The A, B, and C’s of motivation and social learning theory- what do you think are the positive real world applications of the various components of Social Learning Theory for the 21st century teacher? Where are the connections to motivation?

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Motivation and social learning theories are what guide both synchronous and asynchronous teaching time. When I want students to learn about a new concept, I take a Vygotsky approach: introduce the tool, provide guidance, offer help if needed, and allow students to build up their stamina towards a “can do” understanding of the tool. When I want to push my students cognitive skills from remembering to synthesizing to creating, I use Bloom’s Taxonomy. If students are going to be observing and modeling in the science lab, I am utilizing Bandura’s social learning theory. All of these theories, and MANY more, are typically utilized in the classroom without much recognition of the theory itself.

Technology is not just a tool for 21st century students, it is instead a part of life! Because of this, Social Learning Theories need to be looked at through a different lens. As educators, myself included, we need to think about how we can hone in on student devices and use them as more than just a $1,000 pencil. Our students have never known a life without technology, so why do we continuously use computers/devices as replacements to previously taught lessons instead of enhancements? We are doing our students a disservice if we are not encouraging creativity and engagement through edTech tools like Flipgrid, Wakelet, YouTube, Do Ink, Storybird… the list could go on and on.

By taking the same approach of Social Learning Theories that we use so intuitively in the physical classroom and utilizing these theories in the digital classroom, we can genuinely meet our students where they are!

As an educator who is also part of the Net Generation, I find myself relating to students technology needs and wants. The concepts of multitasking, 24/7 communication, social media engagement, and connecting on a global level are part of my day-to-day life. Creating and embracing change are Social Learning Theories that I want to instill in all students. Technology is not going anywhere and we are now almost 21 years into the 21st Century, students have technological advances like we have never before seen. Our 21st Century Learners can travel around the world on Google Earth, collaborate with experts in any industry through video conferencing, and code their own apps from their phones. With a forward-thinking posture, educators can embrace Social Learning Theories and reach students through their devices.

I am fortunate that decades of technological development have preceded me and prepared me for this digital era of teaching. I am able to help students make genuine connections and provide tools beyond poster-boards and markers for group presentations. Student technological skills, even at a young age, are advanced enough that they can select the digital medium for any presentation, project, or activity. Student choice is a huge motivator when it comes to learning a new concept or skill. Providing options and allowing students to share research their understanding in any format creates genuine connections to the content. Educators can now be the facilitator of learning instead of the traditional direct instructor.

As a true facilitator of learning, our students are able to take ownership of their learning while learning at a pace that is appropriate and utilizing a tool that is familiar. Motivational and Social Learning Theories are just as real today as they were before technology was introduced in the classroom. We, as educators, need to take the theories and practices that we used in the physical classroom and find ways to enhance these practices with technology!


Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. L. (2005). Preparing the Academy of Today for the Learner of Tomorrow. In Educating the Net generation. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE.

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