GP 11 Use space and learning technologies appropriately

In essence

Learning environments can be physical or virtual. The use of learning technologies dissolves boundaries of space and extends opportunities for creating community between learners. Appropriate use of learning environments and technologies helps students to interact with others, undertake meaningful learning activities, create new knowledge and engage in deep learning.

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What you can do

Set up your learning space so that it is welcoming and stimulating and encourages the social nature of learning, both formal and informal.

Introduce online experiences that are deliberately designed to prepare students for independent learning. Progressively and intentionally position your e-learning activities throughout the curriculum.

Use technologies and approaches like simulations, group research projects, discussion forums, wikis, chat and group functions to foster deep learning and provide social learning experiences.

Support students’ learning in online discussion by creating and facilitating activities that require them to participate in peer dialogues that negotiate and create knowledge and understanding. By having a facilitative presence, you are more likely to guide and focus students to deeper learning.

To build rapport and establish immediacy with your students, send a welcoming email prior to the first class in semester.

You can help students to master content if you design clicker activities that get them to reveal pre-existing thinking, test conceptual understanding, apply ideas in new contexts, explore implications and draw on knowledge from everyday life. See Clicker Resource Guide for more hints.

What it looks like

Learning is enhanced, deepened and made more relevant when learning environments provide opportunities for:

  • active and interactive participation
  • collaborative project work
  • information retrieval and sharing
  • discussion and presentation
  • production of new knowledge
  • teacher and student-led activities
  • connection with experts
  • local and global networks
  • personalised learning

MCEETYA (2008)

Jargon buster

Blog: a simple website which originated as a platform for online journals, and provides an excellent tool for student reflection and review.

Facebook: a social networking site where users can add friends, send messages and build their own profile

Flickr: an image and video hosting website where community members can share and comment on media

Lectopia: an audiovisual capture system which can automatically record the audio and/or onscreen components of a lecture, and make them available to students for viewing or download.

Personal response systems (PRS): also known as student response meters or ‘clickers’ are a method of collecting instant feedback from students in a classroom/lecture theatre, using small handheld keypads. PRS can be used to deliver surveys, quizzes and tests during a class in order to gauge students’ understanding or opinions.

Podcast and Vodcast: the subscription to and subsequent automatic downloading of either an audio or video file to be played on a computer or iPod/MP3 player.

RSS: 'Rich Site Summary' or ‘Really Simple Syndication’ is a format used to create ‘feeds’ from websites which are regularly updated with new content, for instance news sites, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Twitter: a microblogging site that enables users to send ‘tweets’ or messages up to 140 characters

Wiki: a basic webpage (or collection of pages) which can be accessed and edited by multiple contributors. A wiki page is never necessarily considered as a finished product. It is a perpetual ‘work in progress’, which might be modified many times by many people.

YouTube: a video sharing website where users can share and upload new videos

Myths busted

Despite being highly tech-savvy, ‘Digital Natives’ show wide variation in their use of technology beyond the standard mobile phone, computer and email, according to a recent study (Kennedy, Judd, Churchward, Gray & Krause, 2008).

How it is applied in disciplines

Communication and Media: In a case study describing the student centred pedagogy of the redeveloped Media program at RMIT, a key principle underpinning its reform was that in every course students would be creating something with technology, while also critically reflecting on their learning. Digital technologies such as blogs have been utilized to enable students to write, reflect and publish in words, sound, still and moving images, for both creative expression and critical reflection within a global networked community. Read more Berkeley (2009).

How it is applied in teaching contexts

Distance education: a study analyzing the effectiveness of podcasts in a distance education found that along with being a good complement but not substitute for the traditional course materials course, podcasts contributed to an increase in student motivation. In particular, students felt they had close contact with their teachers and that a range of learning styles were accommodated through the provision of different kinds of learning materials. Read more Fernandez, Simo & Sallen (2009).

Large classes: the applications in large classes ofa range of mobile technologies including clickers (electronic voting systems), wireless laptop and digital camera, podcasts and vodcasts are described. The technologies were used to address teaching challenges like providing equitable learning environments and learning issues such as isolation in large classes. The examples demonstrate ways to use the different mobile technologies to encourage student interaction, extend learning, scaffold learning and flexibly deliver content. Read more Oliver (2007).

What you should think about when using spaces and learning technologies appropriately in your teaching

Answer Yes to these

Teaching philosophy: I believe in student-centred learning. I think about the contribution I am making to the development of students skills and capabilities for their future professional lives.

Pedagogies: Learning approaches that use space and learning technologies appropriately which characteristically emphasize constructivist learning suit my teaching.

Curriculum: There are specific learning outcomes I wish my students to have in my course.

Tools for learning: I can motivate my students to adopt strategies that use space and learning technologies appropriately. I can incorporate the use of space and learning technologies appropriately into my course.

Commitment: I can identify a ‘learning space’ or ‘learning technologies’ champion who will support innovative practice.

Why is it important?

New learning environments are being designed in response to changing pedagogical approaches that are student centred and incorporate learning technologies (Alexi Marmot Associates & Haa Design, 2006). Well designed physical spaces and learning technologies underpinned by specific pedagogical models for learning can work towards meeting current students’ needs for autonomy, connectivity and socio-experiential learning. Learning environments that create communities in which people can come together to collaborate, learn and build knowledge help develop abilities for now and the future for dealing with the technological and social changes of contemporary society (MCEETYA, 2008; McLoughlin & Lee, 2007).

What is it and how does it support learning? What does recent research say?

The purpose of ICT-rich learning environments is to blur the boundaries between learning and teaching, learners and teachers, formality and informality (MCEETYA, 2008). Learning technologies encourage students to extend their learning outside of formal classes by enabling activities such as community building, sharing information and seeking information (Cullen & Harris, 2009).

It is the ways in which learning technologies are used that make them learner centred tools (Cullen & Harris, 2009). Using learning technologies, particularly in fully online asynchronous environments, supports a learner centred approach to teaching when the teacher designs and sets up learning opportunities and then moves aside for students to engage in knowledge constructing learning (Cullen & Harris, 2009).

E-learning instruction should be designed so that students and instructors can spend more time on learning and teaching rather than managing the logistics. A recent study suggests that if attention is given to sufficient online design, strategic embedded learner support and efficient online communication then maximum time can be given to learning (Ley, 2005). Students should also know more than how to use learning technologies. They need to understand the educational benefits of the individual tool for their learning which also means teachers must address the pedagogical rationale for using the technology (Deng & Yuen, 2009).

The proliferation of social software has not only brought major social changes affecting how we live and work but has significantly enhanced opportunities in education for enabling choice, creativity and self-direction for learners (McLouglin & Lee, 2007). The most successful learning technologies meet a specific instructional need that has not been adequately addressed by traditional media. However, too much technology or technology that does not work well can be disadvantageous (Breslow, 2007).

Podcasting can accommodate a diverse range of student skills and learning styles (Fernandez, Simo & Sallen, 2009).In a recent study, students indicated that podcasts and vodcasts were beneficial online resources for learning and felt they were most useful when used alongside teaching materials such as powerpoints. They perceived that podcasts helped their understanding during the course and revision while vodcasts were useful for increased understanding of material (Parson, Reddy, Wood & Senior, 2009).


Alexi Marmot Associates, & Haa Design (2006). Spaces for learning: A review of learning spaces in further and higher education. Edinburgh: Scottish Funding Council.

Berkeley, L. (2009). Media education and new technology: a case study of major curriculum change within a university media degree. Journal of Media Practice, 10(2&3), 185-197.

Breslow, L. (2007). Lessons Learned: Findings from MIT Initiatives in Educational Technology (2000-2005). Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(4), 283-297.

Clicker resource guide: An instructors’ guide to the effective use of personal response systems (clickers) in teaching Retrieved July 6, 2010

Cullen, R., & Harris, M. (2009). Online Learning: More Than Technical Savvy. Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Deng, L., & Yuen, A. H. K. (2009). Blogs in Higher Education: Implementation and Issues. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 53(3), 95-98.

Dennen, V. P., & Wieland, K. (2007). From Interaction to Intersubjectivity: Facilitating Online Group Discourse Processes. Distance Education, 28(3), 281-297.

Fernandez, V., Simo, P., & Sallan, J. M. (2009). Podcasting: A New Technological Tool to Facilitate Good Practice in Higher Education. Computers & Education, 53(2), 385-392.

Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T. S., Churchward, A., Gray, K., & Krause, K.-L. (2008). First year students' experiences with technology: are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108-122.

Legg, A. M., & Wilson, J. H. (2009). E-mail from professor enhances student motivation and attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 205-211.

Ley, K. (2005). Getting the Most Learning Bang for Your Instructional Buck: Make Time Spent on Online Courses, Time Well-Spent Paper presented at the 21st Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning : pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. Paper presented at the ASCILITE 2007 Singapore: ICT : providing choices for learners and learning. 24th annual ASCILITE conference.

MCEETYA: Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs (2008). Learning spaces framework.

Oliver, R. (2007). Using mobile technologies to support learning in large on campus university classes. Paper presented at the ASCILITE 2007 Singapore: ICT : providing choices for learners and learning. 24th annual ASCILITE conference.

Parson, V., Reddy, P., Wood, J., & Senior, C. (2009). Educating an "iPod" Generation: Undergraduate Attitudes, Experiences and Understanding of Vodcast and Podcast Use. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(3), 215-228.