Framing Technology Enhanced Learning Environments: Some Perspectives and Notions

Framing Technology Enhanced Learning Environments: Some Perspectives and Notions

Rosa Maria Bottino
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jksr.2012010106
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Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the field of educational technology is characterized by approaches, models and methodologies that derive from a number of different disciplines. Consequently, to understand how the different approaches have been concretely applied to the design, practical implementation and analysis of learning environments integrating technology, it is necessary to refer to some overarching notions through which it is possible to link theoretical reflections and the pedagogical and technical considerations that one has to face when designing or analysing learning environments integrating technology. In this paper two notions will be considered in particular: that of perspectives and that of the didactical functionalities of an ICT-based tool. The idea is to use these two notions as conceptual complementary lenses: the notion of perspectives can help to better connect the educational technology field with related areas and concepts; the notion of didactical functionalities, in the framework of each perspective, can help to highlight relevant issues and research questions. The aim is to sketch a framework to support the understanding of research studies in the field of educational technology at the school level and, in particular, to situate, as examples, specific projects carried out at the Institute for Educational Technology (ITD) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR).
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Schools everywhere face challenges and problems that derive from both changing needs of society and from difficulties which traditionally have never been easy to solve effectively.

The world is changing: it changes the way in which people interact with each other as well as the way in which people relate to information and knowledge, and consequently learn. Many factors contribute to such changes, and technology certainly plays a crucial role.

Technology offers plenty of opportunities, but it can also make us feel constrained to only do what can be done with it. For this reason it is necessary to assume a critical perspective when considering the opportunities offered by technology to education in general, and to school innovation, in particular.

The deep transformations that are affecting our society are reflected in the different terms that have been used in the last decades to characterize it.

The expression “information society” dates back to the 1970s and has been used to point out changes brought about by technological developments and their effects on economies and markets. The notion of a “knowledge society” that emerged toward the end of the 1990s is based on that of “information society”, but is generally considered to include a more pluralistic and developmental perspective, driving attention not only to technological innovations but also to the social, cultural, economic and political transformations that affect contemporary society.

In some sense, the term “knowledge society” seems to better capture the complexity and dynamism of the changes taking place, considering knowledge important not only for economic growth but also to empower and develop all sectors of our society that is currently affected by dynamics hard to imagine only a few decades ago (Burch, 2005; Lytras & Sicilia, 2005; Sharma et al., 2010).

This has brought about the need for new models of development where knowledge and, in particular, education assume a strategic role (Hanushek & Woessmann, 2007). Beyond that, education can create relevant preconditions for physical and mental health and for the readiness to engage in different areas of human expression, as noted in the position paper published by the European Science Foundation (ESF) Standing Committee for the Social Sciences (ESF, 2009).

Learning is increasingly seen as not restricted to educational institutions (school, university) or life period: it becomes a continuous endeavour ranging across a life span. Consequently, it is necessary to reflect on teaching and learning processes according to different views not only at the institutional level but also in a lifelong perspective as pointed out, for example, by the European Union in the Digital Agenda for Europe (EU, 2010), one of the seven pillars of the so-called Europe 2020 Strategy.

While technological developments and the World Wide Web make extensive knowledge resources potentially accessible to everybody, they also set new challenges for learning in schools and other educational institutions. This is because they call attention to the necessity of developing core competences and skills that can be applied in many situations and in different disciplines and that are connected with the possibility of further learning. Thus the need for lifelong learning requires a change in curricula orientation, as well as the adoption of new models and approaches in institutional teaching and learning processes.

Educational systems are based on learning models that are traditionally oriented towards knowledge transmission. Nowadays, in a society increasingly challenged by a number of transforming factors, there is the need to provide students with methodologies, tools and skills that allow them to fruitfully live in such an accelerated and complex world (Collins & Halverson, 2010).

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