Personal Learning Environments (PLE) are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to:
Technically, the PLE represents the integration of a number of "Web 2.0" technologies like blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, etc.— around the independent learner. Using the term "e-learning 2.0," Stephen Downes describes the PLE as: "... one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system".
PLE puts the individual learner at the center, connecting him or her to both information and to communities to: "... provide personal spaces, which belong to and are controlled by the user, [and also provide] a social context by offering means to connect with other personal spaces for effective knowledge sharing and collaborative knowledge creation"  Using the term "Social Learning 2.0," Anderson and Dron reinforce this emphasis on community, conceptualizing it in terms of "groups," "networks" and "collectives" (2007) and thereby achieve learning goals.
A personal learning network is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.
An important part of this concept is the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge. The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person.
The following is an excerpt from Dryden's and Vos' book on learning networks:
Personal learning networks are a great way for educators to get connected with learning opportunities, access professional development resources, and to build camaraderie with other education professionals.
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