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Douglas Adams once observed, “the best way to predict the future is to build it”.

I found this quote in a fascinating paper, 2020 and Beyond, by Hans Daanen and Keri Facer from the UK’s Future Lab. And while the focus of the paper is on the Education sector, there are many lessons that we can apply to our personal learning and the management of our career now, and well into the future.

The paper looks at five areas of technical innovation and then imagines scenarios in which these innovations become part of everyday life. Based on these scenarios, the authors pose questions for educators – what is important, what should be considered, and what should we be doing in the immediate and near term. By using scenario modelling and focusing on our careers we can begin to imagine the paths of education and learning that we need to begin NOW in order to reach our desired end goal.

The areas of innovation identified in the paper are:

  • Personal devices
  • Intelligent environments
  • Computing infrastructure
  • Security
  • Interfaces

This is also a great way to think about the creation of our own “Personal Learning Environments”. When we create a personal learning environment (PLE), we are focusing on our own skilling needs and creating a space which allows us to:

  • Gather information and knowledge
  • Filter and process this data
  • Act on the knowledge that we have acquired

In this blog post I will provide you with some things you need to consider in creating a PLE. In future posts I will discuss the practicalities of PLEs – including tools and technologies, how you can use “social learning” in your PLE and places to source free, and for fee, learning content.

Personal devices

When it comes to PLEs, we want to employ technology to streamline and enhance our experience – not make it worse. This means adequately understanding our own personal use of technology. Think about the devices you have convenient access to:

  • Desktop computers (work)
  • Desktop computers (home)
  • Notebook computers
  • IP/digital TV
  • Smart phones (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android)
  • iPod/portable music and data devices

PLE Aim: Wherever possible, you want to remove any barrier to your learning. If you are lacking time, consider a portable device which will allow you to consume “learning snacks” (small pieces of learning).

Intelligent environments

It is essential that you establish a personal space which is conducive to your own learning. This can be a physical space, but it can just as easily be a virtual space. Interestingly enough, your choice of personal device can have a huge impact on the approach you take to a PLE – and to its effectiveness. For example, if you spend an hour or more each day commuting to work, a mobile device can prove highly effective and convenient.

PLE Aim: Keeping in mind that ever-increasing quantities of learning content are available online, think about how both your physical and virtual spaces can help save you time in the sourcing of your learning content.

Computing infrastructure

“The network” is now making the consumption of learning-related content available at times and in places which are convenient to you. You can turn this flexibility to your advantage with a little planning.

PLE Aim: Setup RSS feeds, downloads etc and store them on your mobile device ready for your commute to work.


Who do we trust when it comes to learning? Which websites provide us with value and which forums deliver quality discussion? It is a question of both security and trust. Increasingly, our internet identity reflects not just our “social” persona, but also our professional profile and reputation. This means that our PLE must also consider the impact of our Personal Brands and Your SAP Career – and how this can be best leveraged throughout our careers.

PLE Aim: Start tracking the opinion of those who you respect and who provide insight and value in your field of expertise. Start with the SAP Community Mentors.


We are becoming increasingly comfortable with different types of interfaces – from computer screens to TVs and across to our portable devices – wherever digital content can be delivered, we can be learning or interacting with our PLE.

PLE Aim: Begin to think differently about “learning” – make it part of each and every day. Use the flexibility of available interfaces to bring learning into your life at a time and place that is convenient to you.

Finally …

One of the most important aspects of PLEs, in my opinion, is the way in which they can be structured to bring a social aspect to our learning experiences. This is particularly important when it comes to DOING something with your learning – this can mean downloading a trial version of the SAP NetWeaver platform or writing a blog post about your experiments.

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