PLEs and Connective Environments

With a little help from Jatinder, a kindred soul in the making of simulators that happen to attract Brandon Hall Awards, I tried to visualize a model of PLEs operating in a connective environment. It started with a reply I made to Janet and Carmen on what I think should be:

…let us contrast the MOOC environment with an LMS. Can we think of this environment as self configuring instead of being configured by an administrator. How about when a person wants to join a “course”, she gives rights to the MOOC server to “pull” content she wants to share in context of the course into the course environment…the content stays with her, but instead of (or in addition to) the LMS “pushing” some general stuff, it configures a learning space based on the expertise and contributions of its members?

Like if I join a space or a conversation, I bring not only my personal self but also my blog, my Zotero collection, my Diigo links, my tweets, my network etc., but also decide to bring in a relevant “slice” of these and other influences to the course or research I am taking on. Maybe such environments understand a shared semantic vocabulary for the subject so that they can quickly organize the combined course network without my explicit instructions. Wouldn’t this be a self-organizing, emergent ecology more in line with Connectivism and a way to differentiate against an LMS?

The first visualization I thought of was that of puddles and rain. Simply put, when the rain falls, puddles of water form. Some puddles mix with other puddles, self-organizing, to form streams, some stay quietly content to stay aloof and disconnected. Depending upon how much it rains and what the surfaces are that receive the rainfall, we will see patterns. There may be a point of bifurcation when the entire surface gets covered. When rain stops, and puddles start drying, a pattern of decay forms quite unlike the pattern of growth which was an emergent, complex pattern to start with.

So replace puddles with PLEs, the surface and environment with the network (a super-PLE?) ecology and the rain with a certain eventedness (a MOOC?) and you have my picture of what goes on in connective learning. Weird idea? I sincerely hope not.

So I thought I would bring about a better visualization with Jatinder’s kind help. Picture this (disclaimer: not to suggest any connection between the names of various people in my network on the visual and social connotations of the word butterfly, more from the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings….):

(Images courtesy various artistes on the web, but in particular for the incredible post here – did you know the Fibonnacci Sequence appears in the sunflower!)

This could be an environment unlike the above, with cacti and barren deserts instead, a metaphor perhaps for rigid institutional environments. The point is that each of the elements will feed on each other in complex ways, uncontrollable, still with distinct patterns. Of course, Stephen invoked that knowledge as a plant, meant to be grown metaphor when talking about connectionist networks. I am not suggesting that one plant is altogether separate from the other and knowledge is silo-ed, they will have dependencies and some common roots. But each plant will have a tapestry of complex patterns to reveal, strands of knowledge and butterflies will cross-pollinate.

But it is a picture where PLEs are an extension of the self, disembodied but in many ways a natural extension, making us a distributed entity operating as a singularity(?). I like this way of thinking (although the quickly engineered visual may not make the grade). And I think this way of visualizing gives us credible alternatives to the way LMSs are built today.

As always, would love to know what you think!

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