This week, in my Masters program we learned about social learning theories, known also as Social Constructivism, and their practical application strategies, cooperative learning. Social Constructivism, as described by our lecturer Dr. Orey, is much like Constructivism in that the creation of an artifact is the key to meaningful learning, but adds the element of interactions between students during construction. It states that those interactions between students are what make a learning experience meaningful, as students use one another as resources (“More Knowledgeable Others”), as sounding boards and as partners in solving a problem and learning new information and skills.
When I was participating in New Jersey’s Alternate Route Program to become a teacher after being a graphic designer, a significant emphasis was placed on cooperative learning and its benefits. My favorite of these activities are “Think / Pair / Share” and “Jigsaw” and I’ve used them in my Art Room with much success. A Jigsaw activity means that you split children into ‘homogeneous’ groups where all of the members of each group learn about one aspect of a general subject. Then, the groups are mixed up in a heterogeneous way, with each one member of each of the original groups represented in the new groups. They then become the ‘experts’ and teach the rest of their new group members about the information they gathered with their colleges in the original group. It’s an excellent way to cover a lot of material because the students become the experts and re-teach the information. And as my Mother-in-Law–a Doctor of Education, Principal, and Wonderful Lady– would say, “the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.”
So that got me thinking . . . We were introduced to this online software called “Voice Thread” this week as well. It’s a simple online tool that allows users to publish slideshows with voiceovers attached, and other users to comment. So, in the future, I’m going to try and use the Jigsaw technique on a grander scale. Let’s say I teach 4 sections of 2nd Grade Art, and all of second grade is studying Greek Art, but I don’t have time to do all of the projects with every class. So one class will study coins, the second sculpture, the third urns, and the fourth mosaics. When finished with their project, each class will create a Voice Thread slide show of their work and create as a collaborative group 7 facts to share as part of their voice-overs. Then, I will share the slideshows with the other sections, so every class gets exposed to all four of the concepts, one of them intimately and the others through their peer’s Voice Thread presentation.
I am excited to give this a try!