Implementing Technology as a Cognitive Tool to Promote Social Construction of Knowledge in Innovative Learning Environments

Albaugh, Susan B. , Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Richards, Herbert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Dexter, Sara, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Wilson, Eleanor, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation is based on the idea that the impact of technology on learning cannot be detached from fundamental role of people in the process (McCombs, 2000). Technology assessment should focus on learners and learning, rather than the technology in isolation. These principles apply to all types of learners, of all ages, although the specific answers that emerge from research on the impact of technology on the learning process will not necessarily be the same for all learners and all learning communities. Thus, an important question is: what are the similarities and the differences in effective implementation of educational technology for different types of learners in different learning environments?

The two studies presented in this dissertation took an integrated approach to examining technology implementation in context from a sociocultural perspective using a relevant framework of learning. A conceptual framework of four-interrelated features of effective learning environments-knowledge centeredness, learner centeredness, assessment centeredness, and community centeredness--derived from the seminal work of Bransford et al. (2000) connects the two studies.

Viewed through the lens of the CTGV (1996) Looking at Technology in Context (L TC) framework, this dissertation is positioned strategically at the intersection of three areas of study: theories of learning, educational practice, and technology. It draws on data from two completely separate studies with different populations, circumstances, and settings, allowing for testing and revision of the conceptual framework across cases (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

The combined findings of the two studies support the theory that, while technology itself is a sociocultural tool for scaffolding and knowledge construction, it also has the potential to amplify co-construction of knowledge. Computers provide a medium for making abstract ideas visible and manipulable and allow students to jointly witness and discuss the effects of those manipulations while working together and providing each other with scaffolding (Crook, 1998). This has implications for designers of technology-supported innovative learning environments and/or professional development mentors, the teachers who implement them, and their students.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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