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Education is something that sits deep within each of us, making our learning experiences
personal and unique. Yet this is precisely what traditional higher education actively works
against, providing a generic learnin g environment for each student and preventing them
from exploring the curriculum in creative, personally meaningful ways. One clear sign of
this is the emergence of the Learning Management System (LMS) as the dominant design
in educational technology over the past decade. A closed system from the ground up, the
LMS excludes the many diverse educational contexts that promote the informal, lifelong
and lifewide learning that higher education purports to instil. For too long, we have made
technology conform to outdated notions of what education is about, rather than reshaping
education to reflect the new world conditions that technology enables.

In direct contrast, the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) seeks to incorporate the
multiple unique learning contex ts that each of us experience, using social media to create
integrated environments and networks that promote personal learning. Small pieces of
loosely connected software are used to aggregate, filter, re -purpose, connect and share a
selection of highly personal learning objects that are accessible in multiple contexts via
multiple devices. The speed, scope, scale and personal control of what we are able to do
in this environment is unlike anything that has existed before.

Personal learning requires that we as educators give up control of the classroom, and
allow students to explore the curriculum in ways that facilitate unique and personally
meaningful connections for each of them. This presentation will seek to highlight the
problems inherent in the current dominant design, to conceptualise the PLE within the
context of higher education and to explore some of the ways in which personal learning
can be facilitated using online social tools.

Michael Rowe
Physiotherapy Department
University of the Western Cape