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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.

20

Virtually Vygotsky: Using Technology to Scaffold Student Learning: By


Adrian Lee
TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20,April2014
WrittenbyKiruthikaRagupathi(kiruthika@nus.edu.sg)

Introduction
Whatisscaffolding?Howdoesithelplearning?Cantechnologybeused?Doesitwork?Andwhois
Vygotsky?ThesewerethequestionsthatAdrianLee,aseniorlecturerintheDepartmentofChemistry
attheNationalUniversityofSingaporesetouttoanswerinthissessiononVirtuallyVygotsky:Using
TechnologytoScaffoldStudentLearning.Throughthissession,Adrianshowcasedtechnologiesthatcan
beusedbefore,duringandafterclasstoprovideappropriatescaffoldingtostudents.
Scaffolding,hesays,cancomeinavarietyofforms,fromincreasingengagement,providingalternate
learningstrategies,resolvinglearningbottlenecks,and(paradoxically)takingawaysupporttoallow
studentstomastermaterial,amongotherthings.TheZoneofProximalDevelopment(ZPD)underpins
someoftheideasofconstructivism,andaccordingtoVygotsky(1978),theactualdevelopmentallevel
characterizesmentaldevelopmentretrospectively,whiletheZoneofProximalDevelopment
characterizesmentaldevelopmentprospectively.VygotskybelievedthatwhenastudentisattheZPD
foraparticulartask,providingtheappropriateguidance(scaffolding)willgivethestudentenoughofa
boosttoachievethetask.

Thetermscaffolding,coinedbyBruner,wasdevelopedasametaphortodescribethetypeof
assistanceofferedbyateacherormorecompetentpeertosupportlearning.Intheprocessof
scaffolding,theteacherhelpsstudentmasterataskorconceptthatthestudentisinitiallyunableto

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

graspindependently.Theteacherthenoffersassistancewithonlythoseskillsthatarebeyondstudents
capability.Oncethestudentmastersthetaskwiththebenefitofscaffolding,thescaffoldingcanthenbe
removedandthestudentwillthenbeabletocompletethetaskagainonhisown.Therefore,whatisof
greatimportanceisenablingthestudenttocompleteasmuchofthetaskaspossible,unassisted(Wood
etal,1976).Howthistranslatestotheconstructivistapproachisthattheareaofguidancegrowsaswe
teachthesubjectmatter,andasthestudentsmasterylevelofthesubjectconceptschanges.Themodel
ofinstructionalscaffoldingcanbeillustratedasbelow:

AdrianalsoemphasizedonthesevenprinciplesofundergraduateeducationbyChickeringandGamson
(1987)thatisstillincrediblypertinentintodaysteaching.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Encouragescontactsbetweenfacultyandstudents
Developsreciprocityandcooperationamongstudents
Usesactivelearningtechniques
Givespromptfeedback
Emphasizestimeontask
Communicateshighexpectations
Respectsdiversetalentsandwaysoflearning

Itistheseprinciples,hesaid,thatshapeshisteachingandhelpshimdecideonwhenandhowtoprovide
themuchneededscaffoldingforhisstudentslearning.
Note:
FormoreinformationonhowtouseIVLEtoimplementthe7principlesofeffectiveteaching,pleasesee:
http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/staff/guides/ivletipsheet2.pdf

Scaffoldingstudentlearningthroughtechnology
Adrianillustratedsometechnologiesthatheusestoscaffoldstudentlearning,someofwhichhe
highlightedwereavailablewithinIVLE.Thefirstfiveitemsarethosethatareusedoutsidetheclassroom
whilethelastitemisatechnologythatisusedinsidetheclassroom.
1. Lessonplan
HeexplainedthatheusesIVLElessonplantoconnectalltheinstructionalresourcesforthe
module,andasaonestoplocationforstudentstoaccesstheseresources.Heusesthetopic
approachcomparedtothecommonlyadoptedweeklyapproach,asthetopicapproachcan
easilyactasanindexofhislecturenotesandremainsaccurateonayeartoyearbasisasitis
independentofchangingnationalholidays.

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

Fivetosixdifferentconceptsarecoveredeachweek.Eachtopicinthelessonplanusually
consistsof:
Playliststoallowstudentstoaccesstheonlinelecturesintherecommended
sequencebeforethefacetofacelessons
Weblinkstoprovideadditionalmaterials,wherevernecessary,toenhancestudent
understanding
Onlinequizzestoteststudentunderstandingofconcepts.Eachquizconsistsofabout
10MCQorfillintheblankquestions
Multimediatutorialstosupportthevariousclassexercisesthroughtutorialsthat
discusstheconcepts
Spreadsheetstoenablestudentstoworkoutproblems,therebyboosting
understandingthroughinteractivevisualizations

Asamplelessonplanforonetopicisshownbelow:

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

2. Onlinequizzes
Onlinequizzesaremainlyusedtounderstandwhatstudentsdontknow.Studentswatchlecture
videosbeforeclass(aflippedclassroomapproach),andtakeashortquizonthelecturecontent.
EachquizquestionisdesignedasanMCQtypeorfillintheblanktype,butitalsorequires
studentstoprovidearationalefortheirchosenanswer.Eachstudentisgiven5attempts.When
astudentgetsaquestionwrong,feedbackisprovidedalongwithahintpointingtotheright
answer.Studentsgenerallywouldbeabletogetfullmarksfortheonlinequizzeswithinthe
allowed5attempts.TherationalestudentsprovideforeachMCQquestionwillgiveinsightson
whatstudentsdontknow.Adrianexplainedthathisfocuswasmainlyonstudentsfirstattempt
ofthequiz,asthiscanactasagoodgaugeofstudentsunderstanding.Hesaidheusedthis
informationtofinetunehislectures,topickoutdiscriminatoryquestionsandaddressstudent
misconceptions.

Samplesoftheonlinequiz,designedusingIVLEassessmenttoolisillustratedbelow:

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

3. Interactivevisualizations
Adrianusesexcelspreadsheetstodesigninteractivevisualizations.Foreachquestionappearing
ontheonlinequiz(discussedabove),heprovidesstudentswithatleastonerelatedinteractive
visualization.Studentswillbeallowedtointeractwiththesevisualizationswhileattemptingthe
onlinequizzes.Theywillbeabletovisualizechangesthatoccurwhenchangingthevalues
providedinthespreadsheets.

4. Peerassessment
Peerassessmentisanimportantcomponentthatcanbeusedtoenhancestudentlearning.
Adrianusespeerassessmenttogetstudentstoassesstheirpeersessays.Healsoprovidesa
gradingrubricthatstudentscanuseas
aguidewhilemarking.Finally,hemakes
itapointtoreturnthefeedbackfrom
thepeersbacktotheindividual
students.Eachstudentgetstomarkat
least3essays.Thisallowsstudentsto
seeothersworkcomparedtotheir
ownessays.Hisclass,beinga

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

heterogonousclasspromptedhimtomoderatestudentgradestakingintoaccounttheeasy
gradersandstrictgraders.Inaddition,healsogetsstudentstomarktheirownessayafter
havingmarkedtheirpeersessays.Thisactsasareflectiveelementfortheirownlearning.

Thuswithpeerassessment,studentsgetanopportunitytoobservetheirpeerslearningprocess
andalsobeabletogetamoredetailedknowledgeoftheirclassmateswork.Thisfosters
increasedresponsibilityinstudents,enablingstudentstobefairandaccuratewhenassessing
theirpeersessay,therebymakingfairjudgments,whilealsoaidinginselfassessmentoftheir
ownwork.

AdrianalsosuggestedtheuseofTeamMates,anonlinepeerevaluationtoolusedbysomeofhis
colleaguesintheDepartmentofChemistry,thoughheacknowledgedthatheisyettotryit
personally.(refertoTechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.18,onLeveragingpeerfeedback).

5. Onlinetutorials
AdrianusesCamtasiaStudiotocreatetheonlinetutorials.Theseonlinevideotutorialsguide
studentsthroughsomeofthemainideasdiscussedforaparticulartopicandallowsthemto
workontheirhomeworkassignmentswithouttheneedforthemtoattendhislectures.Other
toolsthatareavailableatNUStocreatesuchonlinetutorialsand/orlecturesare:
AdobePresenter(Breeze)andAdobePresenterVideoCreator,
CamtasiaRelay,and
Ink2Go.

6. Learnerresponsesystems
Learnerresponsesystemscanbeusedasaformativeassessmenttoguideteaching,tomeasure
whatstudentsarethinkingandthenaddressitimmediatelyinclass.Theycanbeusedtocheck
studentspriorknowledge,probetheircurrentunderstanding,anduncoverstudent
misconceptions.Theycanalsoprovidefeedbacktotheinstructorsabouttheirstudents
understandingandtostudentsabouttheirownunderstanding.Theselearnerresponsesystem
fallintothecategoryoftakingtechnologyintotheclassroom.ThetwooptionsthatAdrian
usesforthispurposeare:
Clickers
questionSMS(refertoTechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.11onUsingSMStoIncrease
InteractionwithStudentsduringLectures)

SomewaysinwhichAdrianuseslearnerresponsessystemstointegratewiththeideaof
scaffolding:
1. Getstudentstoanswerthequestionsonanindividualbasisbasedonwhatisbeing
discussedinclass.
2. Askaquestionbasedonthelecturenotes,butonatopic/conceptthathasnotbeen
discussedingreatdetail.

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

3. Studentscanworkingroupsof34toanswerthequestionsposed,andcomeback
withagroupanswer.
4. Getstudentstoanswerindividually,andthenworkingroupstoanalysethe
questionsposed.Finally,getstudentstoanswerthequestionagainindividually.

Thedistributionofanswersisthendisplayedimmediatelytotheentireclass.Iftheresultsshow
thatasignificantnumberofstudentschosewronganswerstoaquestion,thentheteachercan
revisitorclarifythepointsheorshejustmadeinclassandifmoststudentschosethecorrect
answerstoaquestion,thentheteachercanjustmoveontoanothertopic.

Q&Asession
FollowingthepresentationbyAdrian,participantshadthefollowingquestions:
Q: Doyouusetheonlinequizzesasaformativeorsummativetool?Ifsohowdoesitprovide
scaffolding?
AL:

Iuseitasforformativeassessmentpurposes.Ifyouwantstudentstotellyouwhatthey
dontknow,thenyoucannothaveasummativeassessment.Wewouldneedtohave
formativeassessment.
First,Iallowstudentstotake5allowedattempts,andasthereareonly4choicestoeach
MCQquestion,studentshouldbeabletoget100%bythefifthattempt.Second,Iawardonly
aparticipatorygrade,andhencethereisnopressureonthestudentstogetitallright.The
firstattemptrequiresstudentstokeyintheirrationaleforchoosingtheanswer.Basedon
therationale,Iamabletodetermineifstudentsunderstandimportantconcepts,andpin
pointtopicsthatstudentsneedfurtherguidance.

Q: How do you decide on what type of questions to use in an online quiz, without
understandingstudentspriorknowledge?
AL:

In designing the MCQ questions, experience with handling the course in previous years
definitelyhelps.Ifitisthefirsttime,thenhavemultipletierMCQs(withrationale)orhave
free text answers. Based on the answers that students give, and after a years worth of
experience,wewouldthenabletodesignbetterMCQs.

Q: Whenyouusemanytechnologytoolsinyourcourse,dostudentscomplain?
AL:

Duringmyfirstclass,IexplaintomystudentsastowhyIusecertaintools,andhowtheycan
benefitbyusingthosetools.

Q: Howmuchsupportisthereforlearnerresponsesystemsintheliterature?
AL:

Currentresearchhasgoodsupportfortheuseoflearnerresponsesystems.Itreallydepends
onhowyouusethem.

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

Q: WhenyouaskMCQquestionsusinglearnerresponsesystems,canstudents share their


answerswiththeirpeers?
AL:

Studentsaredevelopingalearningcommunity.Althoughcommunitylearninghelps,attimes
individuallearningisequallyimportant.HenceIwoulduseallapproachessingleanswer;
singleanswerafterdiscussionwithpeers;groupanswer.

Q: Howoftendoyouuseclickerquestionsineachlecture?
AL:

I use about 1 or 2 questions per lecture. Students seem to appreciate the use of such
questionsintheclassroom.Iallowabout12minutesforstudentstoanswereachquestion.

Suggestionsfromgroupdiscussion
FollowingtheQ&Asession,Adrianposedthefollowingquestionsforparticipantstodiscussingroupsas
tohowtheyemployedinstructionalscaffoldingintheirownclassroomsanddisciplines:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Doyouusetechnologytoscaffoldyourteaching?
Howdoyouemployscaffoldinginyourteaching?
Whyusetechnologytoprovidescaffolding?
Howdoesscaffoldingsupportbestpracticeinyourclassroom?

Adrianaskedparticipantstoponderoverhowtheygetstudentscyclethroughtheirlearning;andkeepa
recordoftheirlearningandprogress.Asummaryofthegroupdiscussionisgivenbelow:
Onlinequizzesandfeedback:

Prelecturereadingquiz
Onlinesurveyforms:usedmoreasasurveythanasaquiztocollectamidtermfeedbackfrom
students.

Peerassessment/Peerfeedback:

Anonlineformwasusedforcollectingpeerfeedbackforgroupworkusingagrade(high,
moderate,low)alongwithqualitativecommentsthatgivesreasonsforprovidingthatgrade.
Participantsagreedthatwhenstudentsjustknowthatthereispeerassessmentallowsfora
betterbehaviour.
Participantsalsofeltthattheuseofpeerfeedbackmoderatesgroupbehaviours,improves
groupdynamics,enhancestheirreasoningandrationalizingabilitiesandisalsomeanttoavoid
thefreeriderproblemsingroupwork.
Itwasalsosharedthattogetstudentstoreflectontheirownlearningandtoimprovethegroup
dynamics,itisimportanttogetstudentstositdownasateamandexplaintoeachotherwhat
theircontributionsare.Generallyitwasfeltthatpeerassessmentsarequiteaccurateweaker
studentsgenerallyfeelthattheyarebetterthanwhattheyare,whilestrongerstudentsfeelthat
theycandobetter.Oncetheytalktoeachother,weakerstudentstendremovethenaturalbias
andtendtogradebetter.

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TechnologyinPedagogy,No.20

Learnerresponsesystems:
Participantsalsosharedotherlearnerresponsetoolsthatcouldbeusedotherthanclickersand
questionSMS:

IVLEPoll
Learningcatalytics(www.learningcatalytics.com)
Nearpod(www.nearpod.com)
Socrative(www.socrative.com)

Allofthesetoolscanbeusedfromanyonlineplatformand/ormobiledevices.
Otherusefulwaysofscaffolding:

Facebook(FB)groupscanbeusedforpeerlearningandpeerreviewstudentscancommentand
discuss;quietstudentsaremoreempoweredtoparticipateinthediscussions,particularlysince
the FB space is one that students are familiar with and are comfortable using it. (refer to
TechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.1onFacebookforTeachingandLearning)
Wikis/blogscanbeusedtogetstudentstoteachothersaswelllearnfromeachother.(referto
TechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.2onTheLunchtimeGuidetoStudentBloggingand
TechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.5onWikisforParticipatoryLearning).However,itwas
notedthatsomehelpandguidanceisneededtogetstudentstousewikis.
YouTubevideostoexplainconcepts
Googledocstodopeerwork.(refertoTechnologyinPedagogySeries,No.3onGoogleDocsand
theLonelyCraftofWriting)

References
1. Chickering,A.W.,&Gamson,Z.F.(1987).Sevenprinciplesforgoodpracticeinundergraduate
education,AmericanAssociationofHigherEducationBulletin,39,37.

2. Ragupathi (2010). Using IVLE to implement the 7 principles of effective teaching.


http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/staff/guides/ivletipsheet2.pdf

3. Vygotsky,L.S.(1978).MindinSociety:DevelopmentofHigherPsychologicalProcesses,Harvard
UniversityPress,8687.

4. Wood, D., Bruner, J. S. & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving, Journal of
PsychologyandPsychiatry,17,89100.

Copyright 2014 National University of Singapore. All Rights Reserved.