The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

In our resources this week, Dr. Michael Orey describes "Social Learning or cooperative learning; as the act of being actively engaged in constructing artifacts, as well as conversations in order to enhance understanding and learning from others." (Laureate Inc., 2009) Beaumie Kim writes that "knowledge is derived from interactions between people and their environments." (Orey, 2001) Connectivist George Siemens states that social learning is using technology to collaborate and share knowledge between groups of people. (Laureate Inc., 2009b) The idea of social learning is the opportunity to interact with the people around you and learn from their experiences and points of view. We are all unique, learn differently and all have different perceptions to share. "Two people looking at something together never actually see the same thing in the same way." (Orey, 2001) This is where the learning comes into play.
Pitler et al. state in their book Using Technology with Classroom instruction that Works, that because we are living in a time when society is forced to keep pace with technology, students need "to be prepared for the fast-paced, virtual workplace that they will inherit, students need to be able to learn and produce cooperatively." (Pitler et. al., 2007, p139) There are a number of technology tools mentioned in chapter 7 to support social and cooperative learning. Creating videos using multimedia, employing multiuser games, completing web based inquiries, and applications such as Keypals for communications, all can be used to promote social learning by allowing students to collaborate and create with each other.

Dr. Orey talks about how important social learning is because students reach a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which he describes as "what the child is able to learn at a given time." (Laureate Inc., 2009a) He also says that by encouraging social learning, a child gets MKD and can then continue to learn. MKD is the acronym for "more knowledgeable others" which means "a child is unable to learn at this time without help from someone else." (Laureate Inc., 2009a) ZPD and MKD are good reasons to support social learning.

Social Learning is a way for students to learn from other people's perspectives, "bounce ideas off each other, confirm and validate their thoughts, a way to give each other encouragement, and achieve confidence from knowing that they may have the same trouble learning a particular thing as the next student, or that they have come up with the same answer as a result." (Laureate, Inc. 2009a)

I believe that to be able to succeed in society today; you need to be a well rounded individual, having the ability to produce in multiple ways, using both the virtual world and the non-virtual world, in essence being resourceful in the use of both technology and human talent.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). Connectivism as Learning Theory. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). Social Learning Theories. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.

Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Section: Social Constructivism, Retrieved from

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


  1. Marcella,

    I think you were right on the mark when you said that to succeed in society today you need to be well-rounded, in both human and technological talent. As teachers the social learning theory is one way students learn and there is many forms of technology conducive to this. Technology such as keypals and web-based multi-user simulations teach students that they can collaborate, no matter how much distance there is separating them. The bottom line is that our students are going to need to be able to work with each other and technology is the going to be the means.

  2. Marcella,
    You posted a great point when you said that we are all unique. No two students are alike. We all learn differently and we all have acquired different prior experiences. This leads to different points of view and different thoughts or feelings. I have discovered that even identical twins can be completely different. Another great point that you made is that we are living in a speed driven world in which students are all on different levels. How do we keep up? The only way possible is by appealing to the ZPD as you stated. This is done by technology. By targeting what the student can learn, and when, we are better able to prepare the students for tomorrow’s future.

    -Nick Renninger

  3. Marcella,

    For a long time, I thought that I had to be the more knowledgeable other in my classroom. Though I knew that my students had valid and interesting thoughts, I felt that if I didn't have my hand in everything, learning would not take place. The more I worked in my classroom, the more I realized that this led a more passive type of learning in my classroom. When students are given the opportunity to showcase their abilities and get creative, amazing things are produced and tremendous learning takes place. This week's focus clarified and reminded me about the value of shared learning.

    As you initially pointed out and our classmates remarked, each child brings a unique perspective to every task and concept. We can use these varied backgrounds to enrich discussions and activities. Technology add another layer of opportunity and skill to further broaden our students expressions of their learning.


  4. ps- I like your new page layout!!! :)

  5. Nancy,

    Well said, about how students have to have both technological and human talents. Some students can get fixated on the technology of today's world, and they are not developing the necessary human interaction talents that you need in order to work in a group. The reality is that in the adult world, we often times get group assignments that require both, so we teachers need to set up similar situations for our students where they collaborate with one another while simultaniously utilizing their technology talents.