PLEs – antithetical to the current education system?

I read a series of contributions by Stephen, George, Pontydysgu, Attwell, and reviewed PLE diagrams and Wiki entries. George makes the point that PLEs are antithetical to existing educational systems, which are really  structures of power, accountability and control based in a sociological context, not focussed on learner needs and goals.

For this reason, PLEs, which are based on learners needs/goals and concerned with individual and personal autonomy and learning, cannot move into the center of the learning process until the underlying power relationships change.

Attwell suggests that the next steps in research and development of PLEs should include

  • examining in depth how individuals are using computers for learning in different settings (especially non-educational technology) and outside the setting of formal educational programmes;
  • exploring the relationship between informal learning and formal learning in developing competence;
  • examining different forms of competence and how educational technology can support such competences;
  • examining the use of different social software applications for learning;
  • examining in depth the nature and form of computer mediated interactions between learners in different communities;
  • examining the implications of persistence of data for Personal Learning Environments;
  • examining the different ways in which learners might wish to represent learning (both formal and informal);
  • examining what materials are used for informal learning and how they are used;
  • exploring the implications of changing forms and patterns of learning for educational institutions;
  • exploring ways of representing and patterning learning activities interactions;
  • exploring ways of utilising different services – both within and between institutions and with broader communities – to support PLE-type activities;
  • exploring issues in standards and interoperability to facilitate PLE-type development;
  • exploring how PLE-type applications and services can be integrated or work alongside existing educational applications and services

These are important inclusions. For example, Attwell talks about standards, interoperability, nature and forms of computer mediated interaction and data persistence, which are all going to be important for toolmakers and designers of PLEs.

Pontydysgu talks about the inherent contradictions in capitalist societies (and the associated systematized superstructures of education systems) and the power of individual & collective agency (as a transformative agent).

It is also important to reference Lisa Lane’s strategy for change in this context:

The solution is subversive application of connectivist and other useful learning ideas within the current structure, an insurgence for the purpose of fostering emergence.

The discussion begs two questions:

  1. Apart from shifts in underlying power relations, are there any other enabling factors for the adoption of PLEs (as tool/process/concept)?
  2. Is the mode of change that is required “insurgent” or “revolutionary”?

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