Who Do You Connect With? Cultivating Your Personal Learning Environment By Stefanie Panke for AACE Review, March 30th 2015 ‘As the future connects us, how are we handling it? Who do we connect with? As we have all this information out there, what is our role? With all the answers available in networks, what are the most important questions in our field?’ Ann Hill-Duin, E-Learn 2014 Conference Talk Personal Learning Environments and Networks Personal learning environments (PLE) are ‘an idea of how individuals approach the task of learning’ (Educause 2009) and describe ‘the activities and milieu of a modern online learner’ (Martindale & Dowdy, 2010). PLEs comprise tools, communities, and services learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals. They migrate the management of learning from the institution to the learner’ (Downes, 2007). Though technology plays an important role in facilitating one’s PLE, the specific tools and environments may shift over time: As smart phones and tablets are more and more widespread, the concept has moved away from centralized, server-based solutions to distributed and portable mobile apps Horizon Report Wiki 2015. I was first introduced to the concept of PLEs through the Massive Open Online Course ‘Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge (PLENK 2010)’ – and the discussions in this MOOC still shape my conceptual understanding of personal learning environments – most importantly: PLEs should be considered as an approach, rather than just a specific technology. ‘Everyone has and has always had a personal learning environment. Looking at just the technology-based components of a PLE will ignore the influences of personal networks, communities, and physical resources on personal learning’. (Larry Phillips, September 2010, PLENK Discussion Board) Cultivating the personal learning environment is an ongoing task that requires choices not only about learning resources and infrastructures, but also about your learning network. People who are part of an informal social learning network provide resources or further contacts, and reciprocal advantages emerge among the networkers. Examples include simplifying workflows (“cutting through the red tape”), passing on strategic information and mentoring network members in their professional development. Sometimes this network grows organically, through colleagues, friends, and miscellaneous conference contacts, other times, we deliberately include people we see as experts in our field. Birds of a Feather: Weak Social Ties in Knowledge Networks Can Fuel Problem Solving Who to Connect with? With an increased engagement in social media channels this question faces us within the AACE community. Just as it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with the numerous publications and trends in Educational Technology, finding the right mix and balance for meaningful engagement with social media is a lifelong learning challenge. Review our list of Top 20 in Educational Technology on Social Media to find suggestions for Twitter channels and Edublogs. Over to You Although social media tools make it easy and convenient to keep up with a large number of resources, it takes deliberate effort, informed choices and, last but not least, individual preferences to shape a meaningful personal learning environment. We want to know more about your personal learning environment. Do you have a favorite Edublogger? Which Twitter feeds do you pick up as your daily information grain? Which tools, communities and gatherings to you frequent online and offline? Leave comments and share recommendations through Twitter (@AACE) and on our Facebook page.