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Personal Learning Environments: looking back and looking forward

Its a long time since I wrote anything about Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). But after wading away in the last few years I think PLEs are due a comeback. Indeed, with  the turn to online in response to Covid 19, it could be said such a comeback is overdue. Anyway, along with Linda Castaneda and Nada Debbagh, I am oganising a strand on PLEs at this years TEEM Conference, nominally taking place in Barcelona.

More on this and links to all the papers from the strand in a future post. For the moment below is the abstract to my paper. And if you would like to learn more, you can download the full paper from ResearchGate.

Personal Learning Environments: looking back and looking forward: Abstract

"In this paper I look back at the emergence of the idea of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and consider why they have failed to be widely adapted. I say there was a failure to understand the role of technology in the growing commodification and managerialism in education. I point to the links between MOOCs, Open Educational Resources and Open Education and PLEs. I point to a contradiction between commodification and managerialism, with increasingly standardized curricula and credentials and the flourishing of opportunities for learning especially for adults. I say progress in researching, developing and
implementing PLEs has to be viewed within the context of the wider development of educational technology and of the education and training system as a whole. Indeed, even this may be too narrow a perspective: one ambition for PLEs has been to support learning outside the formal education system and outside the classroom.

I look at the growing use of Learning Analytics and Artificial Intelligence in education and consider how this might support PLEs. Finally, I refer to Neil Selwyn’s idea of Ed-Tech Within Limits’ which would foreground the need to plan future education technology use with a primary aim of ‘coping with finiteness’” and “seek to re-establish technology use in education as a shared and communal activity” as a response to the climate crisis.
I suggest this could provide a point of reference for us to rethink Personal Learning Environment encompassing the ideas of equity and encompassing both radical pedagogies and the perspectives of previously marginalized interests and non-powerful groups."


Selwyn, N. (2021) Ed-Tech Within Limits: Anticipating educational technology in times of
environmental crisis E-Learning and Digital Media 2021, Vol. 0(0) 1–15
032, accessed July 1, 2021

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