Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

The instructional strategies described in the resources explored this week correlate with the principles of social learning theories. Social learning theory can be described as interactions happening as students are engaged in constructing something while having conversations about what they are building” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). Cooperative learning is a prime example of social learning. “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).

Social constructivist approaches can include reciprocal teaching, peer collaboration, cognitive apprenticeships, problem-based instruction, webquests, anchored instruction and other methods that involve learning with others” (Kim, 2001). Many of these opportunities fall into the categories of web resources, multimedia, or communication software. These open up a world of collaboration through the Web with other students from other schools or their own, experts in the field, or collaborations with people from around the world (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). My class collaborates another fourth grade classroom in our county. The other fourth grade teacher and myself have assigned each students a pen pal. Due to budget constraints, it is not always feasible for us to travel and have the students meet their pen pals. Therefore, we are planning to Skype with them in addition to our letter writing to each other. Since Indiana’s fourth grade social studies curriculum consists of the teaching of Indiana history, we are now able to take advantage of sharing various learning experiences with our pen pals through Skype. I am very anxious to do this, and so are my students.

In the online book, I really enjoyed reading about the high school teacher who decided that she had had enough with her boring approach to teaching Shakespeare. She then moved to a more social learning theory approach to her teaching. Instead of merely reading the plays aloud, she decided to group her students and assign parts to the play. They would then have to act out the play in a collaborative puppet show. As the teacher set expectations and facilitated each group, they were able to create an artifact, which was created according to the social learning theories (Kim, 2001).

In fourth grade, teaching idioms can be difficult. I actually created a book of idioms of which the students would write the meaning of each, and then use the idiom in a sentence. Boy, was this boring. To take a more social learning approach, I purchased an idiom book of plays. My students had the opportunity to act out a play and apply the idioms in conversation with their peers. They had a great time creating the set and practicing their parts. The plays were even comical. They were able to participate in creating an artifact while learning.

One interesting piece of information gathered from the online book was that of the positive affects of social interactions. From a psychological perspective, students can actually benefit from a cooperative learning environment because they have a support system with other students. When they have this support system, their attitudes change toward education in general. They have a better attitude because they are playing an active role in their learning (Kim, 2001).


Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism.. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved January 31, from

Laureate Education, Inc. (2010). Social Learning Theories. Baltimore, Maryland: Dr. Michael Orey.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


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