Personal Learning Environment or PLE is a term that describes how people teach themselves today with access to the web.  There are so many tools at our disposal that help keep track of useful websites containing, PDFs, videos, powerpoint presentations, and plain text.

Personally I like a program called “ANKI” it is cross platform and is at most basic flashcard program, but it packs a special feature. It uses an algorithm that puts cards in order of how well you remember them, sorting the least remembered to the front. It allows me to add audio, video, and diagrams to cards; then to add tags to each card to separate them out. I have been using it mostly for learning vocabulary in French, Japanese, Spanish, and obscure English words.

Then there is also iTunesU which is a subsection of the iTunes Music Store that aggregates podcasts and vidcasts from international universities from all fields of study, allowing anyone to take any class for free. With iTunesU its easy to download a few lectures to your iphone or ipod touch and learn about literature, programming, science, or whatever else you might find.

Another great tool that I have cabbaged onto is Evernote. I have it as an application on my computer, my iphone, and it has a web interface that I can access anywhere, any note I make in any place is instantly synced with the cloud so I never have to worry about losing my data. A cool feature is that you can take a picture or scan of a handwritten note and it will automatically run the image through OCR (Character recognition) software and index the text so that its easy to search for.

Also I found a great source for scientific data, Wolfram Alpha, its makers call it a “Computational Knowledge Engine” It is a frontend for science and math, and many other kinds of imposing datasets that would be a hassle to wade through on Google. Even better is that they just released an API so that we can plug in its power to our online applications to find populations of countries, average temperature in a national park, data from NASA probes.

Its great that you dont have to go all over the web to find quality information anymore. Its easy to file it away for immediate or later learning. You can move at your own pace and even conglomerate all your information into one place if you take just a few minutes to set up an interface where its simple to sit for a few minutes or a few hours and teach yourself a new skill or add to your knowledge of history. PLEs arent a new concept its just in the past few years the tools to supplement ourselves have become that much more powerful and user friendly. Now one persons library can be quickly molded for another person, which is great for training purposes, or to get two people on the same page of debate.