An Evolving Personal Learning Environment

Over the last couple of years I’ve followed the increasing attention that Personal Learning Environments have received. Many who have written about PLEs have attempted to visualize or model their personal learning environments, like Chris Duke has in the diagram below. His PLE falls at the intersection of three types of activities, 1) managing information, 2) generating content, and 3) connecting with others.


Chris places the tools of his PLE in relation to how much he uses them.


Chris admits that it took time to decide where to place these tools and adjusted their location within the learning space several times. Which brings me to the point of this post, how does one’s PLE evolve through time? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see this occur in some way.

Visualizing an evolving PLE reflects adding new technologies and discarding old ones. Currently used technologies would shift in the personal learning space as one becomes more familiar with the capability of the technology and as an application matures, i.e. new features added. For example, when I first began using Twitter my tweets were updates sent to students and colleagues on my availability, and I followed few, the students in my courses using Twitter. Twitter was therefore relatively unimportant to my PLE. But as I understood what it could be used for, following those posting from conferences, reading tweets from media outlets, following those who mostly post news related to my interests, it has become more important and has become an important element in my PLE. Twitter, in other words, has moved closer toward the center of my PLE space. Thus, a PLE is an evolutionary environment that reflects technological innovation and one’s ability to learn how to use these tools and applications.

Many have shared visual representations of the personal learning environment as a static model. What would be interesting is to see animations as to how these learning environments evolve through time. I’d like to see how different applications and technologies become more and less important as one’s PLE evolves. Doing so may provide insights into how we create and engage information, connect to our communities, and use what we learn.


About Michael Ritter
Retired Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

2 Responses to An Evolving Personal Learning Environment

  1. tksouth1 says:

    I am glad that you think that we need to welcome the newer technologies and get rid of things that are not up to par. I also really like your example of twitter. Most people do not use twitter for learning, but use it for the little updates from time to time.

  2. JPa says:

    Liked the 3 function diagram of chris duke. Pity his blog is invites only access

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