Technology-Based Learning Environments Charles Vincent Assignment 1 CECS 5110.026Abstract:IntroductionLearning inserts itself as a central theme in the human experience. Being defined as the activity or processof gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something(Merriam-Webster, 2011), learning takes on many forms. It has evolved from tribal societies who passedinformation through oral tradition, to single room school houses in which a single teacher might educatemany students of different ages, to something altogether completely different with students of differentages, backgrounds, and even languages educated by one or many teachers. It is this newest idea of theclassroom as a technology-based learning environment that this paper will explore.Literature ReviewE-Learning is emerging as a global trend(Sun, Tsai, Finger, & Chen, 2006). This style of learning deliversinstruction through a technology-based learning environment (TBLE). While the definition of a TBLEallows for a broad range of technologies, the dominant software model used is that of the virtual learningenvironment (VLE). A VLE uses the typical educational model of modulation which divides informationinto discrete chunks to be digested by students. This type of environment is usually asymmetrical, withteachers having a greater ability to create, edit and control content (Wilson, Liber, Johnson, Beauvoir, &Sharples, 2006). A VLE also typically limits the access of course content to individuals within the course,and creates a homogenous experience with all users experiencing the course in the same manner. TheBlackboard learning system serves as an example of a VLE. Beyond the VLE model, literature alsosuggests that many other technologies may fall under the TBLE umbrella. Some research suggests thatsocial networking websites such as Facebook may provide value in an educational context(Baran, 2010).Multi-user virtual environments such as Second Life provide a community for constructivist learning(Burgess, Slate, Rojas-LeBouef, & LaPrairie, 2010)(Dalgarno, Lee, & J, 2010). And TBLEs have thepotential to provide for even greater educational access as the learning environment becomes mobilethrough the use of smart phones and other mobile devices (Looi, et al., 2010).Technology-based learning environments are not, however, without their pitfalls. Designers of theseenvironments must take care to insure that there is still an element of interaction within the course inwhich the students can maintain a dialog with their teachers and with their peers (Woo & Reeves,2007)(So & Brush, 2006). There is also evidence that not all students will benefit from a TBLE based ontheir learning style, socio-economic status, and technical understanding(Chen, Lambert, & Guidry,2010)(Bielaczyc, 2006).DiscussionThe concept of a technology-based learning environment seems to exist within a continuum with systemsthat almost perfectly mirror the traditional classroom experience, to those which may seem alien and
extreme to many of today’s educators. The key to understanding which systems fall under the umbrella ofa TBLE is to simply examine the term itself. By taking the literal, broad definition of a TBLE being anylearning environment which makes use of technology, and by assuming the stance that learning happensnot only through a traditional asymmetric system of hierarchal pedagogy, but also through an engagedcommunity of inquiry, we can take a TBLE to be anything from a structured online course to Facebook.Downes (2010) states that “We need to consider learners not only as the subjects of learning, entities towhom we deliver learning content, but also the sources of learning, functioning as the perceptual input forthe wider network.”As TBLEs evolve to include a wide variety of features, they will begin to be homogenized into a seamlesssystem, but for the moment, the continuum of TBLEs might be thought of in the following terms: LearningManagement Systems. These types of systems might be thought of as a “classroom in a box”. They would include systems like Blackboard and Moodle which allow an instructor to package content for a select group of students. They are capable of acting as a standalone classroom or experience or as a component of a traditional classroom experience. The course content would not be directly accessible by individuals outside of the course, and the instructor would have a greater deal of control over the content management of the course. Students would have some ability to communicate with each other and their instructor through this system. Immersive Environments. These types of environments include simulations such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. The strength of these environments is in that they allow for the student to experience semi-real world conditions in which they can solve problems by themselves or with other students, and that communication between students is synchronous. They typically have less structure than a typical learning environment and are still being researched for their educational value with promising results(Burgess, Slate, Rojas-LeBouef, & LaPrairie, 2010). Asynchronous communications systems. There are many types of asynchronous communications systems used for education. These include blogs, email, discussion boards, and wikis. These systems help to keep educational technology flexible by allowing individuals to communicate even when they cannot be online at the same time. Synchronous communications systems. These systems would include technology such as skype, conference calling, video conferencing, and chat. They allow for communication in real time, and allow for the learner to feel a greater sense of participation. Technology Enhanced Classrooms. Many classrooms make use of learning technologies to enhance an otherwise traditional classroom experience. The technology may be from one of the categories above, or something more conventional such as power point slides, media presentations, or overhead projectors. Some educators are also making use the fact that many of their students own mobile phones to integrate social media such as facebook and twitter into their classroom environments(Looi, et al., 2010).While these categories provide a general framework for the concept of technology based learningenvironments, they are no means conclusive. A classroom can become a TBLE if a teacher uses a laserpointer or if a student uses a laptop to take notes. With this broad definition in mind, it is important topresent several factors which contribute to a good TBLE. Content. The quality of the information presented. Interaction. The ability of students to interact with each other and/or their instructor. Accessibility. The accessibility of the course for individuals with diverse backgrounds and/or disabilities. Assessment. The ability to determine and rate the student’s performance within the course. Applicability. The usefulness of the knowledge gained.
While these elements are part of a good TBLE they are by no means a complete list of elements thatshould be available within a course.ConclusionThe simple truth is that educators are now faced with a new type of learner. Many of our students areexposed to technology from an early age, and it is reasonable to believe that the technology they areexposed to will affect the way in which they think and learn(Downes, 2010). Students enrolled in web-based courses demonstrate a higher level of student engagement (Chen, Lambert, & Guidry, 2010).Technology-based learning environments give students the opportunity to go beyond the traditionaleducational model, and become willing participants in their own instruction. This leaves us with thechallenge and the opportunity to create systems which support and channel this desire to be continuouslyengaged into a positive educational experience.ReferencesBaran, B. (2010). Facebook as a formal instructional environment. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46-49.Bielaczyc, K. (2006). Designing Social Infrastructure: Critical Issues in Creating Learning Environments with Technology. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 301-329.Burgess, M. L., Slate, J. R., Rojas-LeBouef, A., & LaPrairie, K. (2010). Teaching and learning in Second Life: Using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model to. Internet and Higher Education, 84-88.Chen, P.-S. D., Lambert, A. D., & Guidry, K. R. (2010). Engaging online learners: The impact of Web-based learning technology. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from Sci Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131509003285Dalgarno, B., Lee, & J, M. (2010). What are the learning affordances of 3-D. British Journal of Educational Technology, 10-32.Downes, S. (2010). New Tecknology Supporting Information Learning. Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelegence.Looi, Chee-Kit, Seow, P., Zhang, B., So, H.-J., Chen, et al. (2010). Leveraging mobile technology for sustainable seamless. British Journal of Educational Technology, 154-169.Merriam-Webster. (2011). learning. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learningSo, H.-J., & Brush, T. A. (2006, December 18). Student perceptions of collaborative learning, social. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from Science Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131507000565
Sun, P.-C., Tsai, R. J., Finger, G., & Chen, Y.-Y. (2006, August). What drives a successful e-Learning? An empirical investigation. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from Elsevier: www.elsevier.com/locate/compeduWilson, S., Liber, O., Johnson, M., Beauvoir, P., & Sharples, P. (2006). Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fci teseerx.ist.psu.edu%2Fviewdoc%2Fdownload%3Fdoi%3D10.1.1.107.3816%26rep%3Drep1%26ty pe%3Dpdf&rct=j&q=Personal%20Learning%20Environments%3A%20Challenging%20the%20do minant%20desigWoo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social. Internet and Higher Education, 15-25.