At a recent teachers' workshop, I asked the attendees to shout out their favorite digital learning tool. "YouTube!", "Pinterest!", "Twitter," Google Plus!", "Flipboard!". The answers kept coming. I then asked people to stand up if they used three or more of the shouted responses. With half the attendees standing, scattered throughout the room, I asked them to huddle up with me in the middle. The purpose of this activity was to demonstrate George Siemens concept connected learning centers (CLCs). The Internet and learning networks allow us to access information and resources from a variety of places. Knowledge attained from a variety of information sources is fragmented. Modern learners create centers to add coherence and meaning to information. These centers are simultaneously social and technical (social bookmarking, blogging, microblogging, learning management systems).
How do we create order and meaning from what can often be characterized as chaos?
Examples of places where learners are creating coherent learning centers include; Twitter, LinkedIn, Weebly, and Schoology. George Siemens, a founding father of connectivist learning, says the process of leveraging networks, and organizing content into personal knowledge centers is an essential learning process of the modern era.
"The learning is the network." - George Siemens
Personal learning environments are personally constructed areas for generating, organizing, and sharing content. Like CLCs, personal learning environments will include social (personal learning network), and technology (personal web tools) support structures. Both CLCs and PLEs incorporate elements of formal and informal learning, including; experiences, analog material, and digital media. This blog, for example, serves as a centering tool, a professional learning portfolio, and a personal learning environment. It has taken me four years to develop a coherent structure for curating, creating, and sharing using this platform. Like my learning, the process is ongoing and ever-changing because networks, and our experiences with them, are constantly evolving.
"...students require structure and scaffolding when they first venture into digital learning environments." - Steve Wheeler
Where does the learning management system (LMS) fit into connected learning centers and personal learning environments? There are some, including myself, who argue every learner should have their own domain on the web, and that it's up to the individual learner to develop a personal structure for coherent centers of learning. A learning management system, like Schoology, creates a scaffolding experience within a protective walled garden. Students, in a short time, can create a connected learning center. They can curate and share learning materials in their resources folder. They can engage in online polls and discussions. They can organize and share evidence of learning using the pages, blogs, and my personal favorite, the portfolios tool.
A versatile, dynamic, learning management system, allows learners to practice networked learning as they development their personal learning environment. A user profile page serves as an introduction, personal philosophy summary, as well as, an invitation to connect with other learners. Blogs and web pages provide places for transparent goal setting, inquiry, and reflection. App integration (open API) allows students to incorporate the tools best suited for learning styles and creative expression. The personal learning environment is taken to the next level when learners have the opportunity to share their PLE with authentic audiences. Purposeful, relevant learning activities help bridge the gap between formal and informal learning.
The present and future of learning are personalized, mobile, digital, and social. Where can learners practice curating, creating, and sharing in a safe environment? A web domain for every learner is the ideal, but for most time-pressed learners lacking experience, an LMS such as Schoology, provides a bridge, or is integrated into our personal learning environments. Silvia Tolisano says, "Documenting our learning is integral to becoming self-determined with our learning." In a digital, web connected world, learning is enhanced and evidenced by how well we organize our people, places, and things.
What does your personal learning environment look like?
What recommendations do you have for learners creating connected learning centers?