Communication is one of the main reasons why people do learn foreign languages, and that is especially the case with the English language. English is considered to be the unofficial language of internet and communication, as it enables its speakers to communicate effectively with people from different cultures all around the globe. Although teaching English as a foreign language is not a new field in Armenia, most of the students still find communicating in English challenging. Therefore, EFL teachers in Armenia have to consider ways to adjust their language teaching “methods” and techniques to make EFL learning more effective. During the last decades, due to the technological revolution, educational approaches have been changed. New technologies brought new teaching concepts and techniques to the board; such as Open and Distance education; i.e., e-learning systems. Education, nowadays, is more about personalized and collaborative learning systems, and in order to meet 21st-century’s expectations for students’ learning, educators need to use technologies to implement such curricula. Integrating Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) (also known as Learning Management systems (LMS)), as well as Personal Learning Environments (PLE) into our teaching is one and vital step forward to take.
LMS is one of the essential tools of e-learning, upon which all e-courses are built (Pappas, 2016). While PLE, according to Brian Metcalfe: a teacher and blogger at lifelonglearners.com, is a virtual framework and a self-directed learning space, where different tools are used to collect, organize and construct knowledge related to the learners’ needs, goals and interests.
When surfing the web, I came across many articles about VLE vs. PLE, but I bypass comparing them as I see VLE and PLE as complementary frameworks. I believe both are equally valuable. VLEs provide the learning groups some privacy, they also centralize the learning process. They serve as workspaces and/or learning environments. They are essential for distance learning programs.
However, depending on the goals that we aim to achieve, we could choose to give more attention to either one of them. For example, as a start, I would consider introducing VLE, using MOODLE as a platform, to my EFL 12+ years old students by getting them participate in forum discussions, upload their homework and give/receive peer feedback. Only when they are quite familiar with the system, I would switch my focus to the process of integrating PLE into their learning process. Hence, for managing the teaching/learning process, I would use VLE, while PLE would be praised to introduce my students with the innumerable open resources in the virtual world. I believe it could be the best support and the engaging tool for 21st century’s students. In other words, my final target would be having students who direct their own learning process; i.e., depend mostly on decentralized learning – PLE.
Moreover, by familiarizing our students with PLE, we would give them the key to the universe where they could make choices about the ways they want to learn and the tools that they find more supportive to their learning process: getting our students to be acquainted with PLE is the way to construct life-long learners.
At last but not least, we, the educators, also need to be involved in a personal learning network, as it is the key to keep ourselves updated with the changes in the field of education.
Wrapping up today’s blog, I want to quote the famous Stephen Downes: “We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.”