Instructional scaffolding

In his article about Instructional scaffolding, Konrad Glogowski describes a educational scenario how Web 2.0 tools support learning:

Let’s say that the student has chosen a specific aspect of the broader topic of social justice and is in the process of collecting information and resources. In today’s world of the world wide web and information overload, the student can begin to feel lost amid all the information. This presents the teacher with a perfect opportunity to introduce RSS, for example, or a tool that can be used to aggregate video clips, such as VodPod or a YouTube account. It also presents a perfect opportunity to work with the student on specific curriculum related skills, such as summarizing. This can also be a fantastic opportunity to help the student start a research journal (on her blog, using a account, or a tumble log) or use mindmapping to develop a plan for further research. The point here is that once the student feels stuck, overwhelmed, or discouraged, a perfect opportunity presents itself for the teacher (or a more knowledgeable peer) to step in and offer support.

Glogowski quotes Judith A. Langer who argues “that in order to use instructional scaffolding teachers need to ensure that the students have ownership of the learning event”. Glogowski goes on to say that “once the student is engaged as a researcher/writer/thinker, the teacher can focus on conversing with the student.”

Researcher/writer/thinker. Do we view our students like that? Do we give our students the respect to initiate, plan and developing their own learning and thinking? Do we see our ourselves as “co-participants” in our student’s research or are we waiting for the final product to be finished so we can “evaluate” it.

This mind shift is critical if we are to embrace a learner-centered environment. But Glogowski also makes a second point:

The sense of partnership that developed through the initial set of instructional conversations needs to evolve in order to be of benefit to the student. Since I now know (I have seen) that my student has made progress, I need to use different tools and engage in different conversations in order to ensure that the student does not see my involvement as patronizing or intrusive. The set of competencies that developed as a result of our instructional conversations now demands that our conversations increase in sophistication.

Our responsibilites and the tools we use change as our students grow and learn. As educators we cannot sit by passively and wait for our students “to get it”. We need to constantly adapt, challenge and find new ways to engage them in the conversation so they are involved in the process. Glogowski states that “blogging in a supportive community of peers …allows for the development of higher-order cognitive operations”. He concluded with two pieces of advice:


  • Create “activity settings” where writing is a tool for learning and not a way of presenting acquired information.
  • Ensure that writing is motivated by the student’s need to communicate ideas that are important – things that he or she wants to say.
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