Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

Students gain a deeper understanding of content when they actively engage in what they are learning. To increase student participation in the learning process, teachers can incorporate the social learning theory into their classroom practice. The social learning theory engages students in discussions with their peers to create an artifact (Laureate Education, n.d.b). There are several instructional strategies that promote successful student collaboration. The integration of technology tools improves the quality of conversations students have about their learning. Educators enhance the social learning theory using cooperative learning instructional strategies along with social networking and collaboration technology tools.

One instructional strategy that relates to the social learning theory is cooperative learning. In a cooperative learning environment, students reflect on what they learn and develop a shared understanding of a topic by engaging in conversations with others (Pitler, Hubbel, & Kuhn, 2012). Teachers can promote successful cooperative learning environments by placing students in groups according to student interests, skills, or backgrounds. One cooperative learning group I like to use in my classroom is Jigsaw. In a jigsaw group, individuals explore a part of the topic and later come together to share their learning with other group members (Orey, 2001). This type of group aids students in gaining a deeper understanding of the material as they explore and teach about a topic.

Teachers can also use technology to support the social learning theory. Some social networking and collaboration tools teachers can utilize to increase student conversations and successful constructions of artifacts are blogs, Wikis, and VoiceThread. Blogs and Wikis are tools students can use to present and discuss ideas as they work together (Pitler et al., 2012). A VoiceThread is a virtual photo album that allows students to interact with visuals through text, video, audio, and phone comments (Laureate Education, n.d.c). Student sharing of artifacts is made easier with this technology. These tools also support the connectivism learning theory. Connectivism defines learning as creating networks of information (Laureate Education, n.d.a). With these collaboration technology tools, student conversations and learning can expand beyond the walls of the classroom.

Students’ learning increases when they have the opportunity to engage in conversations about the material. The social learning theory promotes student discussion to create a product. The cooperative learning instructional strategy offers a variety of grouping variations to encourage effective student collaboration. To increase conversations and share student work, the use of social networking and collaboration tools improves the social learning theory. Teachers who use this theory in their classroom increase student motivation and provide students with opportunities to practice skills that are necessary for future success.

My VoiceThread


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.a). Connectivism as a learning theory [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). Social learning theories [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.c). Spotlight on technology: VoiceThread [Video file]. 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.


6 thoughts on “Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

  1. I agree that the jigsaw is a great teaching method, I have used it many times in practice. I have noticed by adding instructional strategies that gear towards the social learning theory, my students have grown as learners. Students that use to not participate now are and ones that use to rule the discussions are taking a step back to listen. Overall these approaches have helped my students and myself as a teacher.


    • I also think the jigsaw approach has helped my students and myself as their teacher. It gives me a chance to listen to what they have learned and reflect on what I can do better as I teach them.



  2. Stephanie, I definitely agree that having conversations can lead to a deeper understanding of information. Even as adults I find this to be true. For example, my coworkers and I would get an email from our principal explaining something we need to do and we would all look at it separately and then later have a conversation about it to help us clarify what it is we are suppose to be doing. I just think that getting other people’s opinions and observations are very helpful in grasping understanding.


    • Nina,
      That is exactly what I think. I actually do that as I take this class too. I am constantly going to colleagues and asking them what they think of an assignment or checking to see if they interpret the directions the same way. I think talking to others also helps build confidence because if someone else is thinking the same thing, you automatically feel better about what you are doing.



  3. Stephanie,
    I think it is important to get students to exchange their thoughts and ideas with each other, that is where deep learning happens. I loved your voice thread, I can tell that it will spark some great conversations with your students.


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