Social constructivist theory has been around since 1963, with John Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed (Hirtle 1996). It basically takes constructivism – the idea that learning is made through problem solving and critical thinking, where students construct their own new ideas and knowledge by experimenting with new ideas and comparing what they find to their previously held beliefs and knowledge – and says this whole process works a lot better when implemented in a social or group setting. Collaboration and engagement is key for students to make meaningful connections and create their own understandings (Kelm 2011).
With the advent of all sorts of new technologies, social media networks, and various web 2.0 and online learning environments, suddenly social constructivism has taken on a new virtual dimension. Where the physical world can be limiting, the virtual world rises to bridge those gaps. For example, group projects in the real world require a physical meeting place which can be accessed by all group members at a specific time. The internet provides a virtual meeting space which is open 24/7 to those with access. Collaboration tools, like Google Docs, can allow people all over the world to collaborate on the same document in a synchronous fashion, or edit and update on their own time and read asynchronous feedback from their peers as they collaborate. Thus our group member count can be much larger and widespread, and our world much smaller and accessible.