Social Learning

Social Learning Theory

Brought to us by visionaries such as Vygotsky and Piaget, the theory of social learning calls for students to engage actively in the construction of artifacts with their peers and/or other members of their community.  It values the conversations that are produced as a result, in the sense that they help students to more deeply understand content and knowledge (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

This week, we learned about several tools that help to promote cooperative learning, a version of social learning theory that asks students to not only work together collaboratively, but to take responsibility for their own development and progress as well (Orey, 2001).

Multimedia, including Audacity, VoiceThread, MovieMaker & Adobe Premiere

The creation of multimedia projects is a complex task that requires students to take on different roles and responsibilities, use higher-level thinking skills to evaluate and synthesize information, and make constant use of feedback, reflection and adjustment (Pitler, Hubbell & Kuhn, 2012).  It also asks students to take on the role of the teacher while presenting their work, which in turn allows for a deeper understanding of content (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

Using Audacity, students may create a podcast, radio show, announcement, advertisement or other audio clip that answers an essential question or serves as an answer to a problem posed to students (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  VoiceThread can be used similarly, but may also contain images, video clips and/or web links, and viewers may be invited to leave audio and/or text comments in an effort to promote further conversation and networking related to the content (Orey, 2001).  MovieMaker and Adobe Premiere provide students with film editing tools that allow them to remain engaged via multiple types of activities (acting, script-writing, adding supplemental music or effects, directing, editing, etc.) in an effort to promote meaningful and long-lasting learning (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

Website creation, including Google Sites, Wikispaces, Weebly, etc.

Website creation is also a complicated task requiring students to take responsibility for varying stages of the process.  Working on a task such as this may result in students feeling motivated to help each other so as to ensure a quality product and good grade; it may also decrease the possibility that students might feel adverse to participating, since the construction phase is still relatively passive and initially requires more research, private discussion within the group, and planning than outright presentational skills (Orey, 2001).

Websites are a great way to provide students with an opportunity to use the jigsaw method to teach each other (assigning a particular skill to a group of individuals and than asking them to break off into subgroups to apply those skills or content knowledge) and requires a high level of peer collaboration and reciprocal teaching among peers to be successful (Orey, 2001).

Communication and collaboration software

There are so many opportunities for students to communicate and collaborate using technology that it is actually hard to prevent it from happening in a BYOD or 1:1 classroom like mine!  Students may wish to use several different tools to engage in meaningful conversations that deepen learning, such as Google Hangouts, the chat windows found directly within Google Drive products (allowing students to see and edit the project while simultaneously talking to each other), Skype or Facetime (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  In fact, many of my own students report using the latter two tools on their own time without any direction from me--not just for school work, but for socializing as well.  As educators, we could even further strengthen students' social bonds and support network by drawing tools such as those--that students already use socially and for fun--into educational activities (Orey, 2001).

Webquests & simulation games

I unfortunately do not have a lot of experience with WebQuests or simulators, in part because I teach an immersion class in German and cannot usually find materials in the target language and/or find the time to create an adequate WebQuest or locate a relevant simulation with German-language resources.  I tend to prefer having students work to create their own wikis or multimedia projects instead.

That said, a good WebQuest is still a great way to incorporate cooperative learning into the classroom, as it requires students to use higher-level thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, and synthesis (Pitler et al., 2012).

Additionally, students may experience a high level of engagement (and therefore: meaningful learning) when playing games or participating in simulations that mimic real-life scenarios (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  Such tools and programs also ask students to synthesize their content knowledge and apply it to what will eventually be authentic, real-world problems (Pitler et al., 2012).


Laureate Education, Inc., (2010). Social Constructivist learning theories. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

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

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Dana,

    I enjoyed your compilation of technology resources that are applicable for use with social learning environments. Currently I feel as if I do not plan for enough cooperative learning experiences in my music class, but would like to make a better effort in this area, especially incorporating technology; your post will be a quality resource for future lesson development.

    Julie Kubbs

    1. Julie, I am so glad to have been helpful! Please don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like any insight or help with any of the tools I mentioned. I have experience with the majority of them. Good luck!

  2. Dana,

    I loved your post. The formatting and links were easy to read and helpful. Have you ever designed websites before? Well done!

    I like how you added that students take ownership for their learning when working in groups. That responsibility for engagement is what drives students to want to learn more.

    Jen Jordan

    1. Hey Jen, I actually have designed websites before! Not professional though, just in a hobby kind of way, and not to an extent that I'd consider myself "good" at it. But thank you for the compliment. It's nice to know I'm doing an okay job!

      I always make sure that my rubrics for cooperative learning include both group and individual components so as to make it fair and demand evidence for individual responsibility from all students involved. I think that is crucial.

  3. Dana
    The technology that can be used for social learning is so vast. You listed so many wonderful resources for students. Students today have so many more opportunities to collaborate with students in their school and schools across the world. Google has opened up so many windows for this communication. Loved your post and all the information you posted

    1. Kelly, I am a total Googlephile! Definitely happy to promote their tools whenever possible. If only they'd hire me! Haha.

      Glad the post was helpful to you.