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  1. 1. AbstractThe social cognitive theory is derived from constructing meaning and knowledgefrom social influences. Albert Bandura, a well-known theorist of the social cognitivetheory, conducted an experiment to prove how social influences including the mediahave adverse affects on people, especially children. People are continually learningand constructing meaning throughout their whole life from communications withintheir community and now through the Internet. This article provides anunderstanding of how the mind is influenced by social interactions and how toimplement technology to enhance social learning.keywords: social learning, social cognition, social cognitive theory, Albert Bandura, sociocultural theory,connectivism Social Cognition and Social Learning Theories of Education and Technology The mind is a mysterious science. Theorists are continually studying how themind understands and interprets information. Some focus on the cognitivecomponents of learning while others focus on behavioral influences. Theories areconstantly changing with the advancements of technology. One theory that drawson both cognitive and behavior influences and benefits from technology is that ofsocial learning or the social cognitive theory. The social cognitive theory thrives on the advancement of new technologies.“Social and technological changes alter, often considerably, the kinds of life eventsthat become customary in the society. Indeed, many of the major changes in socialand economic life are ushered in by innovations of technology . . . (Elder, 1981)”(Bandura, 1989, p. 5-6). Technology provides new and innovative methods tocreate social learning environments. One aspect of technology is the ability tointeract and observe others. “Human expectations, beliefs, emotional bents andcognitive competencies are developed and modified by social influences that conveyinformation and activate emotional reactions through modeling, instructionand social persuasion” (Bandura, 1989, p. 3). Students are constantly surroundedby social influences whether it’s a community influence or a media
  2. 2. influence. Regardless of the model, the influence is still there. “Humans haveevolved an advanced capacity for observational learning that enables them toexpand their knowledge and skills rapidly through information conveyed by the richvariety of models” (Bandura, 2008, p. 96). There are varieties of models bothimmediate and distant that socially influence people’s learning or cognition. Modeling is a major component of the social learning theory. In social cognitive theory, learning from the effects of actions is a special case of observational learning. In learning by direct experience, people construct conceptions of behavior from observing the effects of their actions; in learning by modeling, they derive the conceptions from observing the structure of the behavior being modeled. (Bandura, 1989, p. 46)Learning from the effects of actions of others can directly influence ones choices. Any factor that influences choice behavior can profoundly affect the direction of personal development. This is because the social influences operating in selected environments continue to promote certain competencies, values, and interests long after the decisional determinant has rendered its inaugurating effect. (Bandura, 2001, p. 10-11)Observing behaviors or the effects of one’s own actions are types of social learning.Social psychology takes this one step further to explain how learning is influenced.“Social cognition has its roots in social psychology which attempts ‘to understandand explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influencedby the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others’ (Allport, 1985, p.3)” (Huitt,2006, para. 1). The presence of others has a great push in how people act, but inorder to understand how great the social influence is, we must first examine therole of the ‘self.’ Social psychologists confirm that learning is not obtained through independentfactors; they take into account all influences. “Thoughts are not disembodied,immaterial entities that exist apart from neural events. Cognitive processes are
  3. 3. emergent brain activities that exert determinative influence” (Bandura, 2001, p. 4).This determinative influence is reciprocating, in that it is a bit of give andtake. Bandura (1986) developed the concept of reciprocal determinism, where “aperson’s behavior is both influenced by and is influencing a person’s personalfactors and the environment” (Huitt, 2006, para. 4). Multiple factors are taken intoaccount when studying social learning. One key component of social leaning is theself and how one perceives the events occurring around them. “People are self-developing, proactive, self-regulating, and self-reflective, not just reactiveorganisms shaped and shepherded by environmental events or inner forces”(Bandura, 2008, p. 95). These inner thoughts are all shaped by outer influencesand they are what make us all human. People don’t model or copy every social influence they encounter; theydetermine which course of action to take through self-reflection. Inner thoughts arekey aspects of learning and socializing; they are what make people human. “Thecore features of personal agency address the issue of what it means to be human”(Bandura, 2001, p. 6). A major personal agency of the social cognitive theory isforethought. “Through the exercise of forethought, people motivate themselves andguide their actions in anticipation of future events. When projected over a long timecourse on matters of value, a forethoughtful perspective provides direction,coherence, and meaning to ones life” (Bandura, 2001, p. 7). Forethought allowspeople to choose their course of action. People anticipate the likely consequences of their prospective actions, they set goals for themselves, and they otherwise plan courses of action that are likely to produce desired outcomes. Through exercise of forethought, people motivate themselves and guide their actions anticipatorily. (Bandura, 1989, p. 39)Forethought allows people to examine their actions and choose to act in favor ofone course of action or another. The other key personal agencies of the social cognitive theory are self-efficiencyand self-regulation. “Two principles of human functioning related to student
  4. 4. learning involve the processed of self-efficiency (can this be done; can I do it [. . .])and self-regulation (goals, plans, perseverance)” (Huitt, 2006, para. 5). Theconative process accounts for these two principles, in which “[c]onation refers tothe connection of knowledge and affect to behavior and is associated with the issueof ‘why’” (Huitt, 2006, para. 5). These two principles are choices students will planand make based on their social influences and these influences are ever-changingwith technology. “The rapid pace of informational, social, and technological changeis placing a premium on personal efficacy for self-development and self-renewalthroughout the life course” (Bandura, 2001, p.11). These informational, social andtechnological changes provide incentives and drive the desire to learn inpeople. “Efficacy beliefs are the foundation of human agency. Unless people believethey can produce desired results and forestall detrimental ones by their actions,they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties” (Bandura,2001, p. 10). Social influences motivate people to meet standards set by societyand achieve success. “[S]elf-efficacy appears at the top of the motivationalhierarchy; that is, without belief in one’s ability to succeed, there will be littlechance for learning or achievement” (Bowers-Campbell, 2008, p. 77). With a beliefin success, people can strive to reach their goals. Bowers-Campbell quotes, Weiner(1979) on the definition of self-regulated learning as “the active, goal-directed, self-control of behavior, motivation, and cognition for academic tasks by an individualstudent” (2008, p. 77). Both self-regulation and self-efficiency are key componentsof the social cognitive theory. The components are formed from social influencesthat may or may not be good influences for driving students to be motivated tolearn. Albert Bandura created an experiment to show just how much children areinfluenced by social influences. “The most famous experiment on the modeling ofaggression is Albert Bandura’s bobo-doll experiment” (Boeree, 1999). To conductthe experiment, Bandura used a technological media to influence the children.“Nursery school boys and girls saw a film in which an adult male or female modelassaulted the clown. The kids themselves then had a chance to ‘play’ with the bobodoll without adult supervision” (Griffin, n.d., p. 372). The experimental data is quiteshocking in how young children could be so violently influenced by a TV clip. “Since
  5. 5. children in the control group didn’t normally say and do these things, theexperiment demonstrated that the youngsters had acquired the new, aggressivebehavior by watching the film” (Griffin, n.d., p. 372). The experiment put intoperspective what Bandura had already presumed. “Bandura concludes thatreinforcement doesn’t affect the learning of novel responses, but it does ‘determinewhether or not observationally acquired competencies will be put into use’” (Griffin,n.d., p. 373). Children were strongly influenced by observing different types ofbehavior through the media, which proves the effects of the media and socialinfluences. Social influences can create positive learning environments. One of the greatestsocial influences on social learning is the community. ‘Community of practice,’ aterm coined by Lave and Wenger, “is based on the premises that humans are socialbeings, and their knowledge is developed through active engagement in valuedundertakings throughout their lives” (Kop & Hill, 2008, p. 6). From day one peopleare learning through social interactions. ‘“Vygotsky (1934/1986) described learningas being embedded within social events and occurring as a child interacts withpeople, objects, and events in the environment’ (p. 287)” (Scherba de Valenzuela,2002, para. 1). These interactions are increasing with online communications andinfluences. According to the theories of Jean Piaget,[K]nowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but activelyconstructed by the mind of the learner. [. . .] learners are particularly likely tomake new ideas when they are actively engaged in making some type of externalartifact [. . .] which they can reflect upon and share with others. (Karai & Resnick,1996 , p. 1)Technology is a good medium for actively engaging students. Through technology,reflecting and sharing people are able to construct meaning in what they havelearned. “Constructing meaning comes from interacting with others to explain,defend, discuss, and assess our ideas and challenge, question, and comprehend theideas of others” (Sherman & Kurshan, 2005, p. 12). Social interactions createlearning where students are able to apply meaning and thoroughly comprehend.
  6. 6. Social learning has multiple benefits other then being able to construct meaning.Through social learning “higher order functions develop out of social interaction.Vygotsky argues that a child’s development cannot be understood by a study of theindividual. We must also examine the external social world in which that individuallife has developed” (Scherba de Valenzuela, 2002, para. 1). Using social activitiesdevelop and enhance learning. “Eccles, Wigfield, and Schiefele (1998) found thatacademic peer-support was a crucial part of the learning process for adolescents,especially through modeling specific learning strategies” (Bowers-Campbell, 2008,p. 81). Modeling, along with other social activities, creates active learningenvironments for learning to occur. “Social activities allow students to express anddevelop their understandings with peers as they pursue projects throughconversations that stimulate examining and expanding their understandings”(Sherman & Kurshan, 2005, p. 12). Peer-support can be obtained throughcooperative learning groups. Cooperative learning groups have multiple benefitssuch as:Achievement increases for all ability levels (high, medium, low); higher-levelthinking processes can result; a deeper level of understanding is possible; criticalthinking is promoted; more positive peer relationships result; students exhibitbetter social skills and provide more social support for their peers; and a higherlevel of self-esteem can result (Brandt, 1987: 17). (Alansari, 2006, p. 267)Social learning is key to creating higher-order thinking and with continualenhancement of technology learning is inevitable. Technology provides multiple windows for social interactions. “One increasinglycommon technology-based strategy is to create online communities of students andadults who collaborate on specific problems” (Sherman & Kurshan, 2005, p. 12).With online communities, social interactions and learning occurs with students-to-students or even with students-to-professionals. “[One] can also facilitate depth ofunderstanding by integrating technologies into the fabric of teaching as intellectualtools that students use to study, learn, and communicate with others in theirclasses as well as others in different locations” (Sherman & Kurshan, 2005, p. 12).The benefits of social interactions seem endless with the advancements of
  7. 7. communications online. “[With the] complexity of information available on theInternet, new possibilities for people to communicate on global networks, and forthe ability to aggregate different information streams” (Kop & Hill, 2008, p. 7). Theimprovement in communications increases social learning; it’s only a matter of howto implement these communications. Communications through the use of technology create student centered, sociallearning environment. “[A] shift to a more student-centered instruction may occurinitially only whenever technology is used” (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007, p. 418). Thisshift can occur with social networking. “According to NSBA, adolescents of the NetGeneration are ‘beyond basic communication, many students engage in highlycreative activities on social networking sites – and a sizeable proportion of them areadventurous nonconformists who set the pace for their peers’” (Bowers-Campbell,2008, p. 79). Children are continually communicating with peers online, especiallythrough social networking sites. “Social networking sites, virtual online locationswhere users create profiles to connect to other users, already engage incrediblenumbers of adolescents” (Bowers-Campbell, 2008, p. 79). Children have a highinterest in these types of sites already, so to motivate students to learn, one couldcreate a safe learning environment using a social networking site. “[T]eachers buildstudents’ self-confidence when they care about them as individuals; thus, ateacher’s Facebook profile may function as a pedagogical tool for communicationinterest and concern in student learning in an arena where students are the‘experts’” (Bowers-Campbell, 2008, p. 81). Children are already using these sites toseek out help with school assignments, so to create a group for them to exchangeknowledge would increase their interest and responsibility in the subject. “Thegroup feature of Facebook renders it especially helpful in empowering students totake responsibility for their own learning goals” (Bowers-Campbell, 2008, p. 82).Facebook is only one site for social networking. With the continual advancement ofthe Internet, more helpful and safer sites are appearing. Social networking is justone benefit of technology; another is video games. Technologies have created many educational social games. “[Video games] area central part of the late 20th-century children’s culture. In the playing of video
  8. 8. games, children mobilize energies that many educators, parents, and researcherswish would be dedicated to learning” (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, p. 4). To harnessthese energies, one could implement video games into the classroom or have thechildren make their own video games (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, p. 4). Games couldbe created, tested and discussed in a group setting or even online. Video games arecontinually available online, where people are able to discuss and solve adventurestogether. “In a prototype Fifth Dimension system, a dozen or more 6 to 14-year oldchildren encounter a large variety of off-the-shelf computer games and game-likeeducational activities” (Brown & Cole, 2000, p. 198). In these games, studentssocialize with other students and collaborate to solve educational games.A Cognitive Evaluation team comprised of both implementers and externalevaluators documented improvement in children’s demonstrations of verbal,mathematical, and technical ability as well as gains in their abilities to follow writteninstructions as an effect of Fifth Dimensions participation. (Brown & Cole, 2000,p.208)Social influences enhanced the learning of the children in this setting, and theyenhance the learning of many others in numerous other social technology settings. One theory that draws on both cognitive and behavior influences and benefitsfrom technology is that of social learning or the social cognitive theory. Learningcontinually occurs through social interactions and influences from the community,media and the Internet. People determine how these influences will affect thembased on their inner thoughts. Through social interactions learning will occur andmeaning will be constructed. There are numerous opportunities for people toenhance their learning through social interactions online. Global networking andcreating/interacting with educational games as a group are a few resources toenhance social learning. Social learning is ever increasing with the continualadvancements of technology and online communications. References
  9. 9. Alansari, E. M. (2006). Implementation of cooperative learning in the centerfor community service and continuing education at KuwaitUniversity. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 46(2), 265-282.Brown, K. & Cole, M. (2000). Socially shared cognitions: System design andthe organization of collaborative research In D. H. Jonassen & S. H. Land(Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 197-214).Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. Annuals of child development. 6,1-60.Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. AnnualReview of Psychology. 52, 1-26.Bandura, A. (2009). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J.Bryant & M. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects 3rd edition (pp. 94-124). New York:Routledge.Boeree, G. (1999). Social learning. Shippensburg, PA: ShippensburgUniversity. Retrieved Mar. 9, 2009, fromhttp://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/socpsy.htmlBowers-Campbell, J. (2008). Cyber "Pokes": Motivational antidote fordevelopmental college readers. Journal of College Reading andLearning, 39(1), 74-87.Griffin, E. Social learning theory of Albert Bandura. Chapter 31: A first lookat communication theory (pp. 367-377). McGraw-Hill.Huitt, W. (2006). Social cognition. Educational Psychology Interactive.Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved Mar. 13, 2009, fromhttp://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/soccog/soccog.html.
  10. 10. Kafai, Y. B., & Resnick, M. (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing,thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence ErlbaumAssociates.Kop, R. & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future orvestige of the past? International Review of Reserarch in Open and DistanceLearning, 9(3), 1-13.Matzen, N. J. & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a catalyst for change:The role of professional development. Journal of Research on Technology inEducation, 39(4), 417-430.Scherba de Valenzuela, J. (2002). Sociocultural Theory. Albuquerque, NM:University of New Mexico. Retrieved Mar. 13, 2009, fromhttp://www.unm.edu/%7Edevalenz/handouts/sociocult.htmlSherman, T. M. & Kurshan, B. L. (2005). Constructing learning: Usingtechnology to support teaching for understanding. Learning & Leading withTechnology, 32(5), 10-39.