Monday, March 28, 2011

Conversations in Learning

            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     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. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010b). Program ten. Spotlight on technology: VoiceThread [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
        instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Great post! I really enjoyed your analysis on the various types of technology and how they can be applied to different social learning applications. In particular I liked you analysis on collaborative organizing using resources like Google calendar. I think Google calendar would be an excellent resource on a school wide basis to prevent simple things like several teachers giving a test on the same day.

  2. What a great idea. I never thought of using it to collaboratively to organize curriculum assignments and assessments. A teacher could also have students use a tool such as Google Calendar to have students sign up for report dates and collaborative group project dates. When doing a group project, the participants could also use it to designate deadlines for the various components of the group projects. You really got me thinking. Thanks!

  3. Vick,
    I can see points raised in your blog. Learners in the process of purposeful discussion do learn from and with each other, and in the process build trust, validate thought and correct misconceptions. In this process, teachers as well do learn form their students. Here is a short story to prove that: The teacher told students that there is a situation in life that one may not have any choice. One student replied, there is no such situation in life. The teacher gave a scenario: Somebody got marooned on the sea, no food, no rescue; only death is imminent, what is his choice? The teacher asked. The student said, he has a choice whether to drown himself and die quickly or wait for a long slow painful death! The teacher responded you are right; there is always a choice to be made. There is opportunity to learn whe we engage in serious and purposeful conversations.

  4. Google docs can also be used for collaboration. For example students may deal with mol problems all together and see the edits in real time( VoiceThread can also be used to increase collaboration and group work in the classroom.