My Personal Learning Evironment

In this module of EdTech 543 (Social Network Learning) I was asked to reflect on my personal learning environment (PLE) and create a visual representation of it. There are variable definitions of what a PLE is but I like this one by Connie Malamed:

A self-directed and evolving environment of tools, services and resources organized by a person seeking a way to accomplish lifetime learning, to create, and to connect with others of similar interests.

In short, a PLE includes your personal learning network (PLN) and the tools you use to interact with it. Everyone’s PLE is unique. We all use different tools to interact with our unique PLN.


My PLE diagram tries to convey that I use devices, services, and various tools to interact with people and information. People includes colleagues, friends, communities of practice I belong to, communities of inquiry, and other smart people around the world. Information can be in print, online, or stored in my computer.

I mostly follow the 4 Cs model created by Chris Sessums in which the 4 Cs are collect, communicate, create, and collaborate. As such, there are 3 zones to the devices, services and tools layer of my PLE diagram. At the bottom, are tools I use to create and communicate.  On the right, are tools and ways I like to learn, including using online, print, and verbal media. Finally, on the left, are the tools I use to collect, communicate, and collaborate. All these tools are also used by others to interact with me. I also included the “low tech” old-fashioned way of learning and communicating: the lecture and meetings.

While reflecting on my PLE, I realized I have a core group of tools that I use. There are many tools available but I think most of us regularly use just a few. Over the years I have tested many tools and rejected most of them for various reasons. It was also helpful to reflect upon what role various tools play in my PLE and how the tools have evolved over time. Tools often have many uses but I find I use some tools at only a fraction of their capacity.

I reviewed several of my classmates’ PLE diagrams. Most focus on technology (as does mine). Many of us use the same tools, which makes sense as these tools have been around a while (e.g. Microsoft products, Google products). I did find some people included tools I wouldn’t have thought of as being useful for a PLE. For example, one diagram included PayPal, amazon, and eBay. Others include tools I just don’t use like Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, RSS aggregators, Flip Board, and some educational social networking sites. But that’s what make a PLE personal. What I always miss in assignments like this is not finding out how people use these different tools. I find it’s easy to learn to use a tool but harder to discover new ways to use them. Finally, I like how at least one of my classmates included face to face interaction in her PLE diagram. Too often we focus on technology but interacting with colleagues in the office or at conventions is still a very useful way to learn and create. I also found it fascinating of how different people followed different models to organize their PLEs. All were very creating and informative.

EDTECH 504 Reflection: How are emerging technologies, learning theories, and theories of educational technology connected?

Learning theories try to explain how people learn. They are based on empirical research and assumptions. They include principles about how particular factors affect learning. Teaching and learning strategies are developed based on these principles. Ertmer and Newby (1993) emphasize the importance of learning theory as a source of verified strategies, as the foundation for strategy selection, and as the most reliable way for predicting learning outcomes. When I first began learning about learning theories I felt I had to choose one of them and design all learning exercises following the theory’s principles. I soon learned this was impossible as I teach varied things to varied learners in varied settings. Each major theory has its merits and limitations. Using different strategies based on the learning context is the most prudent strategy. Often strategies from multiple theories are used simultaneously.

Two resources have been instrumental in my understanding of learning theories: chapter four of Larson and Lockee’s Streamlined ID (2014) and a review by Ertmer and Newby (1993). I refer often to the assumptions and design strategies outlined in tables 4.3 through 4.6 in Streamlined ID when designing learning experiences (Larson and Lockee, 2014). The three main learning theories are behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Some resources separate out sociocultural theory as its own theory while others view it as a subtheory of cognitivism. Similarly, some may consider connectivism as a separate theory while others view it as a subtheory of constructivism.

It is important to realize that when the main learning theories were developed computer-mediated communications (CMC) did not exist. CMC and emerging technologies have changed how we think about learning theories. Once you employ strategies of a traditional learning theory via an emerging technology or a more traditional e-learning technology it becomes a theory of educational technology. One must then make sure that the assumptions that applied to traditional learning environments still apply to e-learning environments. I think there is still much research to be done in this area.

I have begun to teach online over that past two years. My mentor in developing my first online course told me we were going to develop the course based on constructivist principles. So I became a constructivist. I developed video-based authentic clinical scenarios for each module of the course. During each module students resolve the clinical scenario using a clinical research article and along the way learn about research design and epidemiology. An assumption of constructivism is that transfer of knowledge is facilitated when learning experiences are authentic, meaningful, and appropriately contextualized (Larson and Lockee, 2014, p. 85). I think the clinical scenarios I developed meet those criteria but does video of an actual clinical encounter transmit that same authenticity as a real life clinical setting? Probably not, but what and how much effect does this difference have on learning? This is an example of needing to study underlying assumptions of learning theories to see if they are valid in e-learning environments.


Ertmer, P. A., & Newby T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4): 50-72.

Larson, M. B., & Lockee, B. B. (2014). Streamlined ID: A practical guide to instructional design. New York: Routledge.

EDTECH 504 Reflection 1: Educational technology definition and goals for the course and professional practice

It was interesting to read my classmate’s definitions of educational technology. Despite all of us having taken multiple edtech courses, there was not as much consistency as I thought there would be amongst our definitions. I chose to use the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) definition of educational technology for several reasons. It was the first formal definition I learned about in EDTECH 501. It is the definition proposed by one of the professional bodies of educational technology and it has thoughtfully evolved over the past half century as outlined in chapter 10 (Januszewski and Molenda, 2008). Finally, it has face validity and seems to contain all the important elements it should. The only component that I might add would be the facilitation of teaching. The AECT definition is learning-centered but I also think technology facilitates teaching.

In Discussion one I compared and contrasted the AECT definition to that of Luppicini’s (2005) definition of educational technology in society. I feel they both capture similar elements as I outlined.

We all use technology to teach. I do a fair amount of creation and usage but not a lot of managing of resources and processes. What I use varies as I teach in varied settings (clinical and nonclinical, face-to-face and online, formal and informal) to varied learners (medical students, other health professions students, residents, and faculty) and on varied topics (each patient can have numerous things to teach about). I use cadavers to facilitate a monthly joint injection workshop. I never considered the cadaver a technology but it is. I use a blog platform to facilitate learning about perioperative medicine ( I recently developed the first online course for the medical school ( I had limited knowledge and experience in online teaching and learning when I began developing the course. As I learned about mobile learning and using the web for education I became very interested in educational technology. I began to experiment with various tools, for example Prezi and TouchCast, but realized I had no reason for using one tool over another, other than its “coolness factor”. Thus, I decided to pursue a master in educational technology to link theory to practice.

One of the main things I hope to get out of this course (and the whole degree program) is consistent with objective eight on the syllabus. I hope to develop a systematic approach to using technology in my teaching and to be able to express that approach to colleagues. I would also like to have a firmer grasp of how learning theories apply to educational technology and ground more of what I do in theory. In 503 I learned about instructivism, constructivism, and connectivism. I hope to expand on my knowledge of those and how educational technology relates to them. In 503 I learned about aligning objectives, pedagogy, and outcomes. I hope to expand on that by aligning educational theory with educational technology.

There are no other educational technology trained physicians or instructors at my medical school. I plan to be a resource and change agent. The medical school is moving to a more flipped model with less face-to-face instruction. I plan to help guide them through this transition. I also hope to be involved in choosing technologies as the medical school moves forward.


Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary. New York: Routledge.

Luppicini, R. (2005). A systems definition of educational technology in society. Educational Technology & Society, 8(3), 103-109.