The standard models (and perceived purpose) of e-portfolios fall apart when you expect them to reflect something more holistic about who you are, what you're working on or thinking about right now, who you're reading and collaborating with, and what you plan to be pursuing and learning in the future. Better e-portfolio applications or methods will help us collect and publish our stuff, but we haven't (and maybe shouldn't have) really expected them to connect us to a network of people with shared interests and goals, or help me synthesize connections between my past work, current projects or future goals. It looks like the PLE (personal learning environment) is taking on those weighty expectations instead. Just as a PLE is not meant to be an LMS, the e-portfolio was not designed to be a PLE.
So how will the PLE escape the limiting shackles that kept e-portfolios from growing beyond glorified CVs or assessment hoops for students to jump through? I'll oh-so-humbly quote myself from my response to Dave's thoughtful post on the topic:
"The main differences could be that PLE's will be seen to exist inherently in a social context, connecting data and contacts from multiple (and often free) tools, as well as being owned and controlled by the learner. All of these were key in your initial framework for Elgg, which is perhaps why people seemed to have a hard time seeing it as an e-portfolio solution -- it didn't fit their mental model. If those elements (social context, multiple tools, free/open, learner-owned and controlled) emerge as defining characteristics of a proper PLE, then it actually will be something really different..."Instead of "really different" at the end, I should have said something like "way more valuable for someone trying to actually learn stuff." Anyway, I went back and revised last week's e-portfolio model and came up with a PLE diagram I'm happier with. The main changes:
- Changed the name of the whole exercise from E-Portfolio Model to Personal Learning Environment
- Removed the e-portfolio label from the unifying box in the middle and distributed it throughout the whole environment as a contributing tool with several specific functions
- Renamed the unifying box in the middle to "Self-Directed Learning Tools" to reflect the types of tools and functions that connect these concepts above and below -- although the label still sucks, this is a significant conceptual shift -- we're not talking about a PLE (or e-portfolio) as a tool itself. I'm not even sure that it can be created or designed by someone for someone else. Just as each person's desires, abilities and past experiences are different, each person's personal learning environment should be their own unique combination of tools, networks and methods that help them accomplish their goals. If the learning environment is truly personal, the tools and the learning are self-directed by definition.
- Changed the contents of most of the boxes to reflect more specific tasks, tools, activities and data -- the more people-friendly language of the last one was quickly swamped with acronyms and jargon, but I resisted the urge to label each arrow with RSS. The most interesting to me right now: sending data to and from LMSs in courses (most self-directed learners take courses occasionally), the inclusion of IEP (individual learning plan) and PDP (personal development plan) in the "What You Want to Do" and the PLA (prior learning assessment) in the "What You've Learned" box -- these are all concepts with huge potential...leverage points in revolutionizing education systems.
- Changed a label from "What You Can Do" to "What You've Learned" so it reflects a broader range of knowledge, rather than focusing exclusively on doing. That led me down the path of splitting "What You're Doing" into doing and learning as well, which made it natural to do the same to "What You Want to Do"...the result is more buckets for learning.
- Labeled the top boxes more explicitly with their relationship to the past, present and future
- Made most of the arrows bi-directional to reflect the flow of data in both directions