Laurillard (2008) looks at how ICT can be used to enhance teaching and learning from the perspective of pedagogical learning theories and how they can be used to guide the implementation of collaborative technologies. Laurillard looks, specifically, at four learning theories:

‘instructionism’, developed by authors such as Gagné and Merrill, is focused on the presentation of material and testing of students learning. As it applies to ICT, it often revolves around presentation tools such as PowerPoint, testing through multiple-choice questions, and giving very limited and straightforward right/wrong feedback. Teachers then select further tasks and presentation based on this.

‘constructionism’, based on work by researchers such as Piaget and Papert, stresses the activity of the student, and reflection on how well they achieve their goals as  a result. This is learning ‘by doing’, and through ICT often involves simulation and modelling (note the distinction between this and constructivist and connectivist theories (Starkey, 2012)).

‘socio-cultural learning’ ,from Vygotsky, focuses on the negotiated and socially constructed nature of learning. It emphasises  discussion and communication, and employs these affordances of modern technologies.

‘collaborative learning’, is the combination of the social and construction elements of learning. Getting students active with tasks and projects, in a communicative and collaborative manner.

My own preference for classroom interactions, is naturally the final category. Although all these theories have a place in the classroom, to a large extent, I always feel that good planning should mean that authoritative, teacher-centered and individual work is always a missed opportunity. With a little fore-thought almost any learning objective can achieved through a student-led, collaborative and active activity.

With good scaffolding and classroom practices, students can become effective researchers and collaborators and the teacher can take a much more facilitating and guiding role.


Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 5-20. doi:10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2. retrieved from

Starkey, L. (2012). Teaching and learning in the digital age. Oxon: Routledge. Retrieved from