At an online presentation at a conference in Barcelona on Personal Learning environments, I made the following statement:
To learn independently using a Personal Learning Environment people not only need to become self-directed learners, but also need particular abilities and competencies. There is no ‘overarching tutor’ to guide learners and to challenge their ideas and beliefs or to help them in gathering information and understanding the media and the way they represent information. Instead, the onus is on learners themselves to make these judgments and to validate information and knowledge, and to find knowledgeable others who can help them with this.
Downes (2009) discussed the concept of ‘critical literacies’ in relation to successful learning on informal networks, while Bouchard and Kop (2010, in press) emphasised the need for individuals to be able to ‘network’ effectively, which requires considerable levels of meta-cognition and collaboration skills that, they argue, not all learners possess. Networks are not neutral and power free; there are influential hubs that determine what information people are able to access
The new learning environment requires learners to be active in their learning by editing and producing information themselves in a variety of formats and by communicating and collaborating with others in new ways. People need to have a certain level of creativity and innovative thinking, in addition to feeling competent, confident and comfortable at using ICT applications to be able to do so.
Learners need to be flexible, able to adapt to new situations and able to solve problems that they come across during their learning journey. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people learn some of these informally from each other, but other critical literacies, i.e. information literacy, develop at a very early age and will be hard to acquire at a later date.
Critical thinking skills and media literacy require the presence of an expert to challenge beliefs and show opposing points of view to the one the learner has which is hard to facilitate in an open online environment.
Although some, eg Stephen Downes, argue that these skills will develop while engaging in online communication with others, or via challenging feedback or recommendations through the PLE system itself (Downes, 2009).
What do you think?