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!


When is a LE a PLE?

When does a Learning Environment (LE) become a Personal Learning Environment (PLE)? This is a question that has been guiding some of my recent research on PLEs. I have take a psychological perspective on PLEs and wanted to find out when people feel that they “own” a learning environment. I have based my research on the theory of psychological ownership by Pierce et al. (2001, 2003) and conducted a number of studies showing that the scale of psychological ownership – which so far has been used to measure the feeling of ownership in organisations – can be applied to capture the feeling of ownership of learning environments. You can find more details in this publication.

Just recently, I have presented the approach of psychological ownership and selected research results at a workshop dedicated to Personal Learning Environments at University of Potsdam. The workshop was organised as part of the project eLIS, which takes a different, technology-driven approach. The contributions and discussions showed once again that there is a wide range of understandings of what PLEs may be.

My personal view is that PLEs and customisable, integrated platforms are two different things. A PLE is an environment which is constructed by an individual out of available elements. Customisable, integrated platforms are always constructed by someone else but they may be appropriated individually and become a part of someone’s PLE.  You may find more about my views on PLEs in the presentation below.


Buchem, Ilona (2012). Psychological Ownership and Personal Learning Environments. Do possession and control really matter? Proceedings of the PLE Conference 2012, 12 July 2012, Aveiro, Portugal. URL:

Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., Dirks, K. (2001). Toward a theory of psychological ownership in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 26, 298–310 (2001)

Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., Dirks, K. T. (2003). The state of psychological ownership:  integrating and extending a century of research. Review of General Psychology, 7, 84–107

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.

Personal Learning Environments – measuring the impact

Just recently a Tweet by @mkalz appeared in the #PLECONF Twitter stream:

The PLE idea will die without impact studies. #pleconf

As much as I agree that we need impact studies, we all know that measuring impact in general is all but straightforward: How do measure the impact of PLEs? And the impact on what/who – the learner? the learning process? the learning outcomes? the peers? the teachers? the system the learner operates in? What dimensions and criteria are appropriate? Certainly, we have to start with the goals we want to reach when designing and implementing PLEs or supporting others in doing so in our roles as educators.

A framework that may be useful when designing an impact study, especially when defining and interrelating various dimensions and possible impacts, may be the activity theory triangle that we proposed here:

Buchem, Ilona; Attwell, Graham; Torres, Ricardo (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. pp. 1-33. Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011, 10th – 12th July 2011, Southampton, UK

The triangle defines the main dimensions of a PLE (subject, object, tools, rules, community and division of labour) and the core attributes of elements in each dimension, which can be contrasted with attributes of other activity systems to reveal potential points for conflicts and clashes.

PLE triangle

In an impact study we can focus on all or selected dimensions and apply research methods in order to collect empirical evidence about the attributes of the learning environments as object of our study. For example we could ask questions like:

  • Does the learning environment we study promote the feeling of ownership and grants control over its various elements (subject)?
  • Does the learning environment promote learning that is based on interest and participation (object)?
  • Does the learning environment utilize tools that can be customised by learners to facilitate their individual learning  (tools)?
  • Does the learning environment employ principles of openness and decentralised distribution of resources (rules)?
  • Does the learning environment enable boundary crossing and social support (community)?
  • Does the learning environment enable learners to pursue self-directed learning and teachers to facilitate this process (division of labour)?

If we could empirically prove in a study, that a learning environment we are researching does just that, we would have some evidence on possible impact.

Another idea may be to start from the point of view of a “perfect” personal learning environment and take all these attributes from the triangle for granted and so focus on collecting empirical evidence on learning processes and outcomes in such an environment. Maybe we could contrast it with learning in other settings, e.g. in a learning environment, which has different attributes in all or some of the six dimensions in the triangle.

In a research study me and colleagues from different countries are recently preparing and which we are submitting for the PLE Conference 2013:  (BTW: Call for Abstracts is running until 25th March), we combine both perspectives. Based on the survey on the role of ownership and control in context of PLEs which was conducted in 2012 at two universities in Germany (see reference below), we collect empirical evidence on the impact of ownership and control as one of the key elements of a Personal Learning Environment on learning. The original study:

Buchem, Ilona (2012). Psychological Ownership and Personal Learning Environments. Do possession and control really matter? Proceedings of the PLE Conference 2012, 12 July 2012, Aveiro, Portugal. LINK

was rooted in the theory of psychological ownership by Pierce et al. (2001, 2003).  The results indicated that control of intangible ePortfolio elements, such as control of content or personal data, is strongly related to the feeling of ownership of one’s own ePortfolio as opposed to the control of tangible elements, such as technical tools. This may mean that learners feel that a learning environment is their own (belongs to them), even if they do not have the full control over technical tools and do not in fact own them. With ownership and control being critical issues in PLEs, the new study will focus on the following question:

What are the effects of the feeling of ownership and control of a learning environment on learning, such as time invested in creating an own PLE, creative uses of media, applying a PLE beyond the boundaries of the original context in which it was created/used. At this time we are collecting survey items with which we could collect evidence on learning effects. We are open to collaboration, so if you would like to join us in this, just let me know!