Social learning theories propose that learning takes place when students are actively engaged in constructing artifacts and in conversation about what they are building (Laureate Education, 2010a ). By engaging in conversations with their peers, students socialize, validate thoughts and answers, and provide encouragement to foster additional risk taking.
Cooperative learning is a strategy that fully embraces the social learning doctrine. Students work in teams to investigate a significant question or create a meaningful project. While in the process of constructing artifacts together, students acquire valuable skills that include leadership, decision-making, trust building, and conflict management, needed to function in society and the workplace. A support system that includes the instructor administrators, community experts, and peers naturally evolve Communication skills are developed and refined when students explain their reasoning and receive constructive feedback resulting in heightened student satisfaction and self esteem (Palmer, Peters, & Streetman, 2007).
Technology tools such as Voice Thread, closely aligns with the social learning theories that support student learning. It can be used as an independent activity or an engaging cooperative learning opportunity for students to construct meaning. Suited to all learning styles, students actively engage in creating visual artifacts that are explained through print or audio files. In accordance with the social learning theories, group conversations are collected and shared from anywhere in the world. Files can be publicly shared or limited to invited guests only. Learning takes place through the collaborative efforts of the group members to complete a standards based product and the extensive feedback received from conversations from around the world (Laureate Education, 2010b).
Another technology tool that supports social learning theories is WebQuests. This is an inquiry based tool in which participants from a class or different locations actively engage in critical thinking skills to solve a problem or work on a project (Pittler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). When working cooperatively on a Web Quest, group members must come to a consensus on decisions to be made based on a variety of perspectives.
Creating online communities by sharing calendars, Web links, and bookmarks is another example of the social learning theories at work. These Web 2.0 resources provide teachers and students alike the opportunity to create a conversation about how to use technology tools to help organize and share information that will contribute to student success. For example, in my school. special education personnel presently use Google Calendar to coordinate all special education meetings with the remainder of school events ( Pittler, et al., (2007).
When reviewing all of the learning theories that we have studied, the importance of social learning theories and strategies to support them must be implemented into our 21st century classroom. Students who build something together, and engage in conversations to support their learning will be prepared to enter the tomorrow’s workforce. It is up to us, as teachers, to provide opportunities that engage students and fuel their imagination to cooperatively build something. Web 2.0 technology can help us toward that endeavor.
Palmer, G., Peters, R., & Streetman, R. (2010). Cooperative Learning. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved http://docs.globaltext.terry.uga.edu:8095/anonymous/webdav/Emerging% 20Perspes%20on%20Learning,%20Teaching,%20and%20Technology.pdf
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010a). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology.
: Author. Baltimore, MD
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010b). Program ten. Spotlight on technology: VoiceThread [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology.
: Author. Baltimore, MD
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.