Constructivist Learning Scenario -- Classroom Blog

Part I:  Scenario Description

Students in the past have learned about journalism and writing by working on a school newspaper or yearbook. However, newspapers are transitioning to becoming online papers. The presses are closing as the traditional newsprint moves to digital print. But one of the benefits of the computer and Internet age is that production can become more professional looking. The cost becomes lower and the speed of production becomes enhanced. Not only does this skill provide a form of communication for a classroom, but also it translates into a skill that can be used personally, in the work environment, and any social or learning scenario.  

Students will create a classroom blog. Narrowing it down to classrooms keeps it more interesting to the students and parents. Only information pertinent to the students will be covered. Dialogue will increase and a community of learning will be formed as students contribute information to be added to the blog.

Part II:  Connecting the Scenario to a Constructivist-Based Pedagogical Model

Constructivist learning empowers students to collaborate as they work in a community of  practice. The control of learning will be distributed among the students and not just one expert (Bannan-Ritland & Dabbagh, 2005).  As they work together on a classroom blog, participants will share ideas and learn to be flexible and inclusive. They will learn the advantages of dialogue, interaction, negotiation, and collaboration (Bannan-Ritland & Dabbagh, 2005). A classroom blog provides multiple and ongoing opportunities for innovation, creativity, and learning among the diverse backgrounds of all the students. They will be able to propose ideas for images, articles, advertising and the initial layout. The teacher will be the guide to cultivate this community of practice, which will be more alive and flexible. Designing for this “aliveness” requires some thought beforehand and throughout the year. Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (2002) have derived eight principles that can help define the community of practice.

  • 1.     Design for evolution.
  • 2.     Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives.
  • 3.     Invite different levels of participation.
  • 4.     Develop both public and private community spaces.
  • 5.     Focus on value.
  • 6.     Combine familiarity and excitement.
  • 7.     Create rhythm for the community. (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

By having students design and maintain a classroom blog, they will be part of a situated learning model. Jean Lave put forth the learning theory that learning is situated, embedded within an activity of context and culture (Lave, 1991).  Knowledge is acquired in the context of building a blog that will require the social interaction and collaboration of all of the students in the class. Instead of studying about the subject of writing, journalism, blogging, publishing, design, and dialogue, in an abstract way, the students will be part of a community of learning as they work together to produce a classroom blog. Learning is an ongoing process, which happens in daily life as we interact with others (Wenger, 2007).


When the students become engaged in the process of creating a blog, they will have developed a community of practice (Smith, 2009). This type of learning theory is based on the research of Lave and Wenger who promoted the idea that people learn as part of life. This can be seen in anthropological settings where tribes struggled to survive to a group of engineers collaborating on the design of a bridge. Situated learning occurs throughout life, in the pursuit of any goal, from the task of earning a living to seeking recreation (Wenger, 1998).  

According to Wenger (2007) a community of practice requires three elements:  the domain, the community, and the practice. In this scenario the shared domain of interest will be the classroom blog because it will touch the lives of all the students in the class. They should all feel a commitment to the success of the project. Joint activities and discussion will build the community, as the students decide on topics, share in the roles of writer, editor, publisher and designer. They will be able to learn from each other. The third requirement – the practice – will evolve when the students become practitioners, sharing resources such as experiences, stories, and technology (Smith, 2009).

Although the community of practice is more than the technical skill to build and maintain a blog, the teacher must provide scaffolding for the success of the community. Otherwise, the cognitive load of first building a blog could prompt discouragement within the community. The teacher must provide resources where the students can find the information they need, and be able to communicate as part of the community. Because a blog is dynamic and ongoing, the community will have a sense of joint enterprise and identity (Wenger, 2007).  Some students may express a greater interest in certain aspects of the blog, but all should move forward in knowledge so that each of the students will feel to be full participants. While this method of learning is somewhat like experiential learning, it promotes the learner to becoming actively engaged in the activity. 

One of the concerns in the community of practice learning is that some students may not become engaged due to lack of interest or peer pressure or even shyness. The teacher must monitor the classroom dynamics and reach out to anyone that may seem too far on the periphery of the community. Perhaps personal blogs can evolve out of the classroom blogging community, where individuals can apply the knowledge of the group to their own success. The drawback of situated learning is that the teacher may not focus on the individual, where learning must eventually reside (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011). This is where online learning may provide opportunities for all sets of learners to succeed.


Part III:  Learning Activities

Learning activities are needed to support and encourage the development of the blog by the community of students. While the blog becomes a classroom project, individuals will contribute their experience, research and learning. One of the first activities would be to decide on the blogging platform and require students to look at examples of other classroom blogs. Examples are one way of saving cognitive load and encourage the success of the task. The teacher can give the links to several classroom blogs where students can see what they are ultimately planning to achieve. This should prompt discussion in choosing platforms and design. The safety of online blogging can be addressed by using blogs designed for education such as edublogs.

The next learning activity would include learning how to use the blogging platform chosen. The class can begin to brainstorm on a name for their class blog and categories of subjects to be covered in “posts.” Timing should be addressed – “do they want to blog daily, weekly, or on some other schedule?”

A learning activity should include the use of copyrighted images and videos. The whole class would want to learn how to choose images that do not infringe on copyright. The creative commons rights should be part of this learning activity. Students will learn what is infringement and what is safe to use, whether that be music, film, or images. This is when it is valuable for the teacher to provide a list of image sources that are within the creative commons, and how to attribute credit.
Images must also be optimized for the blog and students should have an activity that guides them through the process of learning how to edit photos. Camera use for personalizing the blog would also be an item for activity.

A learning activity about how to write for a blog would be important for all class members. This would be an opportunity to improve writing skill that are informal and much more like students communicate. Instead of the formal five-paragraph essay and thesis statement, students can learn to write with clarity and a topic.

Part of communicating online in a blogging format is the opportunity for discussion in the form of comments. Students should have an activity about etiquette in posting comments and learn about respecting other students’ perspectives and opinions.

Part IV:  Learning Technologies

Situated learning practices can be found in online learning communities. For example, online communities draw attention to group processes, develop roles and levels of expertise, and have application outside the community (Haythorthwaite & Andrews, 2011).  Learning technologies are needed to complete the task of building and maintaining a classroom blog. These technologies are the Internet, computers, camera, and the blogging platform. While learning will be student centered, the teacher will be the guide in this constructivist learning model. Collaborative learning, experiential learning, and situated learning will constitute the methods for using the technologies. Even though the students will be the center of learning, the teacher must take on the role of facilitator or coach, so that the learning will be a form of guided participation in this socio-cultural activity (Mascolo, 2009). The teacher as the coach will guide the students on the use of the technology needed to complete the task of building a classroom blog.


Bannan-Ritland, B., & Dabbagh, N.  (2005).  Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and application.  Columbus, OH: Pearson.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011).  E-Learning Theory & Practice. London, England: Sage.
Lave, Jean (1988). Cognition in practice: mind, mathematics and culture in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mascolo, M. (2009).  Beyond student-centered and teacher-centered pedagogy: Teaching and learning as guided participation. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences (1) 1 p. 3-27. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1027631/Beyond_student-centered_and_teacher-centered_pedagogy_Teaching_and_learning_as_guided_participation

Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009).  Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice.  The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved from  www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Retrieved from: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/2855.html

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of practice. Learning as a social system. Systems Thinker. Retrieved from  http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml

Wenger, Etienne (2007).  Communities of practice. A brief introduction.Communities of practice. Retrieved from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/

Wenger, Etienne and Richard McDermott, and William Snyder (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

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