Social learning theory asserts that students learn from working with and among others, that “when students work in cooperative groups, they make sense of, or construct meaning for, new knowledge by interacting with others” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 139). There are several instructional strategies that help students become prepared “for the fast-paced, virtual workplace they will inherit” (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 139). Cooperative learning or collaborative learning assignments allow students to learn how to work together, using each other’s strengths and abilities, to create an artifact, solve a problem, or present new information. “From a social learning perspective, knowledge is constructed while individuals are engaging in activities, receiving feedback, and participating in other forms of human interaction in public, social contexts” (Hill, Song, & West, 2009, p. 89). There are many ways in which educational technology can be helpful in this endeavor.
“Technology can play 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 face to face” (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 140). One such method is a multimedia project. The use of tools such as iMovie or Voice Thread allow students to work together and share what they know through a meaningful artifact. Students can research a topic, locate visuals or upload their own stills or video, and then record their own narration. I have seen projects like this, and done correctly, they are wonderful. They allow students to make multiple connections with information, work together with peers, problem solve, communicate, and complete and present a meaningful end product.
Another useful technology tool is a web-based collaboration like the JASON project. “With the help of multimedia tools and Internet broadcasting technology, participating students become part of a virtual research community, accompanying real researchers in real time” (Pitler, et al., 2007 p. 144) through various explorations. WebQuests are another effective web-based tool. WebQuests allow students to focus on learning information rather than spending their time looking for it (Pitler, et al. 2007). WebQuests present a number of specific links that provide students with the information they need to complete their “quest,” the tasks their teacher has established. Other web-based tools, like shared calendars, shared bookmarking, Skype, and class websites also allow students to collaborate and stay in touch remotely. These are especially effective tools for students who are absent long term for medical reasons.
A third technology tool is that of social media like Facebook, Twitter or blogs. “Research indicates that students perceive greater social interaction when creating and sharing in-depth online messages” (Hill, et al., 2009, p. 91). Social media has exploded; if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest country in the world (Wikipedia.com). It has more than 800 million active users (Facebook.com). Harnessing students’ interest in these tools makes sense, and a number of school systems now have their own Facebook pages so parents can stay abreast of school announcements. Principals have their own Twitter accounts and weekly blogs.
Humans are social creatures. We like to be with others and we learn from our interactions with our family members and our peers. Everyone we come in contact with is a teacher of some kind. The conversations we have with others help to solidify information. We live in a networked world, and using technology to help erase the constraints of formal education helps to extend learning way beyond the classroom.
(2012, January 29). Statistics. [Social media page]. Retrieved from http://Facebook.com/press/
Hill, J. R., Song, L., & West, R. E. (2009). Social learning theory and web-based learning environments: a review of research and discussion of implications. American Journal Of Distance Education, 23(2), 88-103.
Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
List of countries by population. (2012, January 29). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population.