What is online teaching and learning?
Online teaching and learning, or eLearning, is teaching and learning using technology. It is utilized in
face-to-face classrooms and in distance education. It can be used to extend the teaching and learning
day. It can be teaching and learning anytime, anywhere. If offers teachers many opportunities and
students many significant advantages.
What is an instructional strategy?
A strategy is a plan or method, cleverly devised, which moves one toward a goal. An
instructional strategy is the approach taken by the classroom teacher to assist students in
achieving the learning objectives and goals. Saskatchewan Learning classifies instructional
strategies as direct, indirect, interactive, experiential, or independent. Within each strategy
there are a number of methods which may be utilized.
What is the easiest way to find what I want on this site? Every page in the site can be
accessed in one of two ways. The main navigation for the site is the navigation bar found at the
top of each page. This cascading menu allows you to access the pages by category. The second
way to access pages in this site is by way of a clickable site map. To use this map for navigation,
simply click on the name of the page you wish to view.
4.What opportunities does online teaching and learning have for teachers?
Today's students are what Marc Prensky calls quot;digital natives.quot; They are growing up in a digital
world. Ian Jukes asserts that the quot;Instant Messenger Generationquot; actually processes
information and communicates in a way that is fundamentally different than in previous
generations (quot;Understanding Digital Kids (DKs): Teaching & Learning in the New Digital Agequot;) .
Prensky agrees, furthering the assertion by stating that kids brains are likely physically different
than the brains of adults due to the impact of the digital input they have experienced as they
have grown up (quot;Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?quot;).
Whether we, as adults and educators, like the differences we see in today's students, the
differences are undeniable and, as educators, it is our responsibility to reach and teach these
quot;newquot; kids. Teaching online, using the very technology that has changed our world, and our
kids, is one significant way that we can leverage to reach the quot;Net generation.quot;
Online teaching and learning has many advantages for teachers:
access to a greater depth and breadth of information,
an abundance of online resources are available,
independent learning can be promoted,
learning meaningful for students facing the new realities of life in the 21st Century is
communication with students, parents and colleagues is more easily accomplished,
student-student collaboration may be enhanced within a classroom or between
students in different geographic locations,
student achievement can be improved,
learning experiences for students can be more easily individualized to better meet
freedom from the quot;tyranny of the timetable,quot;
student motivation is more easily accomplished, and
increased critical thinking and problem solving are supported by existing technologies .
5. What challenges does online teaching and learning have for teachers?
A requisite for online teaching and learning is access to the necessary technologies. Such access
is varied in schools across Saskatchewan and is, very often, an inhibitor to online teaching and
learning. Teachers, especially those at the secondary level, may need to restructure their
teaching from the entire class doing everything at the same time to students working either
independently or in small groups to take advantage of pods or individual classroom computers.
Perhaps most challenging for teachers is coming to terms with the fact that, when using
technology, no one can be an expert on everything. The teacher must be prepared to answer
some questions with quot;I don't know, let's figure it out togetherquot;. For some teachers, the lack of
control or knowledge can be problematic. For others, it is freeing and allows teachers and
learners to become learners together.
6. What advantages does online learning have for students? Students whose teachers use
online teaching strategies have more learning opportunities. Like teachers who are using online
resources, students have greater access to information. They gain life long learning skills that
they will be able to apply throughout their lives. Through online instruction, they receive
exposure to diverse ideas and people from a variety of cultures. Online learning provides a
unique opportunity for students to learn using methods that suit them; they can be offered
open-ended and challenging work, regardless of their ability levels. Online learning requires
active learning; students are no longer passive recipients of a subset of the teacher's
7. What challenges does online learning offer students?
In the online environment, technical difficulties can make a task more challenging than it would
be in a traditional classroom. For some students, this is a disincentive; for others, especially
those who are supported in the challenge, dealing with technical difficulties becomes a valuable
problem solving experience that increases the value of the learning.
Online learning puts the onus for learning clearly on the student. Personal accountability and
motivation are critical components of a successful experience. Not all students are prepared for
the responsibility of learning and will require greater support.
8. What other Saskatchewan resources are available for teachers who are interested in
increasing the use of online teaching and learning in their classrooms?
There are a number of online resources available for use by teachers either as a professional
resource or in their classrooms with their students.
Saskatchewan Learning's Central iSchool offers over 200 Web-Based Learning Resources
(http://www.centralischool.ca/web_resources.html), in English and in French, which have been
created by Saskatchewan teachers with the support of the Saskatchewan Educational
Technology Consortium. These K-12 instructional resources, for teachers, students, and
parents, are designed to support Saskatchewan curricula. As well, a number of professional
development resources for educators are available. Users may use the resources quot;as isquot; but are
encouraged to download them and modify them to better fit the needs of the learners.
The Regina Public School Division offers a Differentiated Learning
(http://web.rbe.sk.ca/diflearn/) Web site. The Technology Integration Support page
(http://web.rbe.sk.ca/Support/) has links to a number of additional online resources.
Kenton Letkeman, of the Tisdale School Division, has created and maintains Digital
Saskatchewan (http://digitalsask.tisdaleschooldiv.sk.ca/index.php), a collection of images,
movies and sounds from Saskatchewan and around the world that are free for educational use.
1. A Philosophy
that incorporates a range of views of constructivism, from radical constructivism, where each
individual constructs their own reality, to social constructivism, where reality is constructed by
2. A Theory of Teaching and Learning
in which individuals construct knowledge through active experience, building on prior
Learning is an active process of knowledge construction in which learners build on prior
knowledge and experience to shape meaning and construct new knowledge. (Lambert & Walker,
Ideas central to the theories of constructivism.
1. Learning is an active, not passive, process. Learners are involved in constructing
knowledge for themselves; it isn’t something that can be “done to them.”
2. Knowledge is constructed, not transmitted. The human mind is not simply a vessel to be
filled, but a construction project.
3. Learning involves building on prior knowledge. In the same way that a building needs a
foundation, new knowledge needs to be built on prior learning or else it lacks the support
of other knowledge to give it context and meaning and make new connections.
4. Making meaning is a central idea. Learning must be relevant to the learner or they will
not make any connections and therefore not construct any new knowledge.
Five major themes can be identified throughout the variety of constructivist theories:
1. Human experience involves “continuous active agency.”
2. Human activity focuses on organizing experience, making meaning, and creating order.
3. This organizing is fundamentally related to the self. This “makes the body a fulcrum of
experiencing, honors deep phenomenological sense of selfhood or personal identity.”
4. Although the self is central, social interaction is important. ”Persons exist and grow in
living webs of relationships” and they cannot be understood “apart from their organic
embeddedness in social and symbolic systems.”
5. Development is lifelong, as each person continues to construct new knowledge based on
their own experiences. “Order and disorder co-exist in lifelong quests for a dynamic
balance that is never quite achieved.”
Adapted from Mahoney, M. J. (1999). What is Constructivism and Why is it Growing? (2004)
3. A Departure from Traditional Ideas about How Learning Occurs
Explore some of the characteristics of a constructivist classroom
What does it look like?
Understanding the principles of constructivism is one thing, but how do you put them into
practice? If you see the following practices in place in a classroom, the principles of
constructivism are being applied.
In a Constructivist Classroom...
Students are encouraged to take initiative and take ownership for their own learning,
thereby developing their own intellectual identity
o Students' ideas are respected
o Independent thinking is encouraged
o Students develop questions and identify issues, then gather and analyze
information to create their own answers - in this way they become problem
The teacher asks open-ended questions
o Wait time is allowed - it takes time to reflect and build on the ideas of others
o Higher-level thinking is encouraged.
Students are challenged to reach beyond factual answers.
o Students are encouraged to connect and summarize concepts by analyzing,
predicting, justifying, and defending their ideas.
Dialogue with the teacher and with other students occurs
o Discussion helps students reflect on their ideas and either change or reinforce
o Sharing their own ideas and listening to the ideas of others helps students
construct their own knowledge
o The classroom environment must be comfortable and non-threatening to allow
Opportunities are provided for students to test hypotheses
o Discussion of concrete experiences is encouraged
o Students are engaged in experiences that challenge hypotheses and encourage
Students are involved in real-world situations from which they can generate abstract
o Students use raw data and primary sources
o Students have access to manipulatives and interactive materials
These ideas are adapted from Jacqueline G. Brooks and Martin G. Brooks, In Search of
Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria, VA: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1999)
Constructivism as an Epistemology (Philosophy of Constructivism)
Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)- first articulation of the ideas of constructivism
claimed that clear understanding for a human being resulted from meaning that they have
constructed for themselves (SEDL, 1995).
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) - synthesis of rationalism and empiricism, in which
knowledge gained through perceptions of the world is organized within cognitive
structures (Heylighen, 1993)
o contended that, based on sense information gathered before or during an event,
humans reflect on the event and analyze what occurred. Both of these processes
are unique to each individual’s perceptions (Brooks & Brooks, 1999)
o More info...
Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)- social constructivism
o Claimed that higher levels of mental functioning originate in social processes.
o Held that the social dimension of consciousness was the most important, with
individual consciousness derived from it, (Bauersfeld, 1995).
o For some, social constructivism is more credible than radical constructivism
because rather than focusing on independent individual knowledge building,
social constructivism uses consensus as the criterion for truth (Heylighen, 1993).
o Others see that social constructivism values both the individual and social realms.
Humans are constructed not only through individual processes but through
meaningful interactions with others (Gergen, 1995).
o Identified the level of potential development (the quot;zone of proximal
The level of development that learners can reach with the guidance of
teachers or in collaboration with peers. The zone of proximal development
is the level at which learning takes place.
o More info...
John Dewey (1859-1952)- explored the active relationship of an organism with its
environment, introducing the notions of transaction, experience and reflection.
o Reflection ensures the continuity of action, with the development of knowledge
occurring over time, making inferences from current situations. Each act of an
individual creates a new reality for that individual (Vanderstraeten & Biesta,
o Critics would point out that if every human lives in their own subjective world,
how can we gain mutual understanding? Dewey believed that social interaction
was also a crucial component, with each participant observing and paying
attention to the inferences constructed by others.
o More info... and more...
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)- modern theorist credited with the development of
o Believed that human learning allows individuals to adapt to the environment
around them (Phillips & Soltis, 1991).
o Identified the processes of assimilation and accommodation as integral to
knowledge building whereby the learner grows in knowledge through the making
o Suggested the controversial notion that learners attempt to develop cognitive
equilibrium when they encounter conflict between their internal perceptions and
“reality.” This results in the development of new cognitive structures that bring
stability and restore equilibrium (Brooks & Brooks, 1999).
o More info...
Ernst Von Glasersfeld (1917-Present)- recognized as a proponent of radical
constructivism, radical in the sense that it breaks with the traditionally accepted theory of
o Knowledge is not passively received but rather is built up actively by the
o Cognition has an adaptive function. As learners adapt to new information from
their environment they attempt to make the most viable fit (Glasersfeld, 1995).
o Refers to viability rather than truth, reflecting the temporary nature of knowledge
construction and the context of goals and purposes in which each individual lives.
The most viable model is constructed and utilized until new information is
encountered and a discrepancy occurs.
o These notions fly in the face of traditional ideas about knowledge, truth and
objectivity and require that the notion of reality be reconstructed. Reality is the
experiential world in which we live. This doesn’t deny absolute reality. We just
have no way of knowing it. So our personal reality is defined as the network of
things and relationships that we rely on in our living (Glasersfeld, 2003).
o Constructivist principles cannot be adopted as absolute truth, but rather as a viable
hypothesis to explain knowledge building in the present time. By nature, knowing
is an adaptive activity, and knowledge will change over time. A solution is
relative to the individual who constructed it, and to their sphere of experience. If
the solution solves the problem then it is no more “right” than other solutions,
although it may be judged by other standards such as speed or elegance
o More info...
Kuhn (1922-1996) - post-modern philosopher who embraces the constructivist view.
o Remembered for his classic work explaining “paradigm shift” (Brooks & Brooks,
1999). The notion of paradigm shift seems to parallel Piaget’s concept of
accommodation. When a way of thinking no longer fits our perceptions of the
world, it needs to change to accommodate new understandings.
o More info... and more...
Maturana and Varela - nervous system cannot distinguish between perception (caused
by an external phenomenon) and a hallucination (a purely internal event)
o Reject the possibility of objective knowledge, since “all knowledge depends upon
the structure of the knower” (Botella, 1994)
o More info...
Have I built a sense of community in my classroom? Is there a sense of trust and respect between
teacher/students and among the students?Are the students encouraged to take risks?
What do you want your students to learn?
What are the specific learning objectives that my
students need to learn?
Background Knowledge & Connections
What do your students already know?
How can I provide connections to what they already know?
By using a variety of ways to show what they know, such as projects, metaphors or graphic
organizers, students are allowed to come to closure on some idea, to develop it and to further
their imagination to find understanding. Understanding is taking bits of knowledge in all
different curriculum and life experiences and applying this new knowledge. When students apply
new knowledge, connections are made and learning is meaningful and relevant. Application is a
higher order thinking skill that is critical for true learning to occur.
We often require students to hand in a completed paper,
Building Blocks of project or give them an exam to see what they have learned.
Constructivism In a constructivist classroom, the process moves from the
individual to more public, shared knowledge. The power of
social interaction shapes learning through critical thinking,
communicating and relating. When we keep the product as a
private act, we deprive the learner the opportunity to engage
in and learn from and with others.
How will I show what I know? Characteristics of Exhibits
Pre-Assessment Students create a variety of products to 'show what
Students share these products in collaborative or
whole group presentations
Students respond to questions and openly question
Teachers guide student learning creating learning
paths appropriate for each student or groups of
Students take more responsibility and ownership for
their learning exhibits
Possible Student Exhibits
Analogies - Students compare a topic or unit of study to an inanimate object such as comparing
something known to the unknown or some inanimate object to the topic.
Blogs - Blogs, short for weblogs, are online journals or diaries that have become popular since
the mid 1990's. Bloggers post personal opinions, random thoughts, connections and real life
stories to interact with others via the Web! Weblinks and photos can also be added to the blog. A
learner may choose to have their own blog to record their learning on a specific topic. A group of
learners could choose to share a blog and read, write, challenge, debate, validate and build shared
knowledge as a group. Check out Blogger.com to set up your own personal or professional blog -
develop your digital voice and model for your students.
Collage - Students cut out or draw pictures to represent a specific topic. To evaluate the level of
understanding, students write an explanation or discuss in small groups the significance of the
pictures and why they are representative of the topic. This technique encourages students to
make connections, to create a visual representation and to then explain or exhibit their
Celebration of Learning - A demonstration where students have the opportunity to share their
expertise in several subject areas with other students, teachers and parents. See Best Practice
Celebration of Learning to learn more and how to use this approach as student-led conferences.
Graphic Organizers - Graphic organizers, also known as mind maps, are instructional tools
used to illustrate prior knowledge. Student sample page. See Best Practice Graphic Organizers
for more information and examples.
Portfolios - A portfolio is a representative collection of an individual student's work. A student
portfolio is generally composed of best work to date and a few quot;works in progressquot; that
demonstrate the process. Students show their knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of
different ways that are not dependent upon traditional media such as exams and essays. See Best
Practice Portfolios. Multiple Intelligences Portfolios are an effective way for students to
understand not how smart they are but how they are smart.
Project-Based Learning- Students create projects by investigating and making connections
from the topic or unit of study to real life situations. Multimedia is one effective tool for students
to design their projects.
T-charts - A simple t is drawn and students jot down information relating to a topic in two
different columns. Sample t-chart (pdf format)
Venn-Diagram - A graphic organizer that is made with 2 intersecting circles and is used to
compare and contrast. Using this tool, students identify what is different about 2 topics and
identify the overlap between the two topics in the shared shared area.