Thursday, November 18, 2010

Modelling PLE based learning

InWednesday's  #PLENK2010 session Sebastian Fiedler gave us his thoughts and ideas on Personal Learning Environments. He moved the discussion from the technology to the concept and made us think about the personal learning, rather than the learning environment in PLE. His model to analyse personal learning looked like this:
During the discussion following his presentation quite a few questions were asked about this framework: would people move from 1 through a continuum to 5? How would this work?  Howard Johnson in his blog pointed out that PLE based learning is very much embedded in the context in which it takes place. Learners are in a constant flux, working here, playing there, interacting on Twitter, drinking coffee in the local community centre. That is also my problem with this model: it is all about the self, but this self doesn't operate in a vacuum. I would prefer to see a model of learning that encompasses the context and interactions that people engage in. I produced a model of PLE based learning a while back that incorporates the learning context. It has Kolb's learning cycle at its heart, but also shows the process of aggregation of information, relation of the materials to earlier experiences and knowledge, creation of digital artefacts and sharing of these with the wider world and communicate about them with others.

Of course while learners are going about their lives and are involved in activities that make that they learn, their personal development continues and I have found the Perry stages of development, as described in an earlier post, helpful in understanding how this might work.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Feeling uncomfortable with Personal Knowledge Management

Harold Jarche illuminated participants on #PLENK2010 on his ideas of Personal Knowledge Management on Friday. The way he sees it seems to boil down to doing something with information in an effective way: share it and/or action it.  Vlimaka on Cryselina linked some of the readers of the week in an interesting way to what Harold had to say and made the connection between PKM and Knowledge Management in organizations and how the two might compare.

I have some problems with Knowledge Management and even more so with the term Personal Knowledge Management.

1. My first problem is that it gives me the jitters to see that another business term has crept into the social sciences. There have been widespread protests at the use of the word 'capital', to describe the value of our social, human and cultural interactions as human beings in terms such as 'social capital', 'cultural capital' and 'human capital' as it was suggested that in these more is at stake than monetary gain. Do we really have to call the way we organize our personal interactions with others and our creative actions which help us to transform information into knowledge management? Is there not a more inspirational term available? I would say 'enrichment', 'organization' or 'development' would already be better terms, or perhaps 'creation' or even 'control' but perhaps people in PLENK will be able to come up with a better term.

2. To me there also seems to be a tension between the words 'knowledge' and 'management'. In my idea of knowledge there is not much of it that you can manage. It is related to the problems Stephen Downes already saw in 2003 with knowledge management . Knowledge is not the same as information or data, which you can capture and store in systems.

Knowledge in my view is related to the context in which it emerges. Depending on your view of knowledge, it can be constructed, which makes that it is related to the earlier experiences and or knowledge of individuals or others in his or her surroundings. This makes that it would be hard to manage as it would be related to the context in which it is produced over which you don't have control.

It might emerge through a process of immersion, sharing on networks and actions related to information processing, eg. through blogging and receiving from and tweeting information and resources and artifacts on to other people in a connectivist view of knowledge, this makes the management of it even more problematic as knowledge would be embedded in the context in which it emerges, and span a person's mind, the people involved in the interactions and the tools used to carry out the actions and interactions. The only management you would be able to do is to ensure that the conditions to achieve knowledge development are being met, for instance by installing tools on your machine that allow you to  communicate, create artifacts, and push out the artifacts produced onto the Web, but to me these are the least significant in the knowledge creation process.

The only view of knowledge that I can see that would allow for management is the traditional view, where institutions such as universities who produce a high form of knowledge can chop it into bite size chunks, make these into course packages that instructors can pick of the shelf for the students to digest. And even there one would argue in a quality teaching situation, more will happen than the transfer of this managed knowledge; students would be expected to make connections with what they already know and information they find outside the institution, or with information and resources provided by the instructor. And there would be communication to share what is known. Learning outcomes might not quite be what the manager would have intended.

 What then about knowledge management in the workplace? What defines the current knowledge workers job? Here as example a description of 'portfolio' adult educators by Fenwick, that I think is also applicable to other workers today (2003, p.175):

'They are increasingly expected to adapt themselves to conditions of flexible jobs, flexible knowledge and skills and flexible work loctions . . .Within these flexibilised employment arrangements, a career has become an individual's responsibility, a lifelong human resource project crafted through the process of continuous reflexive self-assessment, continuous learning and adaptation and of course self-marketing.'

To me people's career and flexible knowledge once again mean that knowledge in the workplace is again related to the context in which it is generated; the workplace, the knowledge worker him/her self, the professional network. The only instance I can see related to the management of knowledge has to do with the optimization of work by employers, businesses and corporations. What are they to do when a valued worker leaves? How to capture what the worker has learned? Well, I would say they need to allow sufficient time between someone leaving and a new person to be appointed to ensure that work-related knowledge is not lost. There needs to be a process of enculturation and immersion of the new employee in the proximity of the leaving worker, but it seems in the work place of today time is not allowed for this.

So, what do I think of (personal) knowledge management?  No thanks, not for me!