To me, all places where learning takes place, are learning environments. Whether we are talking about ordinary classrooms with “old school” blackboards or web conferencing environments with “new school” whiteboards.
Daniel Edwards (Director of Digital Strategy at Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK) decided to post his opinion on Learning Envirmonment, after I asked him his interpretation on Twitter. Ian Guest was so kind to share 2 definitions of learning environments.
The concept of learning environments is too broad. So we have to make a distinction between learning environments and virtual, online, wireless and technlogy-enhanced learning environments.
While doing research using Google Scholar, I found different names: Virtual learning environment = VLE (Tu, 2002), online learning environment (Entwistle, 1991), Personal learning environment, wireless e-learning environment (Lehner and Holger, 2002), Blended learning environment (Osguthorpe, 2003), Constructivist learning environments (Jonassen, 1999) or Technology-enhanced learning environments = TELE (Wang, 2005).
The VLE (LMS) and PLE
There is a difference between a VLE (also known as LMS) and a PLE.
Stephens Downes (known for the Connectivism theory) gives an explanation:
In a Virtual learning environment, the learning environment is in the center. Individual learners access to the Learning Management system which provides a centralized repository of content and services. Possibilities: obtaining content, having discussions, conferences, etc. In a Personal learning environment, by contrast, the individual is in the center and access content and services at difference places all over the web: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Google docs, etc. Interesting: Downes states it’s better to connect individuals with their PLE’s to each other than connecting different VLE’s.
Figure 1 – Stephen Downes
The Mobile Learning Environment
77% of the users in the developed world (2013, worldwide) is connected to the internet. One in every five person own a smartphone (okt 2013, worldwide). The knowledge is in our pocket, it seems appropriate to ask what completely new things might be afforded by mobile media for learning.
Mobile learning environments bring together more experience-based learning that often blends physical and virtual learning to support enriched blended learning experiences (de Freitas, 2006).
As ubiquitous access to information continues to shift toward personal mobile devices, more and more of the learning that takes place may be happening outside of the classroom (Gagnon, 2010).
Blended learning environments are the combination of the traditional F2F learning environment and the distributed learning enviroments. Computer-based technologies have a central role.
Traditional F2F learning typically occurred in a teacher-directed environment with person-to-person interaction in a live synchronous, high fidelity environment. On the other hand, distance learning systems emphasized self-paced learning and learning-materials interactions that typically occurred in an asynchronous, low fidelity (text only) environment (Bonk, 2012).
Bonk and Graham (2012) outline six major issues that are relevant to designing blended learning systems:
(1) the role of live interaction, (2) the role of learner choice and self-regulation, (3) models for support and training, (4) finding balance between innovation and production, (5) cultural adaptation, and (6) dealing with the digital divide.
The TELE throws together the PLE, VLE, mobile learning environment and other kind of Technology-enhanced learning environments.
According to EduTech, a learning environment is:
- Conceptually speaking, the Learning Environment refers to the whole range of components and activities within which learning happens.
- Technically speaking, a Learning Environment relies on computer-supported Systems such as a LMS, a combination of various educational technologies (including at least one communication module), virtual environments, …
Perkins (1991) identified three basic goals for education: retention, deep understanding, and active use of knowledge. Choppin (1990) defined assessment in education as the process of determining whether students have attained curricular goals. Modern education taught us collaboration fosters learning. Vygotsky states that knowledge is co-constructed and that individuals learn from one another. This brings me to a list of key characteristics.
Reading Laves (1996) paper gave me better insight by defining characteristics. Especially the part where she described the definition of learning theories.
To me these characteristics are key for a complete tele:
- a teaching component. Teachers must be able to teach their class synchronous or asynchronous. A teacher can choose to coach his/her students or give direct instruction.
- a course material component. Teachers must be able to add courseware (text books, presentations, etc) to the learning environment. This can include linking or implementing tools (eg: web 2.0) and external resources (eg: websites, blogs, documents, social media, … ).
- a collaboration component. Students have to be able discuss, communicate and collaborate. This can be enabled by email, forums, wiki’s, etc
- an evaluation component. Assessment can be enabled by quizzes and other tools.
- a contact component. Students have to be possible to contact their teacher and visa versa.
- an administration component: it must be possible to track or note the presence of students, because in some cases students have to attend classes. There must be the possibility to monitor what students learn (tracking the clicks in the course material, etc) with a possible extension of a badging system.
Figure – Catherine Lombardozzi
These characteristics are desirable to have a complete tele, but they are not necessary to be able to speak of a tele.
So… how about Twitter?
So is Twitter a learning environment? Yes, it is a place where learning occurs. Is it a complete TELE? No, not every component is present.
Personal experience – Application
At school, I use Moodle. This LMS meets to all the earlier described characteristics, so for me it is a complete TELE. At this moment I use Webex in one specific class. Webex is a web conferencing tool. We use it to enhance distance learning. Since december I introduced Dropbox to my classes. To promote collaboration I use a Facebook Group. Students can ask questions and give solutions. People are eager to collaborate, even cross-group. Read more.
|Moodle||1 2 3 4 5 6||Very often|
|Webex||1 3 4 5 6||Very often|
|Facebook group||2 3 5 6||often|
But I’m also a student. On the one hand TELIC student, but on the other also a teacher who tries to add to his knowledge (particularly web design) practically every day. I use these TELE’s to
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Prezi, Slideshare, Google Drive, Skype, WordPress, etc. It’s important to make a distinction between 4 factors: presentation, communication, creation and share.
- uses of TEL environments