What are technology learning environments?

Wiki formative task 1 is:

What are technology learning environments?  Create hyperlinked pages that outline the types, characteristics, terminology, application and uses of TEL environments.

This seemed easy at first and I started gathering resources from my network enthousiastically. I googled, collected, curated. After selection, it boiled down to the following diigo list.


But when I was trying to put this together in a blog post, I got more and more confused.

I struggled to putting this in a coherent blogpost. At first I thought it was simply not clear to me, but then I realised that a lot of these articles, notions, terms are being used with different and mixed interpretations and perceptions. On top of that it is not always clear if people mean ‘learning’ or ‘pedagogy’ or ‘instruction’ or even ‘education’. So, a clear notion about the use of terms is important before going any further. Take blended learning for example. Blended learning is the integrated combination of traditional learning with web-based online approaches. (Whitelock & Jelfs, 2003)

Blended “learning” would suggest that learning is different in face-to-face education and in the online approach. This is not so. It is mainly the context, the instruction and - at best - the pedagogy that changes (Oliver & Trigwell, 2005). Perhaps it would be better to talk about blended pedagogy instead of blended learning.

Rhizomatic learning, on the other hand, is a metaphor for how we learn. It was launched by Dave Cormier. It is a is a way of thinking about learning, a way to describe how learning works. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process. Rhizomatic learning goes broader than (technology) learning environments.

So, a lot of the types of learning environments have the word ‘learning’ in it. While the actual learning process is not necessarily different in the various types of (technologically driven) environments. A crystal clear use of terminology is needed. I’m not the only one in confusion … 


In my previous posts I have been writing about what learning in fact is. In the post about Twitter I took up the definition of learning as ‘changes in the behaviour of an organism that result from regularities in the environment of the organism’1. After having read the Lave paper, it was clear that the aspect of ‘relation’ is also very important in learning (post about Jean Lave #2).


In this post of Steve Wheeler, I read about the meaning of pedagogy. http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.be/2013/11/the-meaning-of-pedagogy.html . Pedagogy is leading people to a place where they can learn. Pedagogy is more than instruction. In the dictionary it has two meanings: pedagogy is the art and science of how something is taught and how students learn. And secondly: instruction. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pedagogy

[Technology] Learning Environment

I like how the p21.org partnership describes learning environments.

 “Learning environments are the [digital] structures, tools, and communities that inspire students and educators to attain the knowledge and skills the 21st century demands of us all.”


A learning environment can indeed be a physical place and a space, but it can also be entirely virtual, online and/or remote.


(thanks to Koen for the insights in his post )

Virtual learning environment: general term. 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.

Personal Learning Environment (PLE) are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to:

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning, both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning

Mobile learning: the knowledge is in our pocket. Easy mobile acces to information. 77% of the users is connected to the internet. Experience-based-learning that often blends physical and virtual learning to support enriched blended learning experiences (de Freitas, 2006). Learning may be happening outside of the classroom. Interesting article on the effect of M-learning by Donald Clark

A ubiquitous learning environment is any setting in which students can become totally immersed in the learning process. To define:

  • Ubiquitous = pervasive, omnipresent, ever present, everywhere
  • Learning = educational, instructive, didactic, pedagogical
  • Environment = surroundings, setting, situation, atmosphere

So, a ubiquitous learning environment (ULE) is a situation or setting of pervasive (or omnipresent) education (or learning). Education is happening all around the student but the student may not even be conscious of the learning process. Source data is present in the embedded objects and students do not have to DO anything in order to learn. They just have to be there.

Blended Learning: the integrated combination of traditional learning with web-based online approaches.

Oliver & Trigwell (Can ‘Blended Learning’ Be Redeemed?)

 ‘The breadth of interpretations means that almost anything can be seen as blended learning …’

Amen to this quote. It is not what we use but how we use the tool(s) and structures that facilitate powerful learning. The characteristics and conditions are essential.


Technology Enabled Learning Environment. Or Technology Enhanced Learning Environment.

This term refers to learning environments where ICT tools are used to support and facilitate learning.

The root tele- means "far" or "across a distance" e.g.

TELE is also often used as a synonym for e-learning.


This articles outlines 10 characteristics of a highly effective learning environment.

1. Students are engaged, students ask the questions. (autonomy, curiosity)

2. Questions are valued over answers. (curiosity)

3. Ideas come from a variety of sources. (curiosity, connectivity)

4. A variety of instructional design methods are used. (connectivity)

5. Classroom learning “empties” into an authentic community.

6. Learning is personalized by a variety of criteria. (Not just assessment results or reading level, but interest, readiness-for-content.)

7. Assessment is persistent, authentic, transparent, and never punitive. (trust)

8. Criteria for success is balanced and transparent. (trust)

9. Learning habits are constantly modeled. (tenacity)

10. There are constant opportunities for practice. (tenacity)


From the above ten, we can also distillate a number of conditions needed for learning in the technology learning environment. They are in brackets after the characteristics.

In this post on Twitter, I mention the conditions needed for creative interchange. And they can easily be seen as necessary conditions for Technology Learning Environments as well. The structures and tools should foster these conditions.

Examples of use:

Emerging Learning Technologies (formerly "World is Open with Web Technology")

Participatory course for educators that uses Oncourse, IU's online collaboration and learning environment, Canvas and Piazza.

Piazza is an online platform where students and instructors come together to learn and teach. It offers a refined Q&A environment along with key features for effective course collaboration.

Especially Piazza I would like to explore in the future. It seems a great tool.

In my school we use Google Apps for education. It has all the necessary features to facilitate the type of education we want to provide.

How do we use it?

A simple diagram:

 Time to Know – Digital platform

The Digital Teaching Platform provides teachers with tools for powerful real-time classroom management, robust summative and formative assessment, and effective lesson planning. Teachers can reach every student with assignments customized to different proficiency levels and learning styles. Students can work independently, in pairs, and in small groups, and then send their work to the teacher or to the shared Gallery area for peer review, collaborative work, and class discussion.

The Time To Know Digital Teaching Platform

Tools, tools, tools 464 Digital Learning Tools To Sift Through On A Rainy Day.

A lot of the tools in this list can be used to create powerful learning environments.

But "a gun is simply a tool ... No better nor worse than the man using it."

1 De Houwer, J.,  Barnes-Holmes, D., Moors, A., 2013. What is learning? On the nature and merits of a functional definition of learning. Psychon Bull Rev.