Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Collaboration, Technology, and Constructivist Learning

Do humans innately work as a group?
Humans have derived from their experience the understanding that if they collaborate they would accomplish more than they would alone.  If there is an innate drive to “interact and work as a group” there is also the counterbalancing drive to survive.  And many decisions are made based on this will to survive.  As Rheingold points out in his examples of various businesses that have achieved success through collaboration, their desire to collaborate was not altruistic, but they learned that there is more to gain from working together than from going it alone.
Technology, collaboration and constructivist principles
Constructivists believe that learners construct knowledge, reflect on content, and share their knowledge with others (Solvie & Klock, 2007, p.8 ) as they actively learn through experience and interact with their environment.  Teachers become facilitators and coaches as students engage with the teacher, the task and other students.  Students become more independent as they are allowed to collaborate and explore in a context in which they are given the power over their own learning.  Technology provides the supportive media rich environment in which this type of learning can take place.  Driscoll (2005) points to the value of hypermedia through its support of graphics, text, audio, video and hyperlinks that encourages exploration and opens the door to a wide array of information that learners use to broaden discussions.  Other media include discussion boards, wikis, and mobile technologies such as cellular phones and ipads.  These allow students to continue the conversation beyond the classroom since they support access at anytime from anywhere.
What the research says
Solvie and Klock (2007) investigated the value of technology in supporting constructivists' theories of how individuals learn.  They used technology during class to communicate, provide information for students, scaffold, and clarify.  Outside of class, learners used technology to further collaborate with each other and with their teacher.  The researchers observed that if technology tools are chosen to match students learning needs and learning styles they have the ability to facilitate learners’ need to work individually and in groups to construct knowledge.  They also found that technology encouraged individuals to explore other learning styles (p. 23).  Qureshi and Stormyhr (2012) developed a model for collaborative learning and team work.  They suggested that collaborative/team work was especially suited to the diverse higher education community (p. 119)

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Qureshi, M. A. and Stormyhr, E.  (2012).  Group dynamics and peer-tutoring a pedagogical tool for learning in higher education.  International Education Studies.  5(2) 118-124.  doi:10.5539/ies.v5n2pll8

Rheingold, H. (2008).  Howard Rheingold on collaboration [video file].  Retrieved from

Solvie, P., and Kloek, M.  (2007).  Using technology tools to engage students with multiple learning styles in a constructivist learning environment.  Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(2), 7-27.  Retrieved from


David Phenix said...

You make a great comparison by contrasting a drive to collaborate vs. a drive to survive. I agree that many people, corporations, and businesses have learned that it is more profitable to work together as opposed to going it alone. I also tend to lean toward the concept that these entities tend to are ultimately more concerned about their own gains as opposed any internal reward or satisfaction of working together.

David Phenix said...

You make an interesting comparison when you contrast the need to interact as a group vs. the need to survive. I think more and more people, businesses, and corporations are taking the "survival" approach than the "need to interact" approach. I do not feel that there is that much of an instinctive need to collaborate and work together in a corporate environment especially in a competitive workplace. More often than not, we work together because we find personal benefit.