A pedagogical myth

Pansyhttp://www.gardencom.com/freepics  2nd March, 09

I have been browsing for inspiration. Web 2.0, or participatory media as I prefer to call it today, in itself is inspirational. My new hobby is puppeteering my Second Life avatar. I need to be able to manipulate her movements better, and I would like a more extensive repertoire of “gestures”, but it is great fun. I have vague ideas of the many ways this instrument might be applied to instruction and interactive learning. Part of me wants to let this emerge, intuitively. The other part (the boring left brain, most likely) wants me to find a valid, pedagogical use for it – you know, to prove I haven’t been just mucking around! We all know about necessity and invention and the importance of play, but I like it so much that I can’t help feeling guilty. And I’m not even Catholic!

So, to appease the stupid, logical part of my brain, I will try to list what we have discovered so far about PLEs:


The recalcitrant user of Web 1.0 technology may, like Echo in the legend of Narcissus, feel unsure in a context of unfeeling logic. Like Narcissus, technology is self-contained and without empathy for its users. The personality types who thrive in an interactive pedagogical environment (probably those who would score highly on the extrovert/ feeling/ intuitive indicators of the Myer/Briggs test – though I have not tested this. I just have a hunch about it in a feeling/ intuitive sort of way) are uncomfortably estranged by technology. They may resent that it doesn’t care what they think. It is inflexible and will not easily yield to new ways of doing things. It is passively aggressive and it refuses to discuss it. Yes, I think it’s called anthropomorphization. But there goes the stupid left brain compensating with labels for that which it cannot understand.

· Participatory media is different. It welcomes in the unpredictable and the creative. It is inspirational.

I would like to know if these findings relate directly to the learning style of the participator (or student). I suppose I could begin some extensive surveying, but priorities are being pressured by time. Perhaps for now it is enough to know that Web 2.0 engages a new cohort of learners who could not easily relate to predictable “old” technology?Poppy

PLEs – Partial Learning Environments?

My research colleague : http://nfhood.wordpress.com/ and I continue to be amazed at how much of the dialogue surrounding PLEs ends with the question, “So what is a PLE?”.

We decided early on that we must bind our research to the technological aspects of PLEs. We know that in any broad sense, one’s personal learning environment consists of non-e things. But we ignore them in order for our research to be focused and manageable. We only look at enabling and enhancing PLEs through engagement with Web 2.0 (yes- still using that term. Maybe we should rename it Harold or Jane?) media. So why can’t we agree on a clear definition for a PLE? It’s got a name, but it doesn’t tell us anything. Is that because we have sliced it up, extracted the technological bits, and thrown the rest away? Do we see the PLE out of its essential perspective?

If I cut up a Yeppoon Pineapple so that only the flesh remains, I have the useful bit, but I lose all perspective on the visual entirety of the fruit. Sometimes that matters and sometimes it does not. But I would not understand certain things about that yellow mush if I could not see it in its own context – its own pinappleness.

Maybe we can’t define PLEs because we are looking at a single segment of it, and wondering why it doesn’t look like a total picture.

So – instead of talking generally about PLEs that we can’t totally visualise, maybe we should acknowledge that our research is only about segments of ideas, not entire concepts. 

Now it makes more sense. Instead of talking about integrating whole PLEs into our HE courses, and creating a nightmare of accountability and assessibility implications, we just aim to slip in little pieces of PLEs (the thin ends of wedges?), into the gaps and maybe where they embellish the existing design?

Maybe this is what Snowdon & Jones http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/ are on about with their  talk of ‘safe-fail’ antics. (By George, she’s got it!?)

Implementing PLEs like we are supposed to.

There has been so much talk about PLEs but very little committed action from those of us who ponder its pedagogical potentials. Graham Atwell’s Slideshare presentation –



is interesting and insightful, until the concluding questions: What is a PLE? and What can we do with a PLE?  Arrrg!. We thought for a moment there that some answers were in the offering. But we understand that this thinking is simplistic.

He talks about the need to contextualise the PLE. Well, yes. My colleague and I have decided to push ahead with our own contextualised understanding, so we can start to reflect upon rather that speculate about our PLE work. But we still keep getting stuck, half way over the implementation hurdle! If we telelogically suggest a way forward for any group of learners, then we are not facilitating a PLE, we are imposing our values. It’s easy to join in the chorus of what a PLE is not!

Atwell points out that in a PLE, learners will set their own goals. Now here is the difficulty. We are trying to fit a free-flowing design into a rigid situation like an assessed and accredited course. Course designers draw up rubrics – boundaries and fences in which learning objectives and assessment strategies are imprisoned. PLEs, if they were released on the system, would, by their very nature, transcend those boundaries.

I think this is why it is so hard to implement PLEs into higher education courses.



sad little blog

Death, taxes and change. I am adjusting to the restructure. The workplace has been fragmented.

I don’t need extrinsic motivators, but in this new position (that I’ve been going on about all through the life of this blog), which takes me way out of my depth, it was nice to be able to reach out and touch the lifebuoys. But I can wade through the shallow technical stuff and float through the creative connections. It’s just that there was something nice about synchronised swimming – even if it was just the sense of belonging.

I don’t think I have ever written anything so appalling. You can only extend a metaphor so far, Jocene, before you really sound like a try hard!

I don’t care. I’m wallowing.