TEL2 – Technology Enhanced Learning Environments – Theories & Literature

What theories and literature exist that explain, predict, and/or guide the development and use of TELE’s?

During the first semester of the TEL-course we talked about several theories concerning learning. All these theories contain very interesting aspects of learning and offer principles to be used when creating a learning environment. I’ve discussed them in my blog posts:

One thing for me that stood out in all these texts is that learning is so much more than an individual process where knowledge is “stored” in our brain. Learning is a social experience. Connecting with other people (cfr. Lave) but also other objects (cfr. Hutchins) – actors (cfr. Latour) – enriches the learning experience. They provide context and subtly steer our way of learning. As Gee suggests, learners should be able to create and co-design their learning, have an identity they can connect with during this learning process and try to engage with distributed knowledge. These gaming aspect make the learning experience a much more personal experience, yet in a way force the learner to connect with others from his personal environment. Learning is not a monologue, it’s a dialogue, a multi-logue between the learner, others, course materials, technology, tools, etc.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, connectivism is a theory, closely related to these aspects. Siemens and Downes speak of the social aspect – a network – too. They integrate the influence of all the technology we use in our lives, that can change and enhance our way of learning.

Another theory, closely related to connectivism, is rhizomatic learning. This theory, coined by Dave Cormier, based on ideas described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in “A Thousand plateaus“, also talks about a networked way of learning, like rhizomes do. “Rhizomes are a stem of plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. It is an image used to describe the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-replicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process”. While participating in the Change11 MOOC, I encountered this theory and wrote a post about it. For me it comes down to the fact that Cormier too explains the need for a networked environment to live and learn in. With the support of technology, we can now connect with numerous other people, websites, blogs, papers, etc. to influence ourselves and our learning.

Lastly I wanted to talk about engagement theory. Greg Kearsley and Ben Shneiderman say that “the fundamental idea underlying engagement theory is that students must be meaningfully engaged in learning activities through interaction with others and worthwhile tasks”. The learning activities should (1) occur in a group context – relate – (2) are project-based – create – and (3) have an outside (authentic) focus – donate. Again the social context of the theory jumps out (relate) but also the technological undercurrent that enables all this. “Technology-mediated collaborative learning results in higher levels of perceived skill development, self-reported learning and utility”.

These three theories all require a very open and free setting of technology. Creating the personal learning network (PLN), I talked about here and here, clearly has its benefits. Technology is important in education, but remember to use it as a means to an end, not as a goal in itself!


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