Learning and Diversity in the Cities of the Future

Learning and Diversity in the Cities of the Future was the focus of the 4th PLE Conference, which I was happy to host at Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. Now we the paper copy of the proceedings published by Logos Verlag Berlin can be ordered online.

The conference addresses the issue of smart cities, one of the key research priorities worldwide. The relatively new concept of “smart cities” has triggered a number of research and development programs, including the Horizon 2020 strategy of the European Commission, which has emphasised inclusive and sustainable growth as well as security and citizenship in the cities of the future. Discussions around smart cities have so far revolved around smart urban technologies and infrastructures targeting energy efficiency (e.g. alternative energy sources), smart transport (e.g. new mobility concepts), enabling technologies (e.g. nano-science, bio-science), but also understanding social, economic and cultural issues that are involved in the transformation of urban spaces into smart cities.

Since smart cities can be viewed as smart learning environments supporting people in their daily lives in a proactive yet unobtrusive way, learning and diversity of the citizens in the cities of the future becomes one of the key issues in relation to citizens operating in and shaping these smart technology-enhanced environments.

The papers included in the proceedings provide rich and valuable theoretical and empirical insights into learning and diversity in the cities of the future from the perspective of ever evolving Personal Learning Environments which may be conceptualised as smart urban learning environments.

The electronic version of the proceedings is available as PDF under CC BY-NC-SA here:




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!



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: http://pleconf.org/  (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!

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: http://pleconf.org/call-for-papers

We are looking forward to your contributions!

PLE 2013 •Berlin / Melbourne • pleconfweb@gmail.com • #PLECONF

Personal Learning Environments: Call for Contributions

This is the third time we organise the international PLE Conference and the third time we host the PLE Mediacast Contest. Over these three years have built a vivid international community inspired by the idea of Personal Learning Environments (PLE) as a concept reflecting self-directed practice of appropriating convergent media for learning (as I see it). As every year, we invite everyone to participate in the discussion on Personal Learning Environments by taking part in the conference, including the Mediacast Contest, which aims at enhancing the participatory culture (see: Henry Jenkins) also in the academic world.

The PLE Mediacast Contest follows the idea that by producing new creative forms, such as digital videos, individuals and groups can contribute to shaping the evolution of concepts, such as Personal Learning Environments. By creating and shaping the flow of media, each of us has the opportunity to contribute to the global discourse about what we understand under the term “Personal Learning Environments”, to share examples and experiences of Personal Learning Environments, to discuss potentials and challenges of Personal Learning Environments, to bring in perspectives from different domains, including academic perspectives (such as educational, social and computer sciences) and non-academic perspectives (such as enterprise, public and individual practice), and to express own future visions of Personal Learning Environments. Therefore, I would like to invite you to the PLE Mediacast Contest and sharing your own production with the PLE community!

Just a short, personal story to wind up: This year I asked a group of students to create a video announcing the PLE Mediacast Contest. Unfortunately, as it turned out pretty late, the project could not be realised. So there I was end of April without the video we have been planning for months. Disappointed as I was, I realised that it may be a good moment for me to learn how to work with tools sich as iMovie. Surprisingly, producing an own video was much easier than I thought. It took me two evenings altogether to learn the tool and create the video which you can see below.

So, let me just encourage you to participate and let your creativity unfold!

The PLE Mediacast Contest 2012 from Ilona Buchem on Vimeo.

PLE Conference 2012

Call for Papers for the PLE Conference 2012 is online! Just follow this link: http://pleconf.org/call-for-papers/:

The conference organisers welcome 1200 word extended abstracts for full papers or 700 words for short papers, posters and doctoral consortium panel participation (please check important dates). Submissions for other types of presentation, such as Pecha Kucha, workshops, symposia, demonstrations and installations are also encouraged (please be patient and wait for a separate call on that).

> For more on the Conference and Call for Papers you can also visit the Pontydysgu website.

This year the PLE Conference will be held simultaneously in Aveiro, Portugal (Universidade de Aveiro) and Melbourne, Australia (Deakin University)! Bringing together PLE communites from two different parts of the world is really exciting! As we are brainsorming for come creative solutions – your ideas on how to enhance interaction are very welcome!

The conference will take place from July 11th to 13th 2012 – so mark your calendar!

We are also currently working on two special editions for the DER and IJVPLE journal. As the reviewing process is already under way, selected submissions from the PLE Conference 2011 will be published in one of both journals soon.As we will keep on working on the programme in the next weeks, it’s best to keep in touch via Twitter –  hashtag #PLEConf – and to visit the official website – http://pleconf.org – for updates.

For publication of selected papers from the PLE Conference 2010 check the special edition of Digital Education Review on Personal Learning Environments.

Let’s keep the ball rolling!