Sociocultural Theory

Use of Technology to Support Social Constructivist Theory and ZPD

I have a relatively unique classroom. My students are instructors at our community college that come to our technology trainings (related to a variety of different tools) willingly with no incentives. That said, I tend to have smaller classrooms, and am able to work closely with each instructor or staff member. One way I utilize technology to provide the “cognitive mediators” (page 247) involves the use of scaffolding. “Schunk (2008) states the five major functions of scaffolding includ “providing support, functioning as a tool, extending the range of the learner, permitting the attainment of tasks not otherwise possible, and using selectively only as needed.” In this regard, I typically start and end my training sessions by reminding participants of my supportive role in the college and provide my contact information. During the training, I use Powerpoint where I introduce the learning objectives, provide common uses of the tool and links to further their learning beyond our session (based on my audience, I would say classroom or in the work place), review best practices in using the tool, review the steps to achieve the use of a technology tool (the point and click), and finally demonstrate the same steps (modeling). To extend the range of our learners, I record our sessions (voice and computer) to allow learners to focus on what is being learned as opposed to taking notes or placing thier cognitive load on other aspects. I feel this allows my training to function as a tool and extend the range of the learner by ensuring they have the steps it will take later in order to perform the task on their own.

“Reciprocal teaching comprises social interaction and scaffolding as students gradually develop skills.” After my training demonstration, I allow time for discussion about how my “students” will use the newly acquired knowledge in their course of work (or why they would not). Often times, this entails students practicing using the tool on my computer where others can see the same process a second time or setting up follow-up trainings where I can work more closely within the student’s zone of proximal development. Depending upon the training itself, many times I set up environments where my students can create and utilize a tool with other attendees. For instance, when training on using blogs in a classroom, I often focus my training on common uses in the classroom, then quickly demonstrate how to set one up. I then have attendees utilize this as a student (posting content in the session) before setting one up in their own course shell (or a training shell depending upon the situation). This is almost the situated cognition as I am socially guiding practices and uses within our college (cultural institution). In addition to the discussions in the training, we also have follow up surveys and discussion boards where my students can take what they learned beyond the classroom while still having an area to ask questions.

While I have the advantage of constantly teaching technology uses in distance-based and classroom-based instruction, these are just some of the ways that I use technology to enhance instruction (media, screen recording software, discussion boards, and using technology within the learning environment). I also use the Internet and recorded lectures to facilitate training or further a learner’s knowledge about a specific subject. For instance, I recently trained on classroom best practices of whether lecture capture technology can enhance teaching practices (or make for better instructors). Because I did not have a strong grasp on faculty perspectives and lecture capture, I found a good recorded presentation where an experienced faculty member had presented her challenges and successes with the technology in her classroom. This became central to my “presentation” and was the spark for many comments, questions, and discussion items afterwards.

Schunk, D. H. (2008). Constructivist theory. In Learning theories: An educational perspective (5th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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