract structure from the analysis”.

      We could definitely do with more empirical, descriptive and comparative studies on PLEs.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention PLE definition in retrospective « Mediendidaktik 2.0 --

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