I’m reading a new book about digital technologies in education and the author, Mark Pegrum, discusses a range of aspects, including personal learning environments (PLEs). He describes PLEs as ‘individually tailored constructivist spaces built by an for learners. They may take the form of websites, blogs, wikis, social networking pages, or some hybrid of these’. There is also a good explanation and analysis of PLEs by Educause which points out the potential of PLEs but also the limitations. The idea of each student having a personal learning environment (my emphasis), as opposed to a personal space on the school computer to store Word files, is an exciting concept. As with most technological advances, however, we need to ask if our students could make effective use of a PLE for personal learning and also for collaborative work, without some guidance – and who would provide that guidance. PLEs are likely to be available to most schools in the future, so it is worth learning about them now.
Walking 3k up The Rock, a 250m high volcanic hill near Wagga Wagga, is an unusual experience. You first walk through fairly dense bush and you can see the remains of previous bush fires all around. As you look into the dense forest of gum trees, it’s not hard to imagine how fierce a bush fire could be. Once you are clear of the bush, you start to climb the hill and get increasingly wide ranging views of the surrounding countryside. From the top, you can see for miles across the farmland and you really do get feeling of how just how BIG Australia is, as a country, compared with the farmland you would see in Scotland. In Scotland, the farmland is interrupted by towns and villages every few kilometres, whereas, from The Rock, you see uninterrupted farmland. If you’re lucky, on the way up or down, you might catch sight of a swamp wallaby (see picture below). This one looked at us, looked away, posed for one clear shot, and then hopped away into the bush. Very friendly.