Who builds the bricks in the first place?

I have been stewing over e-portfolios and PLEs lately, particularly as we head into the new year and avenues by which to further traverse the (e)learning meta-scape!

I came across this recently:

A PLE is composed of a set of customized applications on the client side. Some of them will operate in a standalone way, while others will exchange information with server side applications. Thus, if a PLE becomes essential for the daily work of a user, the data flow between client and server side applications will allow the automatic feed of the social networks to which the users belongs to.

PLE bricks for social network construction « Personal Learning Environments

This short post on the PLE blog got me thinking about Donald Norman’s book Emotional Design (2004), particularly his closing remarks about design. It’s a dilemma many designers – educational, architectural, mechanical, etc contend with – that is, if we design it will they come? The quote above from the post doesn’t say ‘PLE’ to me, more it says ‘here are tools to generate your PLE’. Same goes for discussions around ‘e’portfolios – portfolios are methods, processes, learning approaches, outcomes, etc – adding an ‘e’ only says this is a electronically supported portfolio, another tool or space for me to generate some learning/living/reflection – or whatever frames the portfolio approach in a pedagogical sense (meaning that we are all pedagogues).

Donald Norman (2004),

We are all designers. We manipulate the environment, the better to serve our needs. We select what items to own, which to have around us. We build, buy, arrange, and restructure: all this is a form of design (p.224, my emphasis).

And further on,

We are all designers – and have to be. Professional designers can make things that are attractive and that work well. They can create beautiful products that we fall in love with at first sight. They can create products that fulfill our needs, that are easy to understand, easy to use, and that work just the way we want them to. …. But they cannot make something personal, make something we bond to. Nobody can do that for us: we must do it for ourselves (p.225, my emphasis).

And finally, this,

We are all designers – because we must be. We live our lives, encounter success and failure, joy and sadness. We structure our own worlds to support ourselves throughout life. Some occasions, people, places, and things come to have special meanings, special emotional feelings. These are our bonds, to ourselves, to our past, and to the future. When something gives pleasure, when it becomes a part of our lives, and when the way we interact with it helps define our place in society and in the world, then we have love. Design is part of this equation, but personal interaction is the key (p.227, my emphasis).

It’s not that we should give up and throw away design, or PLEs, or (e)portfolios; more that we can pass on the design decisions to others – which to me is what educational design should be about – learning the ropes, grappling with the concept, checking the landscape, reviewing and entering into the commentary, adding to the ‘research’, sharing the learning, and, ultimately, our lives.

PLEs are just this – US. We learn. We test that learning. We refine. We share with others. They share back, and with more others… it’s not the application, or the content, or the method even – it’s the interactions and the relationships that form and uniform as we learn, unlearn and relearn. Much like life really!

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