MET:Technology and Student-Centred Learning

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This page was authored by Ehsan Barirani (2014). This page was edited by Zale Darnel (2017).


Technology and SCL

SCL marks a critical shift in the way we view education. Traditional views on education value a teacher-centered approach, wherein the transmission of knowledge flows from the teacher to the student in a linear direction. In teacher-centered instruction, teachers usually lecture specific content to all students, regardless of individual needs or interests.[1] The lessons then culminate in a final test, usually written, whereby students would be assessed on their acquisition of content. Conversely, the SCL approach values “student discovery and construction” (Froyd and Simpson, 2010), where constructivist pedagogical methods, such as scaffolding and Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) are used to guide students on the learning journey. The main differences between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches are summarized below:

Component of Learning Student-Centered Approach Teacher-Centered Approach
Level of thinking Requires higher order thinking, such as problem solving and metacognition (thinking about one’s own thinking). Often requires rote memorization of facts, as chosen by the instructor.
Instructional strategies Student is in control of the pace at which they learn, and what they learn. Learning activities done as a group with little acknowledgement of student interests. The information is mediated in a linear fashion from teacher to students.
Teacher’s role Director of learning; chooses what will be learned and when. Facilitator/guide that helps student access information in multiple ways.
Student’s role Teacher-created assessment; usually in the form of ‘paper and pencils tests/assignments. (Summative assessment emphasized). Performance based, so as to see how students could apply knowledge to new/different situations.

(Formative assessment emphasized)

Assessment Student is in control of their own learning and construction of knowledge. Student is expected to learn what teacher presents and memorize such facts to regurgitate during summative assessment.

Integrating Technology into SCL

The use of technology has come to have an increasingly significant role in a student’s learning, both in terms of acquiring knowledge and collaborating in such learning environments. Scardamalia and Bereiter propose that the use of networked technology can help create more knowledge-building discourse between learners that will allow for independent, as well as collaborative, building of knowledge.[2] Current affordances that social media resources and services offer readily support and enable student-centered learning.

Examples of Technology and SCL

  1. Google Drive and reflections: Students can create reflections, then share their file with a peer/teacher that may offer feedback or questions to extend thinking.
  2. Online Modules: Students participate in online activities including case studies, problem-solving activities, readings, and other such tasks to show understanding of content.
  3. IWBs: As Looney (2012) explains, “IWBs provide a space for ‘co-learning’ as students and teachers use the board as a shared space. Students may demonstrate their skills or their understanding of processes, so teachers may identify and address misconceptions.”
  4. ePortfolios: Students create online portfolios containing artifacts of learning specific to a given learning intention and reflections considering how the chosen artifact shows their meeting of the learning intention.
  5. Blogging/ Social Networking tools: Learners share information/questions, becoming a community of knowledge-builders. Teachers may choose to convene and become part of the community, or remain silent and assess student participation and meaningfulness of sharing.

Benefits of Integrating Technology

  • Built-in problem solving tools: Computers, laptops, and tablets all have software/apps available that promote both independent and collaborative problem solving (ie: spreadsheets, presentation creators, graphic organizers, etc.)
  • International collaboration: Having access to networked social media, such as blogging, students now have the chance to gain new perspectives and knowledge from peers from around the globe. This also means dialogue with ‘experts’ that students may not have had access to if not for technology, allowing for rich and meaningful learning.
  • Engaging: As many online services are interactive and immersive in nature, student engagement is achieved. Moreover, information accessible is constantly being updated and revised for the most current thoughts on any given topic.
  • Promotes student questioning: As finding information is easy and fast, students can search for many possible answers to their questions, think critically about information being presented, and add to their ever-changing knowledge-base.[3]

Assessment of SCL: An Analogy

SCL is about the journey

To understand assessment and SCL, It may help to think of education as a journey. First, the individual must make sure they have the right tools to get to where they need to go. Next, they must plan out the route they wish to take, and have an end goal in mind. The individual must also be willing to be flexible and adapt to conditions they did not account for while on the journey. Finally, they must also be given the chance to reflect both during and after the journey to assess whether they are on the right track, and whether they ended up where they intended.

Using this analogy of a journey, assessment is the reflection that the student must do to be aware of where they are in terms of their learning intentions. The teacher’s role is to be a guide (or a compass), in case the learner becomes “lost” and requires a point in the right direction. As learning is fluid, it may happen that the learner may decide to take a road less travelled and thus, journey off course. This is of no concern, as long as the end goal is kept in mind and ultimately reached.

As student-centered learning focuses the “journey” of a learner, traditional forms of summative assessment (assessment of learning) fail to capture an accurate account of learning and achievement on an individual level. It is more appropriate to use formative assessment strategies (assessment for learning).

Possible Concerns

Technology, especially with regard to the current Web 2.0 era, has an obvious potential of rich and meaningful networking; however, there are some possible concerns about the use of technology and its effectiveness in promoting SCL:

  1. Cost: It can be very expensive creating a “wired classroom” where all students have access to a networking point.
  2. Training: If not properly trained in using the technology to promote knowledge-building, or without a clear purpose, there is a likely chance the source of technology will become nothing more than an extension of teacher-centered activities.
  3. Student readiness: Along with educators being ready to implement technological resources into the classroom, students must be ready and motivated to use such resources in a powerful way.
  4. Assessment: It becomes challenging to assess students using traditional forms of assessment (tests, worksheets, etc.) in a technology-based knowledge-building classroom. Furthermore, as students become responsible for their own learning, and what they learn, it is difficult to follow the Ministry of Education’s current curriculum that states what concepts/processes students must know by the end of a specific grade level.

Stop Motion Video

Zale Darnel's Submission for ETEC 510 65D Technology and Student Centred Learning stop motion video

External Links

  1. Student-centered learning and collaboration using technology
  2. 5 Apps to promote student-centered learning
  3. 10 expectations of students: video clip
  4. Design and technology
  5. 6 innovative ways students are using technology
  6. Hyperstudio: digital humanities at MIT
  7. Student Centred Learning and Technology


  1. Brown, Kathy Laboard (2003). From Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Curriculum: Improving Learning in Diverse Classrooms. Education, 124(1), 49-54.
  2. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer Support for Knowledge-building Communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283.
  3. Choi,Ikseon, Land, Susan M. and Alfred J. Turgeon (2005). Scaffolding Peer-questioning Strategies to Facilitate Metacognition During Online Small Group Discussion. Instructional Science, 33(5-6), 483-511.

Froyd, Jeffrey and Nancy Simpson (2010). Student-Centered Learning Addressing Faculty Questions about Student-Centred Learning. Texas A&M University.

Hirumi, Atsusi (2002). Student-Centered, Technology-Rich Learning Environments (SCenTRLE): Operationalizing Constructivist Approaches to Teaching and Learning. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 10(4), 497-537.

Looney, Janet (2012). Making it Happen: Formative Assessment and Educational Technologies. Promethean Education Strategy Group, 1(3), 10.