While contemplating the necessities of a ‘basic toolbox” for distance education and the creation of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE), I looked at several blogs about PLEs and for personal reference bookmarked the following: http://growchangelearn.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html and http://headspacej.blogspot.com/2006/02/personal-learning-environment-model.html. They provide insight into what PLEs are and healthy doses of learning philosophy, as well. Anyone interested in learning more about PLEs might find these sites interesting.
To state the obvious, students should have basic computing skills such as knowledge of parts of the computer and how to connect cable, cords, and wires before undertaking a course in distance learning.
The first two items that I am including in my toolbox are self discipline and perseverance. Learning something new can become an arduous task and without those two attributes, the temptation to quit may win out.
Another item that we need is a computer that connects to the internet through Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), or digital cable modem. To fully benefit from learning on the internet, one should have the ability to access tools like Flash Player, photo sharing programs and others that require high-speed connections. DSL is a high speed connection that uses the same wires as telephone lines. Digital cable modem connects to the internet through the cable television network. There are advantages and disadvantages to both which require moderate research to discover the choice that best meets one’s personal needs.
After deciding on an internet connection, one needs to choose a browser. These software applications are used to locate and display various web pages. Two of the most popular browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The obvious use of this tool is to search the internet for information. Websites specializing in the content under study are necessary for gathering information.
Next, we need email. Using email, students can submit assignments directly to teachers who can then type comments directly onto the document and quickly return to student. For classes, an electronic mailing list (listserv) is useful for sending emails to groups versus individuals.
Now that I know about feed readers, I think that they are indispensable to learning. They go hand-in-hand with blogs, which I also think are important learning tools. With personal blogs, students can express themselves through stream of consciousness in a living document that supports growth and change. Student’s blogs reflect their growth in knowledge. Feed readers allow quick access to blogs on subjects that interest students and since they are easily updated, students have access to the newest information.
With instant messaging capabilities, students involved in simultaneous research can have direct and immediate contact with each other which is useful for collaboration and discussion of learning materials.
Students also need a form of personal storage device such as a USB flash drive, CD-R or DVD-R to save documents from their classes. Along that same vein, a word processing program such as Microsoft Word is necessary for creating documents.
For distance learning, a type of software application (like BlackBoard) that is designed for learning online is necessary for managing course components.
This is my basic toolbox list, for now.