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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.



This learning theory posits that:

  • Learning is an active, constructive process
  • The learner is an information constructor, and actively constructs or creates their own subjective representations of objective reality.
  • New information is linked to prior knowledge, thus learning and mental constructs are subjective.

Contributors to Constructivist Theory include:

  • Vygotsky
  • Piaget
  • Dewey
  • Bruner

Additionally, Constructivism is a reaction to behaviorism and programmed instruction. Under constructivism, learning becomes an active process of knowledge construction rather than acquisition. Learners bring previous experiences and cultural factors into the learning experience. 

(adapted from Simply Psychology,


Similarities and Differences Between Piaget and Vygotsky

Lev Vygtosky and Jean Piaget

Lev Vygotsky

Much of Vygotsky's work, even though he lived to his late thirties, has laid the foundation of much research and theory in cognitive development over the past several decades. His theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition, as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of "making meaning."

In order to understand Vygotsky’s approach, two concepts must be understood:

  1. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO): refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner developing the skill. It is not necessarily the case that the MKO is someone that is older, as peers can often be MKOs. An MKO is, simply put, someone who has more knowledge about a process than the person attempting to learn it.
  2. Zone of Proximal Development: The difference between what a learner can achieve independently and what they can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a partner of facilitator. Vygotsky saw this area as the zone where the most sensitive guidance should be given, as it allows the learner to develop skills that they will use on their own, hence, enhancing and developing higher mental functions. This may be the origins of peer to peer instruction, as Vygotsky suggests that teachers use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skillful peers.

Classroom Applications

Much of Vygotsky's theories have led to contemporary, active approached in instruction, including:

  • "reciprocal teaching" where teachers and students collaborate in learning and practicing summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting.
  •  "scaffolding": in which a teacher or more advanced peer helps to structure or arrange a task so that a novice can work on it successfully.
  • collaborative learning, suggesting that group members should have different levels of ability so more advanced peers can help less advanced members operate within their ZPD.

(adapted from Sean McLeod's entry on Lev Vygtosky, on Simply Psychology:

Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget was concerned with understanding the way in which fundamental concepts (time, number, quantity, justice) emerge in children/learners. He .conducted the first systematic study of cognitive development and developed a series of simple tests to reveal different cognitive abilities. Unlike other theorists, Piaget proposed that there are discrete stages of development marked by qualitative difference rather than an increase in number of skills and complexity of behaviors acquired. The goal of the theory is to explain the mechanisms and processes by which the infant, and then the child, develops into an individual who can reason and think using hypotheses. 

Three components of Piaget’s Theory of Development included:

  1. Schemas:

Piaget emphasized the importance of schemas in cognitive development, and described how they were developed or acquired. A schema can be defined as "a set of linked mental representations of the world, which we use both to understand and to respond to situations." It was Piaget's assumption that these mental representations are stored and applied when needed.

  1. Adaption Processes that allowed for the transition from one stage to the next.
  2. Stages of development:

Sensorimotor: The main achievement during this stage is object permanence - knowing that an object still exists, even if it is hidden.

Preoperational: During this stage, learners are able to think about things symbolically - being able for a word or an object to stand symbolically for something other than itself. At this stage, it is difficult to take the view point of others at this point.

Concrete operational: This is the beginning of operational thought: This means the child can work things out internally in their heads.

Formal operational: Begins at about age eleven. People develop the ability to think about abstract concepts, and logically test hypotheses.

Piaget thought that learners progress through the stages in the same order, and no stage can be missed out. Piaget's theories have had an impact on several area of curriculum and education. This includes:

Discovery learning, learning being accomplished best through doing and actively exploring has helped to transform curriculum in primary school. This comes from Piaget's theory of assimilation and accommodation, which requires active learners, as problem solving skills must be discovered, and cannot really be taught. 

Piaget also felt that within the classroom learning should be student centered, and accomplished through active discovery learning. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning. Piaget also thought that therefore, teachers should encourage the following within the classroom:

  • Focus on the process of learning, rather than the end product of it.
  • Using active methods that require rediscovering or reconstructing "truths".
  • Using collaborative, as well as individual activities (so children can learn from each other).
  • Devising situations that present useful problems, and create disequilibrium in the child.
  • Evaluate the level of the child's development, so suitable tasks can be set.

(Adapted from Sean McLeod's entry on Jean Piaget, on Simply Psychology:

    Lev Vygotsky

       Jean Piaget

  • More emphasis on culture affecting/shaping cognitive development
  • Universal stages and content of development
  • Social development varies across cultures
  • Social development is mostly universal across cultures
  • Places greater emphasis on social factors affecting development
  • Piaget is often criticized for underestimating this
  • Vygotsky states cognitive development stems from social interactions from guided learning within the zone of proximal development as children and their partners co-construct knowledge.
  • In contrast Piaget maintains that cognitive development stems largely from independent explorations in which children construct knowledge of their own.
  • For Vygotsky, the environment in which children grow up will influence how they think and what they think about.

  • Vygotsky places more (and different) emphasis on the role of language in cognitive development (again Piaget is criticized for lack of emphasis on this). For Vygotsky, cognitive development results from an internalization of language.
  • According to Piaget, language depends on thought for its development (i.e. thought comes before language). 
  • Vygotsky, thought and language are initially separate systems from the beginning of life, merging at around three years of age, producing verbal thought 

  • According to Vygotsky adults are an important source of cognitive development. Adults transmit their culture's tools of intellectual adaptation that children internalize.
  • In contrast Piaget emphasizes the importance of peers as peer interaction promotes social perspective taking. 

(Please see Sean McLeod's entry on Lev Vygtosky, on Simply Psychology: for additional information)


Piaget's Developmental Theories