Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

The learning strategy in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works that we studied this week was cooperation and that goes hand and hand with Connectivism and Social Learning Theory. In our DVD presentation, Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) maintains that the social learning theory is the idea that “students actively engage in constructing artifacts and conversing with others.” By completing group projects (cooperation) students are practicing the social learning theory. Through technology and web 2.0 tools students can experience collaboration and group skills at a distance. Wikis, Google Docs, WebQuests, blogs, and many other technological means are beginning to revolutionize collaborative education. “Technology can plan a unique and vital role in cooperative learning by facilitating group collaboration, providing structure for group tasks, and allowing members to communicate even if they are not working face to face.” (Pitler, et. al., 2007, p. 140). This is awesome for both teachers and students. This can eliminate the “strong willed” student who takes over a group project with their influence. Conversely, a quiet/shy student may be more aggressive or participate more because they are not face to face with other group members.

Another collaboration tool I explored was some of the web resources in our text. Pitler, et al. discussed web collaboration, keypals, web-enabled multiplayer simulation games, and communication software, such as blogs and wikis. The great part about these sources is that they all allow for group learning and facilitate collaboration. Collaboration is not limited to groups in one classroom, technology allows for cooperative learning from anywhere on Earth there is computers and the Internet. Students from Reedsville, WI where I teach can learn from students in Japan or England. I could have my students working on a wiki about the novel Number the Stars and students from throughout the world could make changes and learn from my students. It would be great to hear from some Jewish students, students from Germany or Denmark. The technology makes studying novels more engaging and the ability to converse with students from throughout the world makes wikis a great educational tool that correlates with the social learning theory. Some of the simulation games such as Revolution and Civilization III allow students to interact with players throughout the world. Students learn by participating in actual historic events. The ability to learn while playing a game with authentic historical events while interacting with historical figures is an awesome way to learn about history and a way I wish I could have experienced in school.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program 8. Social Learning Theory. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD


  1. Hey Mr. D,
    You made some good points when you wrote about collaboration. I have found that roles change in the classroom that contains open communication with high levels of collaboration. When a more collaborative environment takes place, the teacher is more a facilitator. And as you said, the students’ roles change as well. I have never set up a classroom that was not face to face, but now I see the benefits to push the quiet shy student and eliminate the strong willed student as you said. You also effectively point out that technology connects everyone world wide, thus making learning experiences more engaging.

    -Nick Renninger

  2. Craig,

    I agree that students can learn together at a distance. The Web 2.0 tools as mentioned in your post also help students to learn "team playing" skills. I do agree that the "shy" student is more apt to feel comfortable using these sorts of collaboration tools. I also agree that working with "real Life" simulations is a fun way to learn. I too wished I could have had that learning experience while in school.

  3. Hi Craig,

    Your post has brought up some "devil's advocate" questions to me. When you quoted Pitler, et. al. about technology allowing students to work together from remote locations, I began to wonder if this really is a good thing. Now I love incorporating technology, but for argument's sake, if we allow technology to be the intermediary that facilitates interaction, will we lose an element of the organic interplay that encourages learning. Siemans and others state that connectivism is what determines learning. If all the connections are digital, are we really connecting?

    For example, I have really enjoyed participating in online learning and have been pleased by the many and varied ways that we have been able to interact and get to know one another and the material through our courses. But, have we missed out on a degree of discourse and collegiality because of the format...? I would argue that an aspect has been lost, but that other benefits have been gained. Like many theories and practices in education and beyond, there are pros and cons to every decision we make.

    Thanks for your post, I look forward to hearing from you.


  4. Nancy,

    Are we as teachers eliminating our jobs?? If we could connect all students and learn together from a distance, would this eliminate many teaching positions??