Friday, April 9, 2010

Social, Cognitive, and Constructive Technology


We have learned the importance of learning theories and their application to education. Technology is here for us to promote education, but many times teachers can easily fall into a trap, using technology for “ease-of-use” rather than for enhancing student retention. “Ease-of-use” refers to an example where a teacher may have an interactive SMART classroom at their disposal, but use it only for Power Point so they do not have to write on the board. Although this can be applicable in some situations, technology should never take the role of the teacher. The teacher should only manipulate the technology to enhance learning; therefore justifying the enormous cost technology can impose on a school’s budget.

Technology is a tool teachers can use to trigger multiple intelligences in a single classroom. Skinner argued that classrooms are inefficient places for learning because students with differences in their learning progress make it difficult for teachers to reinforce and shape behavior. With technology, you could utilize tools of Web 2.0 to create single environments conducive to multiple learning styles. These environments work with the cognitive model of information processing to create rich learning environments for students. Technology is also a tool where teachers can build a personal development scheme to become better teachers.

Technology comes in many forms, ranging from chalkboards to computers. A definition of Technology is any synthetic tool created for solving an every-day problem. The issue at hand is technology used for the benefit of the teacher rather than the student. Some examples would be a teacher that uses a computer (approximately $600), a projector ($200), and a screen ($200) for the purpose of PowerPoint in place of writing notes on the board. Another would be assigning a computer game, modeled with the behaviorist view in mind to a group of students in place of a teacher-created activity. Technology can be expensive, so is the cost outweighed by the benefit in using it.

Social constructive theorists propose that development and learning are a result of social interaction. We build upon our schemas through constructing knowledge socially, and then individually build upon it (Eggen, & Kauchak, 2010). This interpretation does not suggest that educators rescind their involvement in students’ academics, but rather suggests teachers consider questions of traditional instruction. Their focus is to facilitate students’ constructs of knowledge through social interaction. Their emphasis is to create learning environments in which learns exchange ideas and collaborate in problem solving.

A teacher must utilize the technology in the classroom constructively. Within a social constructive framework, a teacher can create intuitive group activities. For example, if a student is working on a term paper, using Google Docs, the student can interact with peers for feedback on their paper. This takes advantage of free software and does not ask the student to print and physically be in front of a peer. They are learning to write better in a social context and using technology conducive to learning. Through Google Docs, they would be able to collaborate on a project more easily than without it. Google Docs is an example of a current internet trend called Web 2.0[1].

Yang, Yeh, and Wong conducted a study in 2010 investigated the influence of social interaction in a virtual community, similar to those you can build with a Web 2.0 application. They found when passive factors in social interaction are weak, positive relationships in academics become stronger. Passive factors include disagreement, tension, and antagonism. While they maintain promotion of social interaction amongst writers, they emphasize the teacher’s responsibility to provide instruction on social skills through modeling and active participation, increasing motivation and cognition (Yang, Yeh, & Wong, 2010). Constructivism emphasizes the importance of context during the construction of knowledge and the role of social interaction in promoting learning.

Social theories of learning provide a framework of the relationship between social interaction and meaningful learning. Vygotsky indicates that social interaction is essential for an individual’s acquisition of knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978). Wenger indicates that meaningful learning occurs through active communal participation (Wenger, 1998). In relation to Web 2.0, many forms of social media exist – such as social education. LiveMocha is a website that provides feedback for language students. Free language lessons are online and other users provide feedback on tests, scripts, and voice-recordings. Students learn with technology on a social level.

“Using technology doesn’t automatically produce learning, however. Teachers’ learning objectives must be clear, and teachers must also think clearly about how technology can help learners reach objectives” (Eggen, & Kauchak, 2007). It is important to emphasize that simply using technology is the same as using it in the “ease-of-use” context. If the equipment can replace a teacher, they should be. The teacher must utilize the technology in manners conducive to learning and not let the technology be a replacement. We must have the mindset to be better than the technology and use it, not have it use us.

Today, the internet is a prominent element to our lives. People are increasingly turning to social networking to build online communities. Teachers can take advantage of this as a new source of professional learning. It makes it possible for teachers to interact, learn, and access knowledge within a social space. Online communities are available at all times wherever there is an internet connection. A study conducted in 2009 (published in 2010) shows that memberships to online communities provide teachers with a rich source of professional learning. Teachers gather practical classroom strategies from other teachers (Duncan-Howell, 2010).

Implementation of technology into the classroom requires a solid understanding of learning theories. Scholarship in instructional design and technology views learning theories as the principal mechanisms for advancing research and understanding. We must keep in mind that while theory can have a significant impact on technology integration, the range of theories chosen is limited. Many designers dedicate their decisions to intuition and wisdom. Essentially, technology integration requires the ability to creatively articulate learning theories into sensible, justifiable designs derived from many factors (Yanchar S., South J., Williams D., Allen S., & Wilson, B., 2010). One cannot use intuition and wisdom if they do not know how people learn.

Implementation of technology is vital to education in the twenty-first century, as it finds its way into our lives. You cannot change evolution in its natural state, so all one can do is embrace it. Educators ill equipped for such a task will have a difficult time with integration, but with training, it is possible. The most prominent benefit to integrating technology into the classroom is preparing twenty-first century students to enter the world with those skills necessary for success. Secondly, it educates students in proper use and maintenance of such technologies.


Battelle, J, & O'Reilly, T. (2004). Opening welcome: state of the internet industry. Proceedings of the Web 2.0 conference San Francisco, CA: O'Reilly Media.

Duncan-Howell, J. (2010). Teachers making connections: online communities as a source of professional learning. British journal of educational technology, 41(2), 324-340.

Eggen, Paul, & Kauchak, Don. (2007) Educational psychology: windows on classrooms (7th edition). Ohio: Merrill.

Eggen, Paul, & Kauchak, Don. (2010). Educational psychology: windows on classrooms (8th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society – the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University.

Yanchar, S., South, J., Williams, D., Allen, S., & Wilson, B. (2010). Struggling with theory? a qualitative investigation of conceptual tool use in instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development. February 1, 2010; 58(1): 39-60.

Yang, Y., Yeh, H., & Wong, W. (2010). The Influence of Social Interaction on Meaning Construction in a Virtual Community. British journal of educational technology, 41(2), 287-306.

[1] Darcy DiNucci coined the term Web 2.0 in 1999, but it became popular in 2004 when O’Reilly Media and MediaLive hosted the first Web 2.0 conference. John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly outlined their definition as Web Platform, where software is web-based rather than desktop based (Battelle, J., & O’Reilly, T, 2004). This birthed a plethora of internet trends, the most popular being social media.

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