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Personal Learning Environments

Yesterday morning I saw a post on linkedIn about Personal Learning Environments, and that got me thinking about the current state of affairs with the Covid-19 pandemic and how education has changed our teaching and working practices.

Having worked in education for a long time, specifically in the field of Learning technology I’ve seen different systems come and go and peoples opinions shift from the next best thing to the other, me included. In the past if you did things differently, by not being on the newest platform you were banished to the corner. In the geeky world of technology, where nothing stays still and every day is a CDP day, the pandemic is showing us a mix and match of platform, apps and skill-sets.

We used talk about Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) as being the one place learners ‘have’ to visit to do all of their learning, submit assessments and gain feedback. They must do this and that, all on the preferred VLE of the organisation they are attached to.

Is the current situation creating super-dooper-maximum-strength differention?

Gone are the day’s of the one stop-shop of VLEs, and in my opinion it’s a good thing. Take Moodle, that’s a full on Learning Environment, and for those that have it down, is a cracking system. For those organisations who generally use it half-halfheartedly, you find it’s simply a resources dump with a high bounce rate. Student logs in, Student gets work, student leaves! That may seem bad, and it used to look like that in years gone by, but now less so. What you don’t see in this scenario is the teaching, learning, assessment and feedback gained, ‘off’ platform.

In lockdown it seems everyone is doing things differently. People are happily using Office 365, syncing documents, working collaboratively with peers, and others are working on the Google eco system in Meet, Drive and Sites. Take this scenario and apply it to teaching, are we now performing super-dooper-maximum-strength differentiation?

I’ve been supporting staff and students who normally use 365 in the ways of Google Meet. I’ve also been doing it the other way around, helping people to navigate Microsoft Teams who never leave the Google sphere. Each has it’s own merits as well as pitfalls, but what is clear there is no real ‘one size fits all’. Everyone is different, we all prefer a different operating system to our peers, normally resulting in a conversation over a pint or two on the merits of IOS over Android.

I love working from home in the current situation. I don’t get the distractions I get at work, I can take a breather, smell the roses and do some CPD. That’s a daily thing when working within learning tech in education. So much so, I haven’t got time to write out CPD forms!

It may not be pretty, but its my Personal Learning Environment.

My personal learning environment consists of a two Windows 10 PCs, one a laptop and one a desktop, and my android phone. Out of the three devices, my phones get hammered. It’s become my webcam, Teams and Meet are both used daily on it. The laptop gets bounced around the house letting me get a change of scenery but if I want more comfort and two wide screens, I get on the desktop, although that has no webcam, speakers or microphone! This is my personal learning environment, give me this over a work desk all day long.

We find ourselves teaching and learning in new learning spaces, personal learning spaces that become, and are very personal to you. I love it, I find myself not wanting to go back to the ‘old’ way of working. I miss the social interaction at times, but the ‘new’ ways outweigh this enough to satisfy my intrinsic nature. I’m going to miss looking out of my window, grabbing a tea whilst talking to the cat. I guest I’m going to have to make do with chatting with real people when this is all over.

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