I’m intrigued by the idea of Personal Learning Environments.  Specifically defined, they integrate different online tools into AJAX start pages (such as those that can be created in Bloglines or My Yahoo).  Ron Lubensky, in his e-learning blog, writes that “a Personal Learning Environment is a facility for an individual to access, aggregate, configure and manipulate digital artifacts of their ongoing learning experiences.”  So loosely defined, they are aggregators of personal digital information.

I would like to become more adept at this myself. I use a lot of online tools, but tend to keep them in their separate spheres. I am not yet savvy enough with tools and plug-ins to have them all at my fingertips at the same time.  There are quite a few tools out there to assist in the setup of PLEs, such as iGoogle and Pageflakes. There is also an archived WebJunction webinar on the subject that gives helpful hints for information professionals.

It seems that the proliferation of digital learning means education (however defined) is both increasingly prevalent and increasingly informal. I think both of these are positive developments. Any learning I can accomplish through my own exploration (conscious or unconscious) is in many ways preferable to formal, structured, TUITION-BASED education. If I can set up an online environment that puts this experience on auto-pilot, all the better.

 One way to conceptualize what information seeking/receiving behavior looks like is to create a mindmap, which is like a illustrative web of how information comes in and how it is connected (I got this idea from Ray Sims and Michele Martin).  Because I love organizing the seemingly disjointed into rational lists, this is a project I would definitely like to take on sometime soon. Maybe it will help me develop a more powerful and logical Personal Learning Environment. It seems like a useful exercise both online and offline.

Unfortunately, it seems like I have less and less time to take advantage of online learning opportunities, formal or informal. Lately it seems like all my free time is taken up with the old-fashioned activities of reading (mostly those artifacts known as “books”) and writing. But I still think this is an interesting idea. I would love to see the directions in which other people have taken this idea – any examples out there you’d like to share?