What are technology learning environments? #2

My first post for Wiki task 1 was very fruitful. The process of getting into it was meaningful. But I am not entirely satisfied with the answer on ‘What are technology learning environments?’. It was good to write about the different terms that are in use, and the different perspectives of how people talk about learning environments. So, it brought clarity. I even added something about TELE. Koen pointed me out that this wasn’t so clear.

I investigated some further and found this interesting paper. I fully agree that an increased interest in the notion of learning environments has emerged. It explores some of the ways in which technology-based learning environments may act potentially as trojan horses and, as such, drastically alter the educational landscape. 1

An environment has "length and breath, places and parts, non-living and living, simplicity and complexity, constancy and change”. Wilson (1996) describes a learning environment as "a place where people can draw upon resources to make sense out of things and construct meaningful solutions to problems".

Combined with the definition of p21.org and the importance of relationships in learning (see Lave), this boils down to my following definition of Technology Learning Environments:

“Technology Learning environments are digital structures, tools, and communities where students and educators find inspiration and draw upon resources to make sense out of things, where they connect and construct meaningful solutions to problems in the 21st century.”

Elisabeth Murphy distincts three types of technology-based learning environments.

Computer-Based Learning Environments

The intellectual partnership with computer tools creates a zone of proximal development whereby learners are capable of carrying out tasks they could not possibly carry out without the help and support provided by the computer. This partnership can both offer guidance that might be internalized to become self-guidance and stimulate the development of yet underdeveloped skills, resulting in a higher level of skill mastery. (p. 252)

Not the computers (other devices) themselves must be emphasized, but the types of activities for which they are used.

Salomon: “Computer-based learning environments are not learning environments to which computers have been added (...) Rather, these are relatively new environments in which computer-afforded activities have been fully integrated into other activities, affecting them and being affected by them".

However, our understanding of the impact of these computer-based learning environments remains limited.

Interactive Multimedia Learning Environments

Environments that allow for the electronically integrated display and user control of a variety of media formats and information types (including motion video and film, still photographs, text, graphics, animation, sound, numbers and data). The resulting interactive experience for the user is a multidimensional, multisensory interweave of self-directed reading, viewing, listening, and interacting, through activities such as exploring, searching, manipulating, writing, linking, creating, juxtaposing, and editing. What follows in the paper is about the importance of interaction and learner control in the (design of) learning environment.

Adaptive Learning Environments

An adaptive learning environment links instructional science with computational science. For computational Scientists, artificial intelligence has long been the focus of research efforts. For instructional scientists, the computer is increasingly perceived as a tool for enhancing learning. Linking these two would result in a highly adaptive learning environment that provides or supports effective learning experiences for a wide range of learners.

Perhaps the most well-known type of adaptive learning environment is that of the intelligent tutoring system. A system that can monitor the student's progress through a particular knowledge base and interpret where the student is and provide feedback on how he or she should proceed.

Not the case in most school, I guess.


An environment is an entire amalgam of roles, activities, goals, relationships, interactions, conditions, circumstances and influences that combine to provide the conditions for growth or learning of the individual. Use of technology is but one component of this complex system.

Looking at the Google Apps for Education in our school, and at the way we use it, I conclude that is is mainly an Interactive Multimedia Learning Environment.

In the teacher training program we don’t focus on tasks with the computer that could not otherwise be carried out without the computer. Although we teach the teacher-trainees to focus on the design and types of activities instead of the use of the device, our Google apps for education is not entirely a Computer-Based Learning Environment as Murphy defines it.

Characteristics, Conditions, Examples of use > See other post.

1. Murphy, E. Technology-Based Learning Environments As Trojan Horses. http://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/fall00/murphy.htm