Social Learning Theory

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 (  It has more than 800 million active users (  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
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

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6 Responses to Social Learning Theory

  1. Eryn Schmidt says:

    I love hearing about principals leading their schools with technology as a way of communicating and assimilating into the lives of today’s population. It feels like education is so afraid of all the bad things that could happen that we lose sight of the benefits. I think if we educate students on how to be safe and use the Internet responsibly than we are more able to be successful at using technology to learn. And I like how you make reference to technology extending our learning beyond the classroom.

    • Rachel says:

      I agree that we have many teachable moments with technology. I made a comparison during the week that students’ online lives are like a playground. We’ve needed to teach kids to learn to live together since we’ve had communities. Students need the same instruction for online communities as well. My AP has kept a weekly blog for about a year. I don;t read it that often, but I believe parents do and that it is well received.

  2. Dennis Tierney says:

    Another great post. I believe the secret to Facebook’s success is that human beings, by-and-large are hard-wired to interact in a social setting. The relationships that are formed, even those as impermanent as in informal groupings, release endorphins in the brain. This sense of well-being is important to the learning process in that it makes the learner safe, secure and open to the input of others.


    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for the compliment. One of the concerns I have about Facebook is that students do not learn how to relate to other during their formative years. Middle school is difficult territory to navigate. Kids need to learn to deal with each other in both positive and negative situations. As you know, online activity often creates enormous problems for kids; they do not know the impact of what they are saying and how their statements can be misconstrued. What happens online follows kids to school. How awful it is for them when what follows is hateful. I do hope that as we bring social media or cooperative learning projects into the classrooms, that we are able to teach kids the importance of online etiquette.

  3. Rhonda Vobr says:

    The importance of Facebook in the lives of people today really does highlight the feelings people have to being social creatures. Unfortunately, there is a fine line that schools have to walk to keep students safe in the use of technology through filtering and giving access to all online programs. Our school has filtered Facebook and have banned cell phones during the school day. The debate about the educational benefits vs. student attention and safety goes on every day here.

    • Rachel says:

      I agree about the line that schools have to walk, but I am all for schools being firm about keeping kids safe. We have too many incidents involving issues that begin from inappropriate posts online. We have banned cell phones in school, though I think we’re getting a bit lax, and we do not filter Facebook. I have mixed emotions about this as some teachers use the site for educational purposes and are very successful. If there are any serious incidents (I know, define serious) they I am sure we will change the policy.

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