chapter  2
Searching for Learner-Centered, Constructivist, and Sociocultural Components of Collaborative Educational Learning Tools
Pages 26

As Bednar, Cunningham, Duffy, and Perry (1995) argued, instructional strategies and tools must be based on some theory of learning and cognition. Of course, crafting well-articulated views that clearly answer the major epistemological questions of human learning has exercised psychologists and educators for centuries. What is a mind? What does it mean to know something? How is our knowledge represented and manifested? Many educators prefer an eclectic approach, selecting "principles and techniques from the many theoretical perspectives in much the same way we might select international dishes from a smorgasbord, choosing those we like best and ending up with a meal which represents no nationality exclusively and a design technology based on no single theoretical base" (Bednar et ai., 1995, p. 100). It is certainly the case that research within collaborative educational learning tools has drawn upon behavioral, cognitive information processing, humanistic, and sociocultural theory, among others, for inspiration and justification. Problems arise, however, when tools developed in the service of one epistemology, say cognitive information processing, are integrated within instructional systems designed to promote learning goals inconsistent with it. When concepts, strategies, and tools are abstracted from the theoretical viewpoint that spawned them, they are too often stripped of meaning and utility. In this chapter, we embed our discussion in learner-centered, constructivist, and sociocultural perspectives on collaborative technology, with a bias toward the third. Th~ principles of these perspectives, in fact, provide the theoretical rationale for much of the research and ideas presented in this book.