Yesterday Steve Wheeler raised a two fingered salute to open another chapter in the ongoing VLE-PLE debate (see VLE vs PLE fight club for an earlier installment). It’s an excellent post but I’m not wholly convinced.
Firstly, some points that Steve and I probably agree upon:
- Personal Webs have an important & central role in the future of technology enhanced learning
- Wherever appropriate teachers should be given freedom to teach with the web technologies of their choosing
- Students should also be encouraged to use the web technologies of their own choosing to support their learning
- More focus is needed on the teaching activities and not the tools that enable them
However, unlike Steve, I believe that VLEs (institutionally managed webs for teaching & learning) are here to stay and have an important role in the future:
- Not all teachers are tech-savvy ‘edupunks’. Many are not interested in developing and teaching with their own personal webs. Some would need considerable support to do so. This will undoubtedly change over time but for a good while to come many teachers want to be provided with a single, simple, managed & supported platform.
- Some teaching activities are not suited to the personal web. In particular those that involve an element of ‘security’ such as formal assessment. Nor is access control inherently bad. There are times when students require a safe, non-threatening environment (and times when opening access to the world should be encouraged).
- Many students want ease-of-use & to know where to find stuff! They don’t want 5 teachers on 3 courses using 5 different wiki tools, 3 social networking services…
I think we need to move away from this ‘battle’, the VLE-PLE ‘debate’ and look at how these web technologies can be integrated & used together in the future to meet the needs of all teachers & students. Some things I’d like to see:
- More open VLEs – students should be free to aggregate the content where they want it; institutions should be able to integrate web technologies of their choice; access control should include ‘open’
- Less prescriptive, more supportive institutions – a move away from every course must have x, cannot use y; encouragement for staff to innovate with web technologies where appropriate; continuing provision of core learning technologies and support for those who want it
- More focus on learning activities over tools – creative & effective teaching can take place in the crappy Moodle wiki just as well as it can in Wetpaint or Wikispaces. Equally, VLEs don’t have the monopoly on dull homogeneous content.
- More staff development – Teachers need to be digitally literate particularly with regard to pedagogy
For more on this discussion also see James Clay’s It’s not dead… yet… post, which includes these realities:
…most learners do not know how to use the web effectively and many of these only “visit” the web to do some stuff…
…most e-learning professionals aren’t engaging with the Web 2.0 tools and services out there let alone learning professionals…