Collaboration Design educational tool Social Software Uncategorized

No PLEs, but informal learning in Real World communities

Pauliina Seppälä just published a great presentation telling the story of the Refugee Hospitality Club in Punavuori, Helsinki. It’s a nice example of using digital social networking service (basically Facebook) to organize people to change their own living environment, the Real World, to be a bit more human, pleasant and civic. Check the presentation:


My second example of informal learning in a Real World is a Master Thesis work from our MA in New Media program. Linda Kronman’s Killer Fashion Revolution is a project that uses fashion hacktivism to promote human rights. Check the video:


What is common with the two projects is a strong community aspect in them. Pauliina and Linda have not build Personal Learning Environment to benefit themselves, but have started a project to build and maintain platform for community interested in important and common interest. The communities also have clear missions, shared values and commitment. The operations are transparent.

The topic of role of informal learning has been a widely discussed among online learning people. The idea of Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and Do it yourself University (DIY U) are considered to be a real game-changers in learning and education in the digital era.

I agree with this but have found the PLE and the DIY U problematic, because they emphasize individuals over communities. In them the individuals are considered to be in the center, with all the rights and the responsibilities to choose whatever he or she wants to study, when, where and with whom.

The weak social ties in pure online communities easily results as opportunistic and no or only short-term commitments.

I see that the Real World does not work like this, or should I say, that the Real World requires different kind of approach. I see that the ultimate individualism and lack of commitment may cause a lot of trouble — actually some very serious problems.

It is —I admit — a strong claim, but I see connection between the PLE and some of the most shocking accidents in Finland, in recent years: a bombing in a shopping center in 2002 and in two school shootings that took place in 2007 and in 2008.

From the Wikipedia articles you can check how the perpetrators were active online “learners” in an anonymous “home chemistry” group and in online hate groups interested in school shootings. All the perpetrators were individual learners online.

To blame “Personal Learning Environment” about the incidents would of course be silly. So, I am not doing it. I am, however, either not one of those people who think that technology and tools are neutral and can be used for good and bad.

Guns kill people. Killing someone with hammer is possible, but there is a difference.

One reply on “No PLEs, but informal learning in Real World communities”

Click! I remember you arguing this line back in 2006 at the FLNW. For what ever reason I disagreed, but reading this I think I misunderstood. I agree with you, there is a need for community, and finding that online is often more possible than it is in real worlds. Bringing the online and the real world communities together can be really powerful (FLNW, Wikimania, barcamps, etc). When I think about my own online learning experiences, it is only when I have felt connected to others in some kind of personal way that I have been most receptive to learning. Over the recent years, I have felt that personal connection weaken, and along with it my interest and motivation…


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