A learning model for enhancing the student's control in educational process using Web 2.0 personal learning environments

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  • A learning model for enhancing the students controlin educational process using Web 2.0 personallearning environments

    Ebrahim Rahimi, Jan van den Berg and Wim Veen

    Ebrahim Rahimi is PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University ofTechnology. Jan van den Berg is Full Professor Cyber Security at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Managementand the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Sciences, Delft University of Technology.Wim Veen is Full Professor Learning Systems at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft Univer-sity of Technology. Address for correspondence: Mr Ebrahim Rahimi, Building 31, Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX, Delft, TheNetherlands. Email: e.rahimi@tudelft.nl

    AbstractIn recent educational literature, it has been observed that improving students controlhas the potential of increasing his or her feeling of ownership, personal agency andactiveness as means to maximize his or her educational achievement. While the mainconceived goal for personal learning environments (PLEs) is to increase students controlby taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools and technologies, there is not a robust learningmodel available to achieve it. This contribution focuses on proposing a learning modelbuilt upon self-regulated learning and students control theories and concepts, andsupported by the learning affordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologies for enhancingstudents control by developing and applying Web 2.0 PLEs.

    IntroductionPersonal learning environments (PLEs) are a new and promising area of development in thetechnology-enhanced learning (TEL) domain. As stated by Johnson and Liber (2008), the PLEmovement pertains to the application of Web 2.0 tools and social software to education. Accord-ing to Attwell (2007), PLEs are activity spaces in which students interact and communicate withone another and with experts by using loosely coupled Web 2.0 tools, the ultimate result of whichis the development of collective learning. Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) defined Web 2.0-basedPLEs as learning environments built on in-the-cloud Web 2.0 tools and services designed to helpstudents aggregate and share resources, participate in collective knowledge generation, andmanage their own meaning making.

    In the e-learning domain, PLEs are increasingly attracting the attentions of educational research-ers and practitioners as an effective pedagogical approach to addressing issues of personalizationand students control. In this regard, two main conceived objectives with using PLEs are (1)making students competent and responsible to achieve and assume control for their learning and(2) providing students with opportunities to design and develop their learning environments(Drexler, 2010; Johnson & Liber, 2008; Valtonen et al, 2012).

    Web 2.0 tools and technologies are receiving intense and growing interest across all sectors of theeducational industry as means for facilitating the transformation of learning through extendingthe students control over the whole/entire learning process (Alexander, 2006; Dabbagh &Kitsantas, 2012; McLoughlin & Lee, 2010). These tools and services provide students with

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  • just-in-time and at-your-fingertips learning opportunities and can support a wide range ofteaching and learning activities including creative and collective contribution (Twitter, Facebook),knowledge (co-)producing (wikis, YouTube, Google Docs), communication (Skype), knowledgemanagement and organizing (Delicious, Diigo), self-expressing (blogs), creating and managingpersonal pages (Netvibes), sharing and exchanging documents (Dropbox), and analyzing anddeveloping new concepts and ideas (MindMeister).

    Surprisingly, while personalization and supporting students control appear to be laudable anddefensible objectives of Web 2.0 PLEs, it seems that these notions and the ways of how to attainthem very often remain unanswered, vague and too general in PLE literature (Buchem, 2012;Vljataga & Laanpere, 2010). As a result, as asserted by Kop and Hill (2008), educators atdifferent educational levels are forced to adapt and rethink their teaching approaches in conjunc-tion with the advent of new Web 2.0 technologies without a clear road map for attending tostudents various needs. Affected by the existence of a dominant technology-driven approach toPLEs, a common solution proposed to support students control is to provide them with a set ofWeb 2.0 tools and services and to allow them to select and use these tools in a personal way theydeem fit. This gift-wrapping approach to new technologies and media can at best provide sometechnological personalization and add-ons to existing practices of students (Fischer & Scharff,1998) rather than supporting their control and improving the quality of learning (Vljataga &Laanpere, 2010). On the contrary, to support and enhance students control, new technologies

    Practitioner NotesWhat is already known about this topic

    Personal learning environments (PLEs) are increasingly attracting the attentions ofeducational researchers and practitioners in addressing issues of personalization andstudents control.

    Educators are forced to adapt their pedagogical practices in conjunction with theadvent of new Web 2.0 technologies and PLEs without a clear road map for attendingto students various needs.

    The students control notion and the ways of how to attain it by developing andapplying PLEs too often remain unanswered and vague in PLE literature.

    What this paper adds

    A learning model built upon self-regulated learning and transactional control theoriesto integrate Web 2.0 technologies into educational settings to develop and apply PLEsas a means for enhancing students control in educational process.

    The ways to attain main elements of students control by developing and applyingPLEs.

    Practical directions including educational and technological requirements for devel-oping and applying PLEs in educational settings.

    Implications for practice and/or policy

    Pedagogical practices of educators can be redefined in a way to nurture and support astudent-driven process for developing PLEs.

    Epistemic practices of students can be defined to make them competent to achievemore control in educational process by using PLEs.

    Appropriate scaffolding and guidance can be designed to support students to integratePLEs into their learning process as a means to enhance their control.

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  • and learning theories must together serve as catalysts for fundamentally rethinking and redefin-ing what the pedagogical and epistemic practices of teachers and students can be and should bein PLEs.

    Inspired by these observations, we decided to develop a learning model, built upon relevantlearning theories and supported by the existing and emerging technological innovations, todefine teaching and learning practices in a way that supports the conceived objectives of PLEs.

    A model for enhancing students control in educational processAs described earlier, there are two main conceived objectives with PLEs, including (1) makingstudents competent to achieve more control in educational process and (2) enabling them todesign and develop their learning environments. While achieving the first objective is directlydependent on the students cognitive and metacognitive abilities, epistemic practices, and theirattitudes and willingness to assume responsibility for their learning, the achievement of secondobjective is mainly facilitated by the pedagogical practice of the teacher. As asserted by Dron(2007), control is concerned with making decisions about the learning activities during thelearning journey. Taken together, it can be argued that any model that aims to support studentscontrol by developing and applying Web 2.0 PLEs should (1) improve the students cognitive andmetacognitive abilities and redefine his or her epistemic practices, (2) redefine the pedagogicalprocess to allow the student to develop and apply his or her PLE as a means for learning, (3)combine the redefined epistemic and pedagogical elements and (4) take advantage of the learningaffordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologies to design appropriate technology-enhanced teach-ing and learning activities and provide opportunities for the student to make decisions about hisor her learning activities. Figure 1 presents a model that is built upon these arguments and is asummary of the discursive notes that follow in this paper.

    The model consists of six blocks, including students control dimensions, the learning affordancesof Web 2.0 tools and technologies, the learning process, TEL activities, student-driven PLEsdevelopment process and increased students control in educational process. The students control

    Figure 1: The proposed model for enhancing students control by developing and applying Web 2.0 personallearning environments (PLEs)

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  • dimensions block introduces the main elements of the students cognitive and metacognitivepractices determining his or her level of control over the educational process. The learningaffordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologies block presents a mapping between the core andunderlying concepts of Web 2.0 tools and technologies and the students control dimensions. Thelearning process block defines the main phases the student needs to pass through to achieve his orher learning goals and develop his or her PLE. The technology-enhanced learning activities block, asthe combination of the students control dimensions and learning process supported by thelearning affordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologies, presents the educational activities thatthe student should perform using technology. The student-driven PLEs development process blockdescribes how the model results in a student-driven process for developing PLEs. The increasedstudents control in educational process block explains the ways that the model contributes toenhancing the students control in educational process.

    Students control dimensionsAccording to Garrison and Baynton (1987), the learners control can be achieved by supportingand establishing a dynamic balance between three elements, including power, support and inde-pendence. To define the main dimensions of the students control, we borrow these elements fromthe Garrison and Bayntons model and name them as capability (refers to the cognitive abilitiesand competencies student requires to participate in particular learning experiences), support(refers to the resources such as learning materials, course structure, teachers guides and scaf-foldings, and community experts that the student needs in order to carry out their learning)and autonomy (refers to the students freedom to choose what, how, when and where to learn)respectively.

    Learning affordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologiesIn order to investigate the ways that Web 2.0 tools and technologies can support the studentscontrol model, we need to elicit their learning potential. Because of the steadily increasingheterogeneity of these tools and the ambiguousness of Web 2.0 concept, it is difficult to reachconsensus about the meaning, notion and borders of Web 2.0 tools and technologies. Hence, weneed to consider the gravitational core and underlying concepts of Web 2.0 to depict a picture oftheir learning potential and then to map these core concepts into the elements of the studentscontrol model. To do so, we take advantage of the underlying concepts of Web 2.0 defined asbelow:

    Social software: a software application that provides an architecture of participation for end-users to support collaboration and harnessing of collective intelligence by extending or derivingadded value from human social behavior and interactions (OReilly, 2005).

    Micro-content: a metaphor for the nature of user-generated content in Web 2.0 including blogposts, wiki conversations, RSS feeds, podcasts, vodcasts and tweets compared with the pagemetaphor of Web 1.0 (Alexander, 2006).

    Openness: refers to the free availability of web tools and user-generated content. Folksonomy: user-generated taxonomies that are dynamic and socially or collaboratively con-

    structed, in contrast to established hierarchical taxonomies that are typically created by expertsin a discipline or domain of study (Alexander, 2006).

    Sophisticated interfaces: refer to the drag-and-drop, semantic, widget-based websites created byusing AJAX, XML, RSS and CSS services (Bower, Hedberg & Kuswara, 2010).

    Figure 2 maps these concepts into the students control model. According to this mapping, takingadvantage of the openness and micro-content features of Web 2.0 tools and services can improvethe cognitive capabilities of students by involving them in the active process of appropriating,generating, mixing, remixing and using content (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010). Also, the sociability

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  • aspects of Web 2.0 embedded in social software and folksonomies can provide students withappropriate learning materials and emotional, motivational, and behavioral supports and canstimulate them to act as active seekers of the required support. These sociability aspects offerstudents learning opportunities that are in line with their normal ways of learning and canenable them to integrate the explicit and tacit dimensions of knowledge (OReilly, 2005). Further,the openness nature of Web 2.0 provides students with an unprecedented opportunity to explore,choose and take advantage of the learning potential of web tools and services to be autonomouslearners. Finally, the sophisticated interface of Web 2.0 tools and services enables students toeasily design, develop and evolve their learning environments by mashing up different sorts ofcontent, services and people. The combination of these dimensions, as shown in Figure 2, canhelp students to keep control over and regulate their learning process using three mechanisms,namely learning alone, ie, developing personal knowledge and learning management strategies,learning with group, ie, participating in the content coauthoring activities and learning from others,ie, establishing, extending and utilizing their personal learning networks consisting of expertsand knowledgeable peers.

    Learning processA PLE-based learning process should meet specific requirements. First, learning by buildingand developing PLEs follows a self-regulated learning process aiming at preparing studentsto be self-regulated learners and take more control over their learning (Dabbagh & Kitsantas,2012; Valtonen et al, 2012). According to self-regulated learning theory (SRL), Studentscan be described as self-regulated to the degree that they are metacognitively, motivationally,and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process (Zimmerman, 1990). SRLtheory defines the process in which self-regulation is achieved in cycles consisting of forethought,

    Figure 2: Mapping the core concepts of Web 2.0 into the students control model

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  • performance and self-reflection phases. Second, unlike learning in virtual learning environments,in the PLE-based learning, the learning environment is constructed by students during theirlearning processes as an output of the learning process, and the construction of the learningenvironment, per se, is an important learning process (Drexler, 2010; Vljataga & Laanpere,2010). Accordingly, the learning process can be envisioned as a bottom-up process ofcodeveloping the learning environment by students. To support and facilitate this perspective,the students need to be allowed to participate in designing their learning environment andprovided with appropriate choices and supports to do so. Further, they need to be able to pursuetheir personal learning experiences and objectives, explore the learning affordances of the pro-vided choices to meet their heterogeneous learning requirements and participate in codevelopingand coevolving of their learning environments.

    Built upon these observations, we propose a cyclic learning process consisting of four phases.Each phase defines the main learning activity to be accomplished by students and the supportthey need to do it. These phases include (1) forethought (providing choices), (2) performing(scaffolding), (3) reflecting (assessing) and (4) feeding back (applying).

    Forethought (providing choices)The main elements of the forethought phase are task analysis and self-motivation beliefs. Taskanalysis refers to planning processes such as learning goals setting and strategic planning bystudents. Self-motivational beliefs consist of students self-efficacy beliefs, his or her outcomeexpectations, intrinsic interest and goal orientation (Zimmerman, 1990). To support students toplan their learning strategy, the teacher should provide them with appropriate choices in termsof pedagogical, social and technological choices. The theory of transactional control (Dron,2007) suggests that control is concerned with choices and a mature learner is more capable ofmaking relevant and effective choices in his or her learning journey. Hence, providing studentswith proper choices and allowing them to use these choices to define their learning aims andmethods are prerequisite steps for them to achieve control over their learning by moving from astate of dependence to one of independence and have the potential to enhance their feeling ofownership, personal agency and self-motivational beliefs.

    Performing (scaffolding)In this phase, the student takes advantage of the provided choices in a meaningful way toimplement and monitor the chosen strategy and carry out his or her learning plan by himself orherself. Valtonen et al (2012) argued that the skills students need to achieve control and regulatetheir learning in PLE-based learning cannot be taken for granted. In other words, giving controlin terms of choices to the students without empowering them to utilize and take advantage ofthese choices is not enough to enhance their control. Hence, students need the influence of anappropriate pedagogical design in terms of scaffolding techniques and learning activities to learnhow to use the provided choices to achieve, keep and practice control over their learning byconstructing and applying PLEs.

    Reflecting (assessing)In this phase, the student tries to reflect on and evaluate cognitive, social and personal aspects ofhis or her learning process. This phase plays a vital role in the success of the PLE-based learningprocess. According to Johnson and Liber (2008), personal development is an inherent aspect ofPLEs. Without careful consideration of this developmental trajectory, according to Scardamaliaand Bereiter (2006), any activity-based learning experiences can easily decline to a form ofshallow constructivism or doing for the sake of doing. Several authors highlighted the importanceof reflection as the core source of personal development by enhancing the effectiveness of learn-ing and promoting metacognition, learning to learn and self-regulation (Valtonen et al, 2012;

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  • Verpoorten, Westera & Specht, 2012; Zimmerman, 1990). According to Rogers (2001), reflec-tion offers student opportunities to examine, evaluate and regulate his or her learning andenhances the students overall effectiveness by allowing him or her to make better choices oractions in the future (p 41). Strampel and Oliver (2007) define reflection as a way of thinkingand a form of contemplation that determines how one comes to act on new understandingsbeing stimulated by new information and choices and leading to conceptual change, knowledgetransfer and action. Accordingly, any educational process that aims to support PLE-based learn-ing should provide triggers for reflection and involve the student in an intramental discourse ofhis or her learning practice as a means for promoting and facilitating a personal developmentaltrajectory.

    Students personal development is manifested in the so called 21st century skills includingcritical thinking, problem solving, meaning making, communication, collaboration and decisionmaking. None of these skills are easily measured using current product-based assessment tech-niques such as multiple choice tests or standard exams. As a result, schools are paralyzed bythe push to teach new skills and the lack of reliable ways to assess them (Blikstein, 2011). Insteadof product based, process-based assessment techniques are required to assess and gauge actualcognitive, social and personal development of students while building and applying their PLEs. Inthis regard, the techniques and approaches provided by the nascent field of learning analyticsseem promising. Learning analytics refers to the measurement, collection, analysis and report-ing of data about learners and their contexts, for purpose of understanding and optimizinglearning and the environments in which it occurs. Learning analytics are largely concerned withimproving learner success (Siemens & Long, 2011).

    Feeding back (applying)Improving students control goes through a long-term and complex process of interactionbetween the students personal agency and the learning environment (Dron, 2007; Johnson &Sherlock, 2012). According to Johnson and Sherlock (2012), there is a bidirectional and feedbackrelationship between the learning environment and personal agency in a way that the thingsthat students do are transformative of the environment within which they operate and viceversa. From the PLE perspective, it can be argued that any attempt for enhancing and sustainingstudents control should recognize, operationalize and corroborate this feedback relationship toallow and encourage students to actively participate in constructing, (re)shaping and reseeding(ie, tooling and de-tooling) of the learning environment, resulting in the establishment of astudent-centric learning environment. To do so, one possible solution is to define a feedbackmechanism consisting of two parts, including (1) an explicit part for asking students to discoverand introduce the cognitive, social and personal affordances of the provided choices and otherrelated Web 2.0-based learning resources to be used by other students and teacher, and (2) animplicit part for realizing and considering students technological and learning preferencesby capturing and analyzing data about their interaction with the learning environment andlearning resources.

    This feedback mechanism aims not only to increase the students control through developinga student-centric learning environment and considering the students preferences, but also toimpart the teacher to this improved control. In fact, in a PLE-based setting, teacher and studentsare both learners (Rahimi, van den Berg & Veen, 2013a) and in order to improve his or herteaching practices, the teacher has an unceasing need to learn how to teach with new technolo-gies. The active engagement of the students with technology can reveal the ways that they learnwith technology and provides a valuable source of technological, content and pedagogical knowl-edge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that the teacher needs to know to instruct with technology andbuild a student-centric learning environment.

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  • TEL activitiesAs shown in Figure 1, the combination of the students control model with the learning processsupported by the learning affordances of Web 2.0 creates a structure to define appropriate TELactivities to be accomplished by students to develop and learn with their PLEs. Based on thisstructure, there are four categories of TEL activities, namely preparation, implementation, reflec-tion and feedback activities. Each category consists of three subcategories associated to the threedimensions of the students control.

    Preparation activitiesThe main aim of these activities is to help students to take advantage of Web 2.0 tools andtechnologies to plan their learning, provide them with appropriate choices and equip them withthe skills they need to gain more control and self-regulate their learning. The preparation activi-ties are as below:

    Defining/introducing learning strategies: These activities aim to empower students with appro-priate web-based cognitive abilities and learning techniques. Accordingly, the teacher definesor introduces a set of cognitive choices (ie, learning methods such as conducting digital mindmapping, brain storming, blogging, coauthoring and storytelling by using Web 2.0 tools) to bechosen and applied by students during their learning journey.

    Providing learning resources: The teacher provides an appropriate set of learning resourcesand materials such as assignments, group working structure, guides and scaffoldings, techno-logical tools and (online) community experts to be used by students to keep control over theirlearning.

    Defining/introducing personal learning management strategies: In order to nurture anddevelop students autonomy and metacognitive skills, the teacher defines and introduces a setof web-based personal learning and knowledge management skills such as setting learninggoals, aggregating and filtering content, evaluating the quality of web content, and planning,monitoring and evaluating learning progress by using Web 2.0 tools.

    Implementation activitiesAfter developing a learning plan, being exposed with different choices and equipped with appro-priate skills, students need to apply them in a learning experience. This experience should providestudents with a flexible and collaborative learning space to act as active learners or so calledprosumers to apply the provided choices and practice the acquired skills (consumer), and thento develop new choices and acquire skills (producer). Acting as active learners by using Web 2.0tools requires the teachers scaffolding. To support teachers to manage Web 2.0-based scaffolding,Rahimi et al (2013a) developed a model to design learning activities by using Web 2.0 tools andtechnologies. Their model can be used to design learning activities to help students to acquire andpractice required skills and competencies by placing them in a learning environment where theseskills are needed to proceed. Their model is based on the assumption that a student, in order tobe in control of their learning, should act as knowledge developer to develop more cognitive abilities,socializer to learn the social skills needed to seek support from the surrounding context anddecision maker to practice autonomy and manage and enrich his or her learning experiencesthrough personal cognitive, social and technological endeavors. Performing these learning activi-ties can encourage students to construct their PLEs through producing and coauthoring content,communication and collaborating with peers, connecting to relevant people, finding and addinglearning resources to their PLEs, using and introducing the learning benefits of web tools andsharing their learning experiences.

    Reflection activitiesAccording to Strampel and Oliver (2007), there are four levels of reflection leading to deep levelsof learning including stimulated reflection, descriptive reflection, dialogic reflection and critical

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  • reflection. The forethought phase of the model stimulates reflection by increasing studentsawareness through presenting them with new choices in terms of new learning objectives,techniques, information, communities, resources and experiences. After becoming aware of newchoices, students become stimulated and feel they must make sense of these choices by usingthem in meaningful ways and until the new choices can be assimilated and accommodated,they are in a state of disequilibrium (Strampel & Oliver, 2007). This disequilibrium stage canfacilitate further reflection and can lead to conceptual change, but only if the students areproperly motivated, supported and encouraged. Prompting and scaffolding deep reflection arechallenging tasks that require teachers effort and support. It also requires designing appropriateTEL activities in terms of questions, tasks, problems and objectives and incorporating them intothe design of PLEs. These activities should trigger students reflecting on the cognitive, social andpersonal aspects of learning process. For example, activities such as evaluating their own learningcapabilities and process, evaluating the content or digital artifacts developed by student or hisor her peers and developing criteria to evaluate the quality and credibility of online contentcan trigger students reflecting on the cognitive aspect of their learning process. Also, performingactivities such as identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their group working and comment-ing on the ideas of their peers can trigger students to reflect on the social aspect of their learningprocess. Moreover, accomplishing activities such as evaluating the taken personal time manage-ment, knowledge gathering, learning monitoring strategies, creating meaning and interpreta-tion from personal learning experiences and evaluating the learning potential and affordances ofthe provided choices can trigger students reflecting on the personal aspect of their learningprocess. This type of learning activities can foster internal learning abilities and develop criticalthinking regarding the options and range of possibilities to develop and use PLEs (Valtonen et al,2012).

    Feedback activitiesAffordances can be defined as the opportunities for action for the observer provided by an envi-ronment (Gibson, 1979). The affordances notion provides an opportunity to design a student-driven feedback mechanism to involve students in reshaping the learning environment based onthe ways that they perceive and operationalize the Web 2.0-based learning resources in theirpersonal learning experiences. Indeed, the teacher can design appropriate learning activities toencourage students to exchange their good practices and explore and share the perceived learningaffordances of the employed learning resources as a means for improving the pedagogical, social,technical and personal aspects of the learning environment.

    Collecting and analyzing data about the students interaction with the learning environmentNew data collection and data mining technologies are making it possible to capture and analyzemassive amounts of data about the students interaction with the learning environment, gener-ated through the students activities in different Web 2.0 tools and technologies (Blikstein, 2011).The analyzed data then can be used by the teacher to support a process-based assessment tech-nique to provide insight into the real level of personal development of students. Also, it can helpthe teacher to establish and enhance a student-centric learning environment by realizingthe technological and learning preferences of the students and applying them in the learningenvironment.

    Student-driven PLEs development processEnd-user development (EUD) is a concept originally developed in the field of computer science andhumancomputer interaction, describing activities or techniques that allow end-users to custom-ize, configure and program software artifacts (Fischer & Scharff, 1998). A prominent aspectof EUD is meta-design that characterizes objectives, techniques and processes for creating newenvironments, allowing and empowering owners of problems to act as designers to engage

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  • actively in the continuous development of their environments. To support meta-design, Fischerand Scharff (1998) developed the seeding, evolutionary growth and reseeding (SER) process model asa means to encourage designers to conceptualize their activity as meta-design, thereby support-ing end-users as designers rather than restricting them to passive consumers.

    Our model supports students to follow a learning-driven process in line with the SER modelto develop and apply their PLEs. The underlying assumption of the model has strong similaritieswith the SER models premise of considering students as the designers of their learning environ-ments as well as perceiving the learning environment as the student-built output of the educa-tional process rather than fixed input to it. From the perspective of the model, a PLE is envisionedas a learning environment that is seeded with the provided choices, grown up through activeparticipation of teacher and students as a community of learners during the educational processand reseeded through the feedback mechanism.

    Increased students control in educational processThe degree of control that a student has in the educational process can be determined by twofactors, including (1) the ability of the student to control his or her learning process, manifestedin capability, support and autonomy dimensions, and (2) communication between the teacherand student during the negotiation phase (planning time to develop the structure of a course) andthe dialog phase (instructional time) (Garrison & Baynton, 1987; Moore, 1973).

    The model can increase the students control in educational process by enhancing these factors.First, the model makes a connection between personal agency, students control and self-regulated learning by using Web 2.0 tools. Indeed, providing students with choices and allowingthem to construct their PLEs and personalize their learning enables them to practice personalagency and regulate their learning. In this regard, as argued by Mott (2010), the developmentof PLEs as student-created and administrated matrices of resources can promote a studentsmetacognition and increase his or her self-regulating role, resulting in more meaningful andpersonalized learning experiences for the student. Also, this student-driven personalizationof learning resources has the potential to enhance the students feeling of ownership over thelearning (Valtonen et al, 2012). Furthermore, the model can contribute to promoting sociallearning and decision making, and assisting students to develop an (online) identity by promptingthem about what to share, who they choose to share with, and how to merge formal andinformal learning (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012).

    Second, by incorporating two-way technologies, such as Twitter and blogs, into the educationalprocess, the model can improve the frequency and immediacy of communication between teacherand students. Third, the model promotes students to develop and reseed their PLEs by finding,using and sharing learning resources. Therefore, the permanent and intensive contact of stu-dents with technology in addition to the unceasing development of Web 2.0 tools can shift thegravity center of educational practices from content, as the teachers sphere of influence, tocommunication around the content and communication about technology (OReilly, 2005;Veen & Vrakking, 2006). This shift arguably can provide opportunities for students to be theinitiator of communication by finding and introducing relevant resources and help them to take amore active approach to shaping how they participate socially and cognitively in the classroomactivities. From this perspective, the model proposes a new conception of teaching presencedescribed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (1999) in their Community of Inquiry (CoI) frame-work. In other words, the CoI framework defines the teaching presence as an important respon-sibility of the instructor with less emphasis on the role of the students in designing their coursesand learning environments, while our model aims to extend the teaching presence beyond justthe responsibility of teachers by involving students in the design of their courses and learningenvironments.

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  • Requirements for implementing the modelThere are two types of requirements need to be addressed to implement the model, includingeducational and technological requirements.

    Educational requirementsImplementing the model requires adopting activity-based and student-centric instructionalapproaches by teachers such as project-based learning (Chen & Chen, 2007), problem-basedlearning (Savery, 2006) and inquiry-based learning (Magnussen, Ishida & Itano, 2000). Theselearner-centric instructional approaches can enhance the dimensions of the students control inthe following ways: First, they can support the capability dimension through involving studentsin cognitive activities such as engagement with complex problems and projects and pursuingsolutions to them, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and creating and present-ing artifacts. Second, these approaches can develop the social skills of students through commu-nicating their ideas and findings to others, and promoting them to work collaboratively in groupsto develop a viable solution to the defined problems or achieve the projects objectives. Third, theypromote students to acquire personal and metacognitive skills such as designing plans or experi-ments, time and project management, making predictions, selecting appropriate content, choos-ing relevant web tools, engaging in self-directed learning, applying their new knowledge to theproblem, and reflecting on what they learned and the effectiveness of the strategies employed.Finally, by involving students in whole/entire phases of the learning process, these instructionalapproaches can enhance the students self-motivational beliefs and ownership and create a senseof accomplishment and control for students (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998).

    Technological requirementsMash-up technologies provide interesting technological solutions to develop PLEs. A mash-upis a website or application that combines content or functionality from different sources into anintegrated service. Mash-up services along with the sophisticated interfaces of Web 2.0 toolssupport easy development of the drag-and-drop, semantic, widget-based websites by using AJAX,XML, RSS and CSS. Students can use these technologies to develop their PLEs not only by remix-ing content but also by adding their personal choices including tools and people.

    An implementation example of the modelBuilt upon the model, Rahimi, van den Berg and Veen (2013b) designed and implemented atechnological prototype using a set of Web 2.0 tools and services to support PLE-based learningin the context of a secondary school. They evaluated the educational benefits of the prototypefrom the teachers perspective. According to their research, using the prototype has the potentialto facilitate the development of a student-centric learning environment through encouragingstudents to find, use and introduce learning resources, realizing the technological and contentpreferences of students, identifying the usefulness and learning affordances of web tools andtechnologies, designing appropriate technology-based learning activities based on the techno-logical preferences of students and increasing the teachers tendency toward technology-basedinstructions. Further, they suggested that using the prototype can facilitate the creation of acommunity of practice between teachers at the school level by encouraging them to share andexchange their good practices about the educational applications and benefits of Web 2.0 toolsand technologies.

    ConclusionIn this paper, a new learning model rationalizing elements of practice currently considered in thesector has been proposed that supports a self-regulated personal development approach to build-ing and applying PLEs to enhance students control. The model aims to describe how to put thestudents in a higher level of learning, socializing and decision making in the educational process

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  • by acknowledging and corroborating their role as active learners, contributors and designers.It can be used by teachers as a road map for selecting technologies and designing appropriate TELactivities to support the students control dimensions. Further research is required to implementthe model and evaluate its impact on students control.

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