In my last post about re-thinking everything in online education, I don’t think I made it clear that I was thinking about a specific technological breakthrough and not an idea like “Personal Learning Environments.” Personally, I love the idea of PLEs, but in some ways the technology to make them practical just isn’t there yet. Sure, we can tinker with several tools and sites out there to make something that “works,” but at the same time we can also tinker with Blackboard to make it “work.”
Many people are just not going to flock to an idea that you have to tinker with to make it “work.” I’m seeing a growing amount of PLE burn-out out there – people just getting to the point that they can’t keep up with it all. So they run back into the LMS box. Of course, they hate the box, but don’t have time for the PLE route.
This all reminds me of how smart phones were before the iPhone came along. Certain types loved their Crackberries and Palm Pilots, but most people just avoided them and some analysts predicted that the smart phone had grown as far as it would. They were often confusing and clunky. The technology got in the way of the average user embracing them.
Then the iPhone came in and changed everything.
The iPhone came along and made the technology disappear so that people could easily embrace the functionality without a confusing user’s manual. Then other phones followed and you now have hundreds of millions using essentially the same apps to do the same things on different devices. Whether you use an iPhone or a Droid or whatever, they all have a Facebook app so that you can post any thought to Facebook wherever you are at.
I’m thinking we need an iPhone moment for PLEs. The PLE as a concept needs that game changer tech to come along and make it accessible for the masses. A game changer that will make the tech issues disappear. Something that just “works” rather than making you do all the work to get the desired effect. A game changer that will make others follow and create different flavors for different people… while at the same time forcing the Crackberries of the LMS world re-think everything to try and compete.
That’s what I am looking for the in the online educational world. There are many promising ideas out there, but nothing is quite hitting that sweet spot yet.
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.