It’s About the Conversation

Social learning theory is based on the idea that learning can be done by simply observation. These observations, however, do not necessarily lead to a change in behavior and the learning is not necessarily demonstrated through behavior or a change in behavior. Learning can take place solely from observations.

With this theory in mind, all of society plays a role in educating our children. From the parents who try to set good examples, the teachers who become role models, and the professional sports athletes and musicians who all children strive to exemplify. All of society needs to be aware that children are copying our public actions.

Social learning has become even more important with the use of the internet and the exposure to exponentially more information than previously was available. Students are now able to join or observe conversations that are taking place about all topics and with varying opinions and viewpoints.

Instruction is typically the flow of information from one entity (more informed to) another (less informed) entity. With technology and the available information, this flow becomes interrupted. Now, the instructor is not the only person who has access to information. Students become informed. Questions begin to develop. A conversation begins.

Photo from Flikr: user: abcd8164

Information flows two directions within a conversation. All participants in a conversation have the potential to contribute. Ideas and thoughts can be shared. Resources can be aggregated. Change can occur. Learning can happen.

Technology, in this instance, then becomes extremely important. Many free tools can facilitate a conversation, but remember, it’s not about the tool, it is about the conversation.

Here are some of my favorite online tools that encourage conversation:


a free, web-basedcollaborativemultilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 17 million articles (over 3.5 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site.


free, Web-based word processorspreadsheetpresentationform, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.


is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features which include instant messagingfile transfer, and video conferencing.


social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page.


is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.[1][2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used to create collaborative works. Examples include community websites, corporate intranetsknowledge management systems, and note services. The software can also be used for personal note taking.

There are many online tools that would encourage and facilitate conversations. Learning occurs in many ways, and participating in a meaningful conversation is just one way to engage learners and cause learning. Have you had a meaningful conversation with an exchange of knowledge and ideas? Who have you conversed with? Who have you learned from?


~ by Dean Phillips on February 1, 2011.

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