Stephen Downes’ visit

Stephen Downes came to the OU today and gave a talk on PLEs. We had a chance to chat beforehand, and his talk was, as ever interesting and thought provoking. I felt that his vision of a PLE, although it steered clear of the client based talk I have seen in other ones, was very much based around an individual and their collection of resources. I didn’t see much room for collaboration in it. I queried him on this and he responded that the resources should include community and peer resources and tools such as Skype would be included. I can see how this would be neat (and as I have blogged before, I like the netvibes personal portal approach to collecting tools) – however it still makes collaboration difficult if we all have different tools. If you have Skype and I have Trillian, how do we conduct a collaborative activity?

VLEs are often criticised because they provide a blanket provision, but the benefit of this is that you can get on with doing the task in hand, safe in the knowledge that everyone is using the same system. This is part of my problem with PLEs – the problem they report to solve is not so great as to require the massive technological and cultural change it would require. For instance in order for a PLE to be most effective we need interoperability between all tools, and for universities to become a thing of the past, or at least how we think of education to alter radically. I’m not sure either of these is likely to happen in the near future. What I do like about PLEs is that they force us to think about learners as being in the technology world, and not technological tabula rasa. I don’t think higher education has even begun to grasp what it means to have the net generation entering their ranks. But I still have my doubts about PLEs – I think I may just be lacking that visionary thing.

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