Saturday, April 3, 2010

Social Learning in Practice

Dr. Michael Orey describes social constructivism as learning where the students are collaborating in building artifacts and then talking about what they learned((Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Lev Vygotsky talks about the zone of proximal development as what a student knows and what they are able to learn at a given time. When the learner seeks new information, then they must go to a more knowledgeable other; parent, teacher, computer, and friend. Technology has contributed to this learning theory by making information more accessible and collaborating with other students with many on line tools. Google has created many tools that make collaboration much easier and they are all free. When using google docs in the classroom, all students can be contributing, editing and learning all at the same time. In geometry class students can create vocabulary reference folder with definitions, pictures and real life examples that can be saved for the entire year.

Virtual learning is becoming popular as a supplement to traditional classrooms. Teen Second Life is a place where students come together from around the world to create solutions to international problems. Virtual worlds bring relevance into the classroom, as well as to prepare students for the information environments and globally distributed work teams they will surely encounter later (Czarnecki, 2008). Virtual environment simulations lend themselves to situations that are otherwise too dangerous or hazardous. Universities are using virtual chemistry labs where student mistakes are not costly and can be repeated until the student accomplishes the correct results.

I feel that there are many opportunities for educators to incorporate cooperative learning strategies into the classroom. Working with their peers helps to increase students’ ability to communicate, show leadership, resolve conflicts and make wise decisions.

Czarnecki, K. (2008). Virtual Environments and K-12 Education. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 15(4), 14-17. Retrieved March 22, 2009 from Education Research Complete database.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.


  1. Nancy,

    I feel that there are many math projects that follow the social learning theory. I teach second grade and will often give students a problem statement and the tools necessary to complete the task. I then rely on the knowledge of the group to figure out an answer. What type of social learning theory activities do you do with your students?

  2. Nancy,

    Yes, technology is a great way to apply Vygotsky's theory of proximal development. It allows different students to be at different levels at the same time in the same classroom. You make a good connection between virtual learning environments and the need for a "more knowledgeable other,"which can be anyone on the web. Though, it's not specified, I think that peers are the most effective "knowledgeable other," especially with teens and pre-teens. Great points!