Learning as a social activity

Using Vialogues for social learning

using vialogues for social learningVialogues: visual dialogues. Video dialogues.

(Visible violet dogs? Risible eyelet hogs? Dirigible side-slit frogs?)

Vialogues are an online tool that encourages viewers to answer one specific question about a video, and the tool creates a comment thread based on the answers.

When applied in an educational capacity, this creates a space for social learning.

What is a vialogue?

As one who is interested in both how we learn and how technologies either enhance or distract from that learning process, I found this 7-minute video “Still Waiting For An Edtech Revolution” from Tasos Vacalopoulus intriguing, both for the content and the method of delivery.

The argument:

 The promise of technology to revolutionize education has not come to fruition. While we know some things about how learners interact with technologies to improve the learning process, like combining words with images increases learning, the technologies themselves (i.e. Smartboards, Smartphones, tablets) don’t. Vacalopoulus emphasizes technology cannot take the place of a good teacher; rather, the role of a teacher is to inspire, motivate, and facilitate learning in a social context. “What really matters is what happens inside the learner’s head. And making a learner think seems best achieved in a social environment with other learners and a caring teacher.”

The method:

A Vialogue is a free online platform for sharing, annotating, and discussing videos from EdLab at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Since learning is a social process, the interactive, social nature of a Vialogue reinforces the message.  The platform creates a space for a time-stamped discussion thread.  Viewers get a window into other learners’ heads via the exchange.  Learn more about Vialogues with this review from Graphite and this one from TeachersFirst which includes good examples of classroom applications.

How I’m implementing it in professional development with educators

Vacalopoulus asks us to think about what experiences promote the kind of thinking that leads to learning. In our current work with our partner teachers, we have been using group blogging as a means to promote social engagement in the learning process and encourage teachers to make their thinking visible to their colleagues.

using vialogues for social learning

After engaging in professional development, we ask participants to reflect on their learning, to share examples of evidence that they and their students have learned, and to provide specific examples of successes and failures as they use technology to promote the kind of thinking that leads to learning.

using vialogues for social learning

In my experience, group blogging about professional development supports  the building of a learning community by providing a social platform to make thinking visible.

How do you make use of “Vialogue-style” technology to encourage social construction of learning with your students?


Susan Hennessey

Susan Hennessey is a reformed librarian and current professional development coordinator with a particular interest in digital credentials and scavenger hunts. She's addicted to flavored almonds, salty, crunchy snacks, and Google Hangouts.

10 thoughts on “Learning as a social activity

What do you think?