02 SES 02 B, Personal Learning Environments, Learning Territorities and Learning Sites
During the last two decades, considerable effort and funding have been expended on developing and implementing ICT in education and training. Despite these efforts, there remains an issue as to the effectiveness and attractiveness of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) or e-learning in practice. In fact, a number of critical voices underline that despite the far reaching changes in the economy, in production and in social life through the widespread adoption of digital technologies, educational institutions and curricula remain remarkably unaffected.
Based on the ideas of collaborative learning and social networks within communities of practice, Personal Learning Environments (PLE) are being put forward as a new approach to the development of e-learning tools (Wilson et al, 2006). PLEs can be described as a collection of loosely coupled tools, including Web 2.0 technologies, used for working, learning, reflection and collaboration with others. PLEs can be seen as the spaces in which people interact and communicate and whose ultimate result is learning and the development of collective know-how. Thereby, social software can be used for informal learning which is learner driven, problem-based and motivated by interest – not as a process triggered by a single learning provider, but as a continuing activity corresponding with the paradigm of self-directed learning. By definition, PLEs are individual while at the same time it is possible to provide tools and services to support learners in developing their own environment, thereby supporting knowledge creation and communication. Whilst PLEs revert to a specific set of technology, including applications and services, more important is the idea of supporting individual and group-based learning in multiple contexts and of promoting learner autonomy and control (Connole, 2008).
The paper will present results from a European project that developed and introduced PLEs for trainees and mostly low skilled workers in the domain of forestry and tree care. It was implemented in four European countries (Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands) in cooperation with larger vocational education and training centres and small and medium size companies. The project was completed in 2011 and had the objective to pilot a PLE for the target group of mainly low skilled users, vocational teachers and company instructors to enhance formal and informal learning processes, competence development and knowledge exchange. The presented results are based on an evaluation implemented alongside the project to assess the effectiveness and impact of the introduced PLE. The evaluation considered (1) the didactical quality of the teaching and learning environment, (2) how PLE facilitates competence development (considering technical competence, methodological competence, social competence and communicative competence), (3) the user-friendliness and accessibility considering the educational background of the users, and (4) the extent to which the PLE supported the cooperation between the vocational school and the company.
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