Social Constructivism & Social Media

social constructivism
Social Constructivism and Social Media

Social Constructivism is based on Constructivist theories of learning which focus on understanding how learning is processed and structured.  Vygotsky made the jump from Constructivism to Social Constructivism when he came to the realization that there is also a social aspect to learning (Cohen, 1999).

“The distinction between constructivism and social constructivism is that in social constructivism learners are incorporated into a knowledge community based on language and culture.  Learning is a collaborative process”

                                                                                                                                Lev Vygotsky, 1978


It becomes obvious then that the rapid advances in technology within the last generation should have impacted on the pedagogies of Social Constructivism in a significant manner.    The social interactions between students and students, teachers and students and teacher and other teachers have changed dramatically.

The teacher is no longer the dominant source of information for the students (Smith, 1997).

Because our social interaction as human beings has been altered so momentously, Social Constructivism pedagogy also must have been altered as a result of this

Have we seen the change in our classrooms that reflect these statements?

We would love to hear your views on the validity of these two statements when you think about the classroom environments that you have contact with.


Click this image to vote on these questions on our wiki page.

Vygotsky advocates that  children develop in social or group settings, (Chen & Bryer, 2012) so the use of technology and ICT’s to connect rather than separate students,  can be viewed as very appropriate teaching and learning tool in a 21st century classroom.

A constructivist teacher creates a context for learning in which students can become engaged in interesting activities that encourage and facilitate learning.   The  teacher  guides students as they approach problems; encourages them to work in groups to think about issues and questions; and support them with encouragement and advice as they tackle problems; adventures and challenges (Smith, 1997). All this activity is ideally situated in in real life contexts that are both interesting to the students and satisfying in terms of the result of their work.  (Chen& Bryer, 2012).

These  four principles are applied in any social constructivist classroom.

  1. Learning and development is a social, collaborative activity.
  2. The Zone of Proximal Development can serve as a guide for curricular and lesson planning.
  3. School learning should occur in a meaningful context and not be separated from learning and knowledge children develop in the “real world.”
  4. Out-of-school experiences should be related to the child’s school experience (Chen & Breyr, 2012).

Technology supporting  Social Constructivism

Social Constructivism can be embedded in the classroom by situating activities in contexts that are designed to increase group collaboration through better communication.  This goal can be achieved through the utilisation of social media software and Web 2.0 tools (Ishii, 2003).

Below are a few examples of the way information technology can support social constructivist teaching and learning: (Chen & Bryer, 2012)

  • Telecommunications tools  such as e-mail and the Internet provide a means for dialogue, discussion,  and debate — interactivity that leads to the social construction of  meaning. Students can talk with other students, teachers, and  professionals in communities far from their classroom.
  • Telecommunications  tools can also provide students access to many different types of   information resources that help them understand both their culture and  the culture of others.
  • Networked writing programs  provides a unique platform for collaborative writing. Students can write  for real audiences who respond instantly and who participate in a  collective writing activity.
  • Simulations can make  learning meaningful by situating something to be learned in the context of  a “real world” activity such as running a nuclear power plant,   writing up “breaking” stories for a newspaper, or dealing with the pollution problems of local waterways
Barriers to Using Social Media tools in the Classroom

Will our poll suggest that our pedagogical approach in the classroom may not be keeping up with the significant influence and popularity of social media’s? We have proposed some barriers we think exist that preventing them from being incorporated more readily.

  • Not enough computers
  • Funding of schools for appropriate software
  • Crowded curriculum not allowing time for deep collaborative work
  • Technical issues and difficulties
  • Lack of confidence and skills in teachers
  • Embedded resistance to change in teachers and administrators
  • Concerns regarding privacy, cyber safety and web safety when collaborating online with external sources

Click on the image to go to our wiki page where you can comment with further suggestions or specific examples you may have encountered.  Perhaps you have found a solution to one of these barriers.  If so, please share your ideas with others.


Click and share obstacles encountered and solutions!

  1. Amanda says:

    I wasn’t where to type responses so I am just going to answer and provide my thoughts on here.

    In regards to social constructivism and social media and whether teachers are no longer the main sort of information, I find this very interesting. Due to all the media and technology (particulary portable devices such as iPhones and other smart phones and devices) students can log onto the internet and access information straight away. This is a major area as I know that when I am unsure of something or a question I was asked now a days I would just reply “hang on I’ll just google it.” If I am saying that now, imagine what the students are doing and finding out with this access at their finger tips.

    I remember the days when you wanted to communicate and socialised with someone you would ring and invite them over and you would communicate face to face and socialise that way. If the person lived in another town you would communicate through hand written letters. Eventually leading into typed letters and now emails. However, we communicate now via instant text messaging, facebook, twitter etc that you can send photos and have a conversation by typing. It really has changed and I think some people are loosing that face to face interactive skills to communicate, solve issues and problems.

    Barriers to using social media for me coming from a rural town is the access to the up to date technology that you can use to teach you students and allow them to guide their own learning using the technology. Yes we have access to some computers and sometimes the internet (depending on where you are located and if the internet runs in every part of the school) however, costing plays a major issue to wether the schools are able to get funding and whether access is avaiable.

    One way to over come a major barrier of teacher confidence and skill is to collobrate with other teachers or at home in your comfort area watch YouTube clips on using different programs and research different websites and play around with the program/s. What better way to learn then by having a go yourself, learning YouTube totorials with a couple of mates over a glass of wine or jsut by yourself. Then once you feel confident, GIVE IT A GO in your classroom. Explain to students you are new at this to and try different things they suggest. You might just be surprised at how much they can teach you.


    • Hi Amanda

      As a part of social constructivist theory, learning should be student centred and not teacher centered. With that understanding in mind, the teacher acts as a facilitator of the teaching/learning process and not like in the past, where the teaching was very didactic and was based around rote learning and memorizing. Teacher and parents alike need also educate their children in how to “google” in a constructive manner. As I know from my own personal experience googling can take to you places that are so off track from your original inquiry.

      I so totally agree with you the ways of communication have been radically transform with the invention of the internet and new technologies. Social media is the way we do communicate nowadays and why our team thought this would be a fantastic topic to explore. Our team used another form of social media Facebook to communicate our ideas and planning. Social media plays a huge part of our lives and our children lives outside the classroom, so why not bridge the divide between home life and school life, by bringing social media into the classroom.

      Your point about being in a rural community and having access to the technology, is something I believe the government is trying to address. The same applies to low socio-economic areas where students may not have access to either a computer or the internet at home.

      For teachers to be able to fully implement any form of social media with success in their classroom, they need to know the format they plan to use intimately and use it frequently to not only troubleshoot any problems students may come across, but also to be aware of potential hazards. Do you think as per-service teachers we should be engaging in more courses about using technologies within the classroom, to fully prepare our future students for life in the 21st Century?

    • Michelle Irving says:

      Hi Amanda
      Love your idea to explore ICT’s in a comfortable environment. But remember sometimes it is good for our students to see us make mistakes as then they realise that we too are learners. We don’t know everything. We try and fail sometimes. It does not mean we are failures just something did not work for us.

      The gap between suburban and rural is getting better but it does still need lots of funding to make it equal. The problem is technology is moving at such a rate it is very hard to keep up to date especially governments trying to fund such things. That is why good computers and internet access are important. I am not sure having everything that is the latest is. Such as ipads. I know they have great apps and can be easily used by students in the classroom but I don’t think are as important as having good internet access and enough computers for all students.

  2. Jenny Dawson says:

    I am constantly amazed at how much information, resource material and helpful advice I have gleaned from Twitter, both for incorporating ICT into lessons or not. I agree with Amanda about the barriers, especially in rural communities, but they will be eliminated over time I guess (& new ones will present themselves!). There is so much involving ICT for new (& not so new) teachers to grasp, I intend to learn about a few ideas at a time, choose what will work for me and practise. Then I will move on to some more, building a strong and effective repertoire as I go. I can see the benefits of using social media in the classroom & as students use it constantly in their everyday lives, they should learn how to use it effectively and comprehensively in the classroom.

    • Chris McCann says:

      Jenny I think that your plan is a good one! Tackling one or two ideas at a time and getting to grips with them is a great way to proceed. When you have a good knowledge of how a stream of social media works, then it is easier to think of ways to use it in the classroom. If you are unsure of the mechanism, the audience, the scope, then it is harder to understand how you can utilise it yourself.
      Great points.

    • Michelle Irving says:

      Hi Jenny
      Twitter is a great resource and as I have found very underestimated. Too many write it off as something that is just for social chit chat or gossiping. But the resources that are exchanged on Twitter are enormous. Have you tried #Educhat. it is great even if you just sit in on the conversations.
      I too believe starting with a few tools, like we have highlighted in this event then exploring to find out if they are suitable for the purpose you intend to use them for. If they are not then you have learnt a skill (which can often be applied in other areas of ICT’s) and can try out another.

      I have loved engaging in this event. I have learnt so much that I probably would never even bothered with. Twitter is something I would never would have explored. By participating in other group events I have expanded my learning way beyond what I would have if I had not been provoked by this course.

    • Hi Jenny

      I think your idea of slowly accumulating ICT’s skills is excellent. I would rather be proficient in a small number and fully exploit their full potential then only skim the surface of many application. I think as well, the more proficient you are in applications, the greater benefit the students will receive.


  3. Bec White says:

    Through my practical experiences in the classrooms I have come to think that the use of ICT in the classroom heavily relies on the teacher (their views of ICT, teaching philosophy, skills and confidence in using it) and the school (IWB in each classroom, encouraging its use through school plans, professional development courses and so forth). In most of the prac classes my mentors have not been confident with teaching with ICT and so just don’t use it. Both the students and the teacher suffer. The teacher suffers because the are unaware of all the assistance they can get from teaching with ICT, using the internet and overall enhancing teaching and learning. Personally if I know that I have to teach a lesson on a certain topic the internet is the first place I go and try to find interactive websites and activities, videos, background information, example provided by the Australian curriculum and so forth. I then try to incorporate PowerPoint as I am a visual learner to ensure I have different modes of delivering the content. I have also seen teachers use Youtube as their reward system which students loved. There are so many other great resources for teachers to use and I look forward implementing more forms of social media into my lessons.

    • Chris McCann says:

      You are so right about teacher attitude Bec. I have seen teachers who have been teaching for 40 years use technology as they would an old chalkboard, with skill and flair. And I have also encountered the opposite – new teachers who are so intent on getting everything perfect that they have no time or energy to explore avenues like technology, social media and computers other than to use it as rewards for their students.
      LIke everything, the more you know the better you will be. Asking someone who knows is the way to improve your own knowledge or skills – social media is a collaborative tool (as we have emphasised so many times) and it is one way to really improve your knowledge, confidence and skills.
      Thanks Bec

      • Michelle Irving says:

        I found this interesting and I too have found different attitudes of teachers. One funny thing that happened was a teacher was recording students performances in a drama class for them to review and give feedback to each other. We got back to the classroom and the teacher had no idea of how to load from the video to the computer. She did not want to ask the kids and she played with to no avail until one student who is not backwards in expressing his opinion said Why don’t you ask an expert? Who she said. Us he replied. Within minutes we were all watching the performances on the IWB. That still gives me a laugh.

        Another teacher I worked with who had just gotten an IWB explained to the kids that this was all new to her and she would make mistakes and not always be able to get things to work properly. The kids loved that she was honest. When using the board I often asked the kids to help me as they did know more than me!

        I believe we cannot know everything and sharing is the best resource we can ever have.
        Michelle Irving

    • Hi Bec

      I have had similar experiences to yourself. many of my mentor teacher either did not feel confident using ICT or had very limited access to them. I would consider myself as a digital immigrant, as I know I have limited knowledge of the ICT’s that are out there and how to truly appreciate the full application of them.

      The internet is a fantastic place for sourcing resources and ideas. As well as don’t you think students are more engaged in learning when using something that they are already familiar with?
      As well as the divide between home and school decreases and student can see the relevance more easily


  4. Lynn Bray says:

    Thank you so much for an enlightening presentation. I resonate with your reference to social constructivism and the work of Vygotsky. I often reflect on theses theories as I am planning and teaching, however you have enlightened me on how to apply this knowledge in an ICT classroom. Thank you again, great work,

    • Chris McCann says:

      Thanks Lynn. I also really appreciate the ideas that Vygotsky communicated through his work. In fact I think one of the most enlightening moments in my journey through the BEDU was when I came to fully understand the implications of the Zone of Proximal Development and how we can use it to further not only our students knowledge but our own knowledge.
      Social constructivism is certainly the learning theory and the pedagogy that I have used to stumble through my own university studies. I have had 20+ years outside of the classroom but have asked for help from those who know more then I do about what ever topic I am immersed in. (Google being THE most knowledgeable one I have found). Actually it has usually been my first point of call to find an expert, and then I have extended on from there.
      Social media are a fabulous tool and without them my “online degree’ would be something I could never have attempted.
      Thanks for your feedback Lynn.

      • Lynn Bray says:

        Hi Christine
        I too have had many of those “light bulb moments” during my studies, and yes one of those was grasping the concept of ZPD. Another moment was when Dewey talks about authentic resources and experiences. I guess I would like to learn more about how to apply ICT in relation to authentic experiences for Early Childhood. I totally agree with the “knowledge” of Google
        , it makes our old Funk and Wagnels look very outdated.

    • Hi Lyn
      great to know our event is of help to you. Using social media can be a challenge and it did present many challenges to us as we were all new to the ones we chose.

      I think allowing students to construct their knowledge and understanding ( as we have done) is important. they don’t want us just telling them all the time they want to find out for themselves. I know this has been the point of this learning we have done.
      good luck with your future applications of social media in your classroom.
      Michele Irving

  5. Ana Gonzalez says:


    I have not been able to use social media in the classroom much yet. Many of the reasons for this are listed above. One reason that I have found really confronting is resistance to change not just from teachers but also from people in administrative positions. I think one of their main concerns is safety and financial implications. I also feel that sometimes as teachers or pre-service teachers we fail to be creative and are afraid to get outside our comfort zone.

    I mainly use social media to keep in contact with my friends and relatives overseas. I think social media has great uses in the classroom in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet. One day I would like to use in a collaborate learning context with students in other schools around the world. Learn about different cultures, languages, students teaching each other, the possibilities are endless.

    The few times I have been able to use social media in the classroom have been very successful. Students have been fully engaged and motivated. This has inspired me to take more risks and to be creative in the way I prepare lessons. However, I think there needs to be a balance of activities that teachers use in the classroom. It is not just about using social media but more importantly about how we use it to encourage critical thinkers.

    • Hi Ana
      Noits not all about social media. Balance is important for student development. with maths we can use manipulatives, tape measures, buckets of water and jugs etc or we could just use simulations from the internet. I am sure if we did this students we get just as bored as reading from a text book. Mixing it up is the key. finding a balance which will come from experience. just don’t write of social media as something cannot be used in the classroom. Most things we do in the classroom need precautions just as using social media. where would science be if we cannot do experiments?

  6. Ana Gonzalez says:

    How are you using social media to encourage critical thinking?

    • Hi Ana
      One way to promote critical thinking to have have your students asking good questions. yes many believe that social media does not promote critical thinking but as with everything new we have to be creative. Having our students working collaborative and questioning even the social media itself. use of experts to ask the hard questions and also proposing questions for students to discuss and analyse also promotes critical thinking.
      I am sure you can think of many other ways to incorporate. Critical thinking into your lessons.

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