In this presentation, I will first explore ‘5 Future Trends’, which I believe we simply cannot ignore if we want to be a successful educator and learner in the 21st century. Then I will zoom in on PLE or Personal Learning Environments, and try to make sense of this concept. In the process, we will explore how the Learning Management System (LMS) fits into the world of PLE, and then we will explore some of the essential PLE tools that I use to facilitate my own learning. However, embracing the world of PLE has its challenges, and I will try to address some of them before we conclude this talk.
It is difficult to predict exactly what the future of learning will look like, but there are signals out there that give us indication of certain trends that are more likely to stay than fade away.
First, Social Media or Web 2.0 technologies are increasingly going to play a more significant role in our daily lives, whether we like it or not. I just need to mention Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs, and I believe you know what I mean. Social media empowers basically anyone with Internet access an amazing variety of tools to connect, interact, collaborate, create, share, and learn. The social media has in many ways changed the way we interact and share with one another.
Let’s just look at Facebook. Today, there are more than 700 million people using Facebook. Malaysia has the 16th largest user group in the world.
Did you know that nearly 4 million people in Saudi Arabia use Facebook today, which is 15% of its’ total population. We educators need to ask ourselves: Can social media also be used for learning and teaching?If so, how can we use it for learning and teaching? In other words, let’s really explore the possibilities of social media before we decide to ignore or dismiss it.
Another trend that we cannot ignore is the increased open sharing of learning resources and activities by educators and educational institutions around the world. More and more Universities, Colleges and schools are participating in the Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Courseware (OCW) initiatives. Some educators such as Stephen Downes and George Siemens have even gone one step further by conducting what is called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) (http://tiny.cc/2eger), whereby anyone is given the opportunity to attend and participate in the course for free as it is being conducted. So, not only are you getting free access to the content, but you are also given the opportunity to engage with the facilitators and students during the course empowering a more powerful learning experience. Here are a few great free resources from the education world (extended OER list: http://tiny.cc/r6xb0) that you might want to explore.
The Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/), which was founded by Salman Khan, often known as the one-man academy. He has amazingly created and shared on YouTube more than 2000 short tutorials, covering many areas including maths, science, biology and history. Recently, the Khan Academy launched a fantastic self-assessment and reporting system, enabling learners also to learn progressively through a knowledge map. Then you have amazing collections of video lectures and talks in sites like Academic Earth (http://academicearth.org/), YouTube EDU (http://www.youtube.com/edu) and TED Talks (http://www.ted.com/). If you are looking for free courses out there, Einztein (http://www.einztein.com/) is a great starting point to begin the search. Okay, I will stop here, because I could go on for hours discussing this topic. However, from an educational-point-of-view, we need to ask ourselves whether we are also going to participate in these kinds of initiatives, and for a start, “how can we utilize these open educational resources to improve our own courses and programmes?”
As a result of the growing usage of social media and open sharing of educational content and activities by educational institutions, we can firmly say that we are facing information overload, and there is a growing need for tools to manage or deal with this huge challenge. Luckily, there is a new wave of exciting and innovative tools in the name of ‘Social Curation’ to deal with this challenge. Some of these new social curation tools, such as Scoop.it, Peerltrees and Storify (http://tiny.cc/5245h) are empowered with some really innovative collaborative sharing features to make sense of the overloaded web by organizing discoveries and resources into mind-stimulating topics, stories, and collections. However, if you are using 1st generation tools like Diigo and Delicious, you can still use them quite effectively to make sense of this information overload.
For example, I still use Delicious to store, organize, search, and manage my learning discoveries online. By doing so, I can easily access my collections from any computer device I use. Better yet, anyone else interested in my discoveries can easily access them through my unique Delicious URL (http://www.delicious.com/zaidlearn). Also, every time I add a new resource to Delicious, it is automatically tweeted on my Twitter stream (@zaidlearn). And with the help of using tags, I can share particular collections with anyone, by sharing just one link. For example, here is my collection of useful PLE links. Isn’t that efficient and useful?
The fourth trend we simply cannot overlook is mobile learning. The innovations over the last few years in smartphones or mobile technologies have been breath taking. Today, we have iPhones, iPads, Androids, Galaxies, Kindles, etc., and these innovations are empowering us with great mobile learning possibilities. For example, more than a billion mobile phones in use today are smart phones. More than 250 million Facebook users are accessing Facebook through mobile devices. More than 80 million Twitter users are tweeting through mobile devices. More than 200 million YouTube views occur on mobile devices per day. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “How can we use mobile learning to empower our learning and teaching?” To do that, we need to embrace mobile learning and explore the possibilities to use it to enhance the students’ learning experiences.
The final trend that I will explore briefly is an emerging new learning theory for the digital era. This theory originated from Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Okay, some might argue that Connectivism is a not a learning theory, and is only a pedagogical view and so on. However, looking beyond that debate, I find the essence of Connectivism of critical importance for the present and future of learning. In a nutshell, it emphasizes that “…knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks...” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism) In other words, besides just knowing, we need to nurture our skills to find and apply knowledge to create and innovate. That network of knowledge goes beyond just content, which means we also need to master the art to connect and interact with relevant learning tools, people, groups, communities and networks around the world, enabling us to keep up with the innovations, trends and evolving knowledge as it is being constructed. To do that, we need to nurture our own personal learning environments using a variety of tools relevant to our learning needs.
So, what is a personal learning environment (PLE)? This is not a new concept, and has been discussed in the literature since the 1970s. However, until today, I have yet to find a satisfying definition of what this really means.
Though, Steve Wheeler’s useful diagram here comes closest to my understanding of the PLE concept (http://tiny.cc/8e3nk). First, we must remember that the PLE does not only include web tools and personal learning networks. It is much wider than that, as it also takes into account our experiences in the physical world, as well as learning through TV, music, paper based materials, radio and so on. Secondly, we need to realize today that content is not as important as knowing where (or who) to connect to, to find what we are looking for. In other words, we need to grow and nurture our personal learning network. Thirdly, we need to identify and chose the appropriate personal web tools, we want to use to support our lifelong learning. That is what we will discuss for the rest of this presentation.
But, what about the Learning Management System (LMS)? What role does it play in the PLE? That is a tough question. Some actually argue that the LMS is facing extinction, if it continues to operate in a centralized controlled course centric mode. However, like other tools, LMS platforms such Blackboard and Moodle are also evolving to adapt to the new learning needs and trends taking place. Meaning, I believe that the LMS will still have a critical role to play in especially formal education, but I also believe that learning will increasingly take place beyond the LMS. Meaning LMS will be relevant and useful for administrative tasks such as scheduling, grading, and managing courses, but we will increasingly be using the social media and web 2.0 tools for learning, because they provide more flexibility and possibilities to express our creativity and abilities. Or as Mohamed Amine Chatti (http://tiny.cc/ozffg) says, “Rather than integrating different tools into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a myriad of tools and hand over control to her to select, combine and use the tools the way she deems fit.”
Trying to bridge this gap and maintain some form of control, we could use or integrate systems like Mahara (http://mahara.org/) and ELGG (http://www.elgg.org/) to the LMS (or use them as standalone systems), enabling a more learning centric kind of environment, sparking groups, communities, and networks empowered with a collection of inbuilt web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs and social bookmarking. Or we could use emerging systems like Schoology (http://www.schoology.com/), which is a fusion of LMS and social network, providing literally the look and feel of Facebook, and also the relevant administrative functionality of a typical LMS required for course and student management. All these initiatives are useful, but I still believe that we will eventually need to develop PLE based on a variety of tools, because centralized systems such as Moodle and Blackboard cannot keep up with the fast evolving innovations and possibilities empowered by purpose built tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Google Sites, YouTube, and so on. To sum up, the LMS will still be relevant for most of our courses, but the PLE will be relevant for lifelong learning.
So, you want to develop a PLE? Where to start?
Here are a few examples, or diagrams showing how a PLE might look like. After this presentation, you might want to spend some time exploring this collection of PLE diagrams to get more insights and ideas on how to develop your own PLE (http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams).
So, what are the essential PLE tools?
Tough question! Let’s instead explore some of the tools that I use in my PLE. You can see on this slide my most essential PLE tools. I have probably tried hundreds of learning tools, but if I had to narrow them down, these would make my preferred list. I wanted first to create a meaningful PLE diagram, but somehow, it didn’t turn out that way. So, please don’t try to make sense of this PLE diagram (art work). Also, I will not be able to discuss today all my essential PLE tools identified here, and will instead focus on these 5 essential tools in my PLE arsenal, and provide some deeper insights about how I use them.
With RSS you can create your own customized online newspaper.
For example, I use Google Reader. By doing so content that I subscribe to comes to me, instead of having to search for it, or visit the website itself. By subscribing to the RSS feed of the website, the website updates will be accessible from my Google (RSS) reader. For example, say that I would like to read and follow 100 known e-learning blogs out there. I could visit each blog every day to check for updates, which I strongly don’t recommend. But, now with my Google Reader, all the updates from these 100 blogs come to me in a beautiful learning stream. In other words, I save time, and I am empowered with more time to do other things. I do hope you do the same, too.
Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows users to write brief text updates (140 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group, which can be chosen by the user. I have to admit, it took me nearly one year to figure out how to use Twitter effectively for my own learning. Today, I would argue that Twitter has become my favorite learning tool in my PLE toolkit. How did that happened? First, I started following people that I wanted to learn and interact with. So, I began following some of the most famous e-learning professionals in the world, and I soon realized that I was discovering resources, and getting deep insights into my passion like never before. Also, by following keywords or #hashtags enabled me to keep up with the latest trends and discussions being tweeted around the world. Those points alone, have kept me hooked on Twitter ever since. Twitter is a great tool to discover and share trends ideas, experiences, news and resources (links). Moreover, tweets by nature are chunked perfectly for mobile learning. You could even use Twitter in the classroom by for example empowering students to ask questions using it. Not all students are comfortable asking questions out loud in the classroom or lecture hall. If you haven't started tweeting yet, give it a shot! I would love to connect and discuss some learning ideas with you (http://twitter.com/zaidlearn).
If you are looking for other learning professionals, here is a good starting point (http://tiny.cc/llihj).
Also, as you get familiar with Twitter you would want to explore Twitter apps to amplify your learning experience. I would love to continue exploring this topic, but we have to move on to Facebook.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, “Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, families and coworkers.” I suppose nearly 700 million users around the world can testify to that.
But how can we use Facebook for learning and teaching? As students are increasingly connecting to Facebook via their smartphones, it might not be a bad idea using it for at least communicating with them and for collaboration activities. Although, there was resistance from both teachers and students at my university (IMU) initially, they are today more open to using it, and some teachers are using it to interact with their students using Facebook Groups or Facebook Pages.
If you are confused whether to use Facebook Groups or Facebook Pages to interact with your students, this table on the slide should help you decide. If you want a closed group, whereby only your students can access and participate, then go for Facebook Groups. If you want to for example establish an open community allowing anyone to join, then Facebook Pages would be better. It really depends on what you want. What I like about using both these Facebook tools is that they enable us easily to share resources on the wall. Students and teachers can easily upload pictures and videos, conduct polls, brainstorm using docs, and basically ‘Like’ and comment on any activity going on in the learning space. What LMS provide such ease and flexibility in sharing and interacting?
I would argue further that the blog is the perfect e-portfolio tool for both students and teachers. There are other recommended e-portfolio tools like Mahara and so on, but blog (Blogger or WordPress) to me provides more flexibility to express our learning experiences and creativity, and its' controlled by us, too. In other words, your perfect lifelong learning reflection tool! Blogging or writing about learning experiences is my passion, so I better stop here.
If you want integrate all your PLE tools into one webpage, you could use tools like iGoogle (http://www.google.com/ig), Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com/) and Pageflakes (http://www.pageflakes.com/ ) to enable that.
If you are looking for more interesting learning tools to empower your PLE, here is a quick Q&A based list:URL: http://zaidlearn.blogspot.com/2008/04/free-learning-tool-for-every-learning.html
Besides the joy of empowering yourself and students to develop their PLE, there are challenges we need to address. Let’s quickly run through some of them, from a technical, social, and pedagogical point-of-view.
Technical Challenges Tools overload: There are literally thousands of potential tools that we could use, and the challenge is to find the right tools that fit our learning needs. Firewall blocking: For example you want to encourage students to use YouTube, but the institution has blocked it for other reasons.Accessibility: Not everyone has easy access to technology and software.Usability & ease-of-use: Multiple tools, means multiple interface designs to learn.
Social Challenges Content ownership: Who owns the content developed using for example web 2.0 tools? Does the teacher, student or the institution own the content generated using such tools? Creative Commons might be the solution. Not all use social mediaDigital literacy skills: It varies from person to person, meaning we will be required to facilitate more training and support to bridge the gaps.Child Safety (e.g. cyber-bullying, unwanted exposures, and access to inappropriate content): A big issue, especially with younger school children. It is challenging to control this in a non-LMS world.
Pedagogical Challenges Out of the comfort zone: How do we get teachers out of their old ways of doing and thinking? If it has worked for 20 years, why change? Plagiarism and authenticity: This applies both to students and teachers. Instructional design: How do we do apply instructional design principles effectively in a PLE world? Testing and assessment: How do we assess creativity or artefacts created in a PLE world? Do we need to also transform our core assessment methods to nurture 21st century learners? I think so! Wow! Okay, I don't have the answers to all these issues and questions at this moment. But, maybe if you invite me next year I should be a bit wiser to deal with some of them.
If you want to explore PLE further, here are five experts that I would recommend adding to your Google Reader: Mohamed Amine Chattihttp://mohamedaminechatti.blogspot.com/Graham Attwellhttp://www.slideshare.net/GrahamAttwellSteve Wheeler http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/Stephen Downeshttp://www.downes.ca/George Siemenshttp://www.elearnspace.org/blog/
In conclusion, I would say that there is: No centralized system today that meets all our learning needs. A necessity to use a variety of tools to support our learning needs. NO perfect PLE model (but there are good examples that we can refer to). Perfecting our PLE is a lifelong process (meaning it is not static and it will evolve as we explore and learn). Building PLE will become increasingly important in the future. Empower yourself and students to build PLE!
Social Curation<br />3<br />“…Today there
is a new wave of social bookmarking tools in the name of 'Social Curation', which are empowered with some really innovative collaborative sharing tools to make sense of the overloaded web by organizing discoveries and resources into mind-stimulating topics, stories, collections, etc..” <br />– Zaid Ali Alsagoff<br />Article: http://tiny.cc/5245h<br />
Connectivism<br />5<br />“…knowledge is distributed
across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks...” <br />George Siemens & <br />Stephen Downes<br />More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism<br />
But, what about the LMS?<br
/>PLE<br />LMS<br />“Rather than integrating different tools into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a myriad of tools and hand over control to her to select, combine and use the tools the way she deems fit.”. - Mohamed Amine Chatti<br />Adapted from: http://tiny.cc/ozffg<br />
Twitter for Learning?<br />Don’t just
follow… ENGAGE!<br />#edchat - Education##edutech - Educational Technology#web20chat - Web 2.0#DistEd – Distance education and e-learning#innochat – Innovation in education#Lrnchat – Learning issues for educators#ellchat – English Language Learners<br />http://twitter.com/zaidlearn<br />Article: http://tiny.cc/lp0b0<br />
Social Challenges <br />Content ownership
<br /> Not all use social media<br /> Digital literacy skills<br /> Child safety<br />“…Many learners may not have the confidence and competence to develop and configure their own tools for learning“ <br />- Graham Attwell<br />
Conclusion<br />NO centralized system today
that meets all our learning needs.<br />A necessity to use a variety of tools to support our learning needs.<br />There is NO perfect PLE model. <br />Perfecting our PLE is a lifelong process.<br />Building PLE will become increasingly important in the future.<br />Empower yourself and students to build PLE!<br />