Proceedings of the PLE Conference 2013

I am happy to announce that the Proceedings of the PLE Conference 2013 have been published as post-prints under CC-licence. We have altogether 26 articles providing insights into some of the current state of research and practice on Personal Learning Environments. Enjoy reading!




Personal Learning Environments: Current Research and Emerging Practice

“Personal Learning Environments: Current Research and Emerging Practice” is the title of the Special Issue of Journal of Literacy and Technology with selected research papers that were submitted to the PLE Conference 2013 in Berlin and Melbourne. This is the second Special Issue published with papers from the PLE Conference 2013. The 1st Special Issue was published with elearningpapers and focused on PLEs in smart cities. Both Special Issues provide first-hand insights into current discussions, studies and concepts related to Personal Learning Environments from our global PLE Community.

As the Guest Editor of both Special Issues I would like to thank all authors for the cooperative spirit!

Hope to see you at the PLE Conference 2014 in Tallinn this year! And lots of fun to all of you attending our parallel event in Kuala Lumpur!


PLE and Smart Cities

As the guest editor of the first Special Issue of eLearning Papers on Personal Learning Environments with best papers from the PLE Conference 2013: Learning and Diversity in the Cities of the Future / 10-12 July 2013 Berlin & Melbourne, I am glad to announce that the whole Special Issue and the single articles are available online and can be downloaded as open access under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 3.0 Unported License here:


Here is the list of articles:

Thank you to all authors and to the editorial team of eLearning Papers for swift collaboration on this Special Issue!

Call for Papers: Personal Learning Environments

As the guest editor of the Special Issue of eLearning Papers on Personal Learning Environments,  I would like to invite you to participate in our open Call for Papers (Deadline, September 29th, 2013). eLearning Papers is an Open Access publication series and part of the portal – an initiative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, aiming to transform education through technology. The open Call for Papers runs parallel to the submission process of papers which were submitted to The PLE Conference 2013 Berlin/Melbourne and selected as best papers for the Special Issue. I am looking forward to all submissions and the Special Issue on Personal Learning Environments which will be published at the end of October!

For more information please visit:




This year I was honoured to act as the General Chair of the 4th international PLE Conference, which took place 10-12 July 2013 in Berlin at Beuth University of Applied Sciences with a parallel event in Melbourne at Monash University.

The PLE Conference is dedicated to Personal Learning Environment and is an international scientific conference taking place annually, each time in a different city. Following the successful events in Barcelona in Spain 2010, in Southampton, UK in 2011, Aveiro, Portugal and Melbourne, Australia in 2012, the 4th International PLE Conference 2013 was held in Berlin, Germany and in Melbourne, Australia. The aim of the PLE Conference 2013 is to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

This year, the special theme for the conference was learning and diversity in cities of the future. The focus was on how to design Personal Learning Environments in order to support diversity, cross-boundary learning and interdisciplinary transformation of urban spaces as part of highly interconnected social and technological infrastructures of smart cities.  As in smart urban spaces, people, organisations and objects become interconnected by means of new technologies and media, innovative, sustainable and inclusive solutions for connected learning become crucial not only in terms of emerging technologies but first and foremost in terms of (i) human knowledge and skills, (ii) diverse and inclusive communities, as well as (iii) learning and knowledge networks.

In search for an intelligent exploitation of networked urban infrastructures for learning and the extension of the current understanding of Personal Learning Environments, the PLE’13 Call for Papers looked for concepts, scenarios, technologies, frameworks as well as educational approaches for constructing PLEs to support learning in smart urban spaces. We are currently working on the Conference Proceedings and the Special Issues – the Special Issue of eLearning Papers (Issue 34) and in the Special Issue of the Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT) – which will include best papers from the PLE Conference 2013. The publications are scheduled mid September.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank all of you who supported this year’s conference as a member of the Organising Committee and/or as a member of the Scientific Committee!  It has been a great experience and the success of this year’s conference would not be possible without you!!!

We will soon have the recordings of the sessions featured at  BeuthBox campus TV.  For the time being have a look at the pictures from the conference on Flickr, e.g. here + here + here + here + here + here + here +  here + here + here – and have a look at the latest updates including links to slides on SlideShare in our PLE2013 Facebook group.

The PLE Conference 2013: Call for Papers

Now it is official – the next PLE Conference in 2013 will be held in Berlin & Melbourne! Save the date – it is 10 -12 July 2013. The special theme next year is: Personal Learning Environments: Learning and Diversity in Cities of the Future


I am really thrilled about hosting the Berlin PLE Conference at Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin (Germany) and connect with colleagues at the Monash University in Melbourne (Australia). There are so many things to consider and take care of when organising a conference, but so far it has been a great challenge and I have been enjoying it a lot. With all these great people in the organising committee, it has been a real pleasure to plan, organise and share new ideas! To keep it up with the spirit of the past PLE Conferences, we aim to make the next PLE Conference equally interactive and engaging. The PLE 2013 will be up for UN-keynotes, pecha kuchas, fishbowls, workshops and hackathons. We are open to YOUR ideas!

So go ahead and check out the PLE 2013 Call for Papers:

We are looking forward to your contributions!

PLE 2013 •Berlin / Melbourne • • #PLECONF

Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments

This winter semester I am starting a new professorship called “Digital Media & Diversity”, which  anchored at the Gender and Technology Center at Beuth University of Applied Sciences. As my research and teaching will focus a range of topic related to diversity and new forms of digital media (including web 2.0, social media, mobile web, digital games), I have been looking at digital media use, concepts and initiatives from the diversity perspective (see for example my presentation from the ePortfolio and Identity Conference 2012 in London titled “Gender and ePortfolio Practice”).

One of the most recent works is the position paper titled “Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments”, which Graham Attwell and me submitted for the workshop on TEL, The Crisis and the Response for the Alpine Rendez-Vous 2013.

Below is the text of this position paper, which Graham already posted here. What do you think? Can you relate to the idea of diversity and divide in TEL?

Looking forward to your comments!

“The digital divide cannot be discussed only as a gap between technology haves and have-nots. Below the inequalities in access and usage, there is also a problem of a divide between contexts, domains and communities that different learners operate in. The need for empowered learners as citizens engaging in cross-boundary, problem-solving has been advocated as a necessary means for social innovation. It is through boundary-crossing or bridging the divides that individual and sociocultural differences can become a resource. However, mainstream TEL has not fully recognised the potential of boundary crossing and engaging diverse learners in collective action related to solving real life problems. Much of TEL is developed to fit the prevailing educational paradigm, focusing on ever more efficient management of learning and more reliable methods of assessment rather than encouraging learners to explore diverse ideas, experiment with diverse formats or build bridges to diverse communities.

Can promoting diversity through TEL be a response to crisis? Certainly, in view of the growing complexity of societal, environmental and economic challenges and the ever increasing amount of information and communication possibilities, diversity may raise new questions, challenges and concerns. However, both research and practice provide evidence that diversity, in terms of individual or group attributes as well as in terms of different content, resources and tools provides valuable opportunities for intellectual engagement, personal growth and the development of novel solutions.

In this position paper, we discuss whether current TEL promotes diversity or divide and the current barriers in promoting diversity in TEL. We discuss these issues based on the example of Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which is as an approach to TEL aiming at empowering learners to use diverse technological tools suited to their own needs and connecting with other learners through building Personal Learning Networks. We argue that this approach to TEL promotes diversity through boundary-crossing and responding to the diverse needs and prerequisites that each individual learner brings in. At the same time we discuss how the PLE approach challenges current educational practices and what tensions arise when Personal Learning Environments are implemented in educational institutions.

Personal Learning Environments, as an approach to TEL, focus on the learner-controlled and learner-led uses of technologies for learning with no centralised control over tools, information or interactions. This strong focus on autonomous, literate learners as agents and decision-makers taking control and claiming ownership of their learning environments is of course in contrast with regulated and planned processes at schools and universities, demanding radical changes in the prevailing educational paradigm. TEL, based on the Personal Learning Environments approach, vests learners with control over learning processes and outcomes, including planing, content, interactions, resources and assessment. In this way, the PLE approach challenges not only the prevailing educational paradigm, but also TEL approaches inspired by this paradigm, such as Learning Management Systems and pre-programmed, locked-down systems, such as some types of video games or mobile apps, which place learners in the role of recipients and consumers of systems devised by others, while failing to foster both generativity and boundary-crossing.

Such pre-programmed, quality-controlled and locked-down approaches to TEL have led to “walled gardens in cyberspace”, isolating different learners and learning contexts, posing external constraints on what learners can do in such environments in terms of activities, resources and tools. Alternatively, learner-controlled uses of technologies, as embodied in the Personal Learning Environments approach, have facilitated boundary crossing and merging multiple learning contexts, domains and communities.

The postulate of boundary-crossing through the PLE approach has a human and technological dimension. On one hand, the PLE approach calls for learners to claim and make use of ownership and control over their learning environment, exerting agency in terms of the human capacity to make choices and uses those choices in real world interactions. On the other hand, the PLE approach calls for openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems.

With learner ownership, control and agency combined with openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems being the core attributes of the PLE approach to TEL, diversity becomes natural. The PLE approach promotes diversity of social interactions, diversity of learning contexts and diversity of learning practices. Personal Learning Environments entail diverse people and communities coming together, diverse technology tools and platforms used and combined by learners, diverse content production and consumption modes, diverse access points and modes of learning.

However, diversity promoted by the PLE approach is a source of conflict when PLEs and other systems interact. Specifically, tensions arise at the points traditionally considered as legitimate divides in the education system including TEL, for example (a) private vs. public access, (b) course members vs. non-members, (c) disciplinary knowledge vs. practice-based knowledge, (d) formal vs. informal learning context, (e) expert vs. novice, (f) individual vs. collective practice, (g) assessment vs. reflection, (h) planning vs. implementation, or (i) standards vs. innovation.

We argue that challenging these presumably legitimate boundaries in TEL as postulated by the PLE approach is a way to innovation which may bring viable responses to the crises.”