The Practicality of Social Constructivism in eLearning

January 26, 2011

in e-Learning, Ideas

Social constructivism, an educational theory originally accredited by Jean Piaget, suggests that experiences are what best fuel knowledge. When we put learning through the ultimate exercise of doing something practical, the ultimate result is a better internalization of the learning material. For example, mixing paints to create different shades of a color will have a stronger impact than reading a book about color theory and being tested on it. Creating opportunities for participation, not only through activity but with other participants as well, is what will have a more lasting effect on a student. This then creates the issue of how we achieve that outcome without extravagant and costly activities.

The ever-expanding reach of the online world is creating a literal plethora of information and learning opportunities. As a result, eLearning is swiftly growing in popularity among educators because it embraces the digital age in which today’s students have been raised and creates multiple outlets for learning online. Blogs, wikis and forums are excellent examples of how social constructivism can be used in an educational setting. With reference to constructivism, students will receive better learning experiences through the participation created in an eLearning environment.

Blogs

For individuals who are new to the internet, blogs are an excellent resource to begin learning about a multitude of topics. Students can also use a blog as an online journal documenting their learning. Use blogs as an opportunity to get students comfortable with writing. Students can demonstrate the effort they have put into an assignment by posting pictures throughout their narrative.

Give students opportunities to explore information and learn to share what they’ve found online. Instructors can encourage collaboration and the sharing of information between each learner’s blog. Create a private blogging community wherein students can share information safely and learn how to better contribute to the public blogosphere with their writing.

Wikis

Colleges and universities are utilizing wikis with increasing frequency. Learning institutions and classrooms can obtain software to create their own private wikis similar to Wikipedia, though smaller in scope. This tool helps to create a feeling of community as students are able to create content, edit other student’s pages and connect information between multiple web pages created by other students.

As with Wikipedia, students will be able to engage in a constant cycle of rewriting and editing to further refine their understanding of a topic. Teachers can easily moderate these classroom wikis and focus them to niche topics such as painting or World War II. Wikis can be an ongoing activity that will help students refine their understanding of a subject and create effective researching skills.

Forums

Forums can be an effective tool for discussion in a classroom setting. After reading a novel, instructors can assign homework to respond on the forum to what they’ve read. The response can simply be to the reading or to a specific idea posted on the forum by the teacher or another student. Encouraging students to respond to one another’s posts will help cultivate a more open air of discussion that might not be achieved in person.

Of these three eLearning tools, forums have been around for the longest amount of time and have proven to be a valuable and popular method for collaboration and conversation. To help bring together a class and create a feeling of community, forums are an excellent way for encouraging interaction.

Blogs, wikis and forums are only the beginning of eLearning. Many more social tools are available online that will help students collaborate with classmates and create better learning experiences for everyone involved. Rather than confining a student’s learning to a textbook and subsequent tests, utilize constructivism in the eLearning setting. Helping students to find their own voice amidst the millions already found on the web, give them practical opportunities to teach and learn online.

This guest post is contributed by Ryan Goodrich, a staff writer for NorthOrion. Ryan writes on topics including loans, insurance and online education.



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