The House Metaphor

Research and my personal learning and teaching experiences make it increasingly clear that learning design, specifically incorporating the use educational technology, needs to be informed by a clear choice of learning theory (Anderson, 2016; Bates, 2015; Kay & Knaack, 2008). For the learning goals and outcomes of a digital learning resource (DLR) or course to be met, a decision surrounding the learning theory needs to come before the choice of media and structure to share content (Anderson, 2016). To use the metaphor of a house: It seems to me that the learning theory is the foundation of the house; student learning outcomes composing the frame and walls; course content and resources being the furniture; and the choice(s) of media throughout a course, the tools to share learning and engage users, is the air that fills the house—constantly changing, and creating a comfortable and engaging environment in which learning can take place. Design thinking based on empathy methods is the stable, user-informed plot of land upon which this house will be built. The learning theories need to be woven into every element of the DLR; therefore, I have placed social constructivism and connectivism as the foundation of the house, but to maintain their guiding principles to achieve successful outcomes at the end of the DLR experience, they find their containing roles as the roof of the house as well.

Social Constructivism and Connectivism

The two learning theories that I have chosen to guide the construction and delivery of my DLR are social constructivism and connectivism. Social constructivism best incorporates the social nature of the construction of knowledge and understanding in the learning process, an element that is central to my DLR as it highlights different educators’ recent experiences, sharing anecdotes and artifacts created in the process of the abrupt pivot to online learning. In this social constructivist model, “groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts and shared meanings” (Millwood, n.d.). Constructivist practices would lead the DLR and learning experience, with the objective of eventually merging into the application of connectivist learner engagement and activities. I most appreciate the following Analysis of media from an educational perspective created by Bates (2011) that shows a continuum of media use and teacher/learner control. The continuum has constructivist activities at the centre of the spectrum with activities like discussion forums and seminars that merge into connectivist activities such as e-portfolios, Wikis, and blogs, all with exceedingly more learner control versus teacher control (Bates, 2015). Siemens (2014) highlights the different ways of coming to know, and importantly expanding on new knowledge and understandings, though combinatorial creativity, that is amplified and altered through the connectivity learners experience due to the Internet (2014).

(Bates, 2015, Ch. 7.7, para. 2)

Context for Choice of Learning Theories

To give more context to my choice of learning theories, I return to my Problem of Practice (PoP) which serves to highlight my reasons for these choices. The identified PoP for my DLR is: Many K-12 educators, in a rushed and involuntary online pivot, have tried to transfer how they shared content and engaged learners in face to face (f2f) environments, to how they now need to share content and engage learners in an online learning environment. One of the challenges surrounding the online pivot is how as educators, we can’t just take what we did in face-to-face (f2f) learning environments and transfer it to online learning environments. There are affordances and strengths to both modalities, not to be seen as a binary. We can take “the best of both” and apply them accordingly—now and in the future—in f2f, online, or blended learning environments.

The goal of my DLR is to present opportunities for K-12 educators going forward to keep digital tools and online practice that complement f2f (justifying the investment of personal learning in online teaching techniques). Through empathic design principles, I have begun the process of interviewing teachers to collect a common base of challenges, successes, and innovations to share through the DLR that I create under a Creative Commons License. My hope is that this DLR will be used by a colleague who works with teachers-in-training and who mentors new teachers in BC. A secondary hope for this DLR is that it highlights the power of combinatorial creativity articulated by George Siemens in his description of some of the differentiating and powerful elements of connectivism as a learning theory (Siemens, 2014). Millwood (n.d.) defines connectivism as a learning theory whereby “knowledge is distributed across a network of connection to people and information—learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.”

Theoretical Frameworks to Use in the Choice of Digital Tools

There is a plethora of digital tools to choose from to support any DLR. I see the importance of always being aware of the potential for cognitive overload in how, as instructional designers, we choose and incorporate various digital tools to meet learning outcomes and learners’/users’ needs. I have two theoretical frameworks that I will apply in the choice of digital tools that contribute to my DLR: Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Bates’ (2015) SECTIONS model. The primacy of accessibility and flexibility that form the guiding principles of UDL are invaluable in my designing priorities to meet all users’ learning needs, incorporating multiple means of representation, engagement, and action and expression (CAST, 2018). I have also chosen to use Bates’ (2015) SECTIONS model to make effective decisions surrounding the choice of and use of media throughout the creation and delivery of my DLR. The simplicity, yet comprehensiveness, of the SECTIONS model are what most appeals to me.

S tudents

E ase of use

C osts

T eaching functions

I nteraction

O rganizational issues

N etworking

S ecurity and privacy (Bates, 2015, Ch. 8, para. 1).

I see this list as a highly effective way of determining the appropriate media to apply for various elements of the DLR, at various stages of learning and sharing knowledge and experiences.

Sketching for Understanding – Bringing it All Together 



Anderson, T. (2016). Theories for learning with emerging technologies learning: Foundations and applications. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.) Emergence and innovation in digital learning: Foundation and applications (pp. 35-50). Edmonton, AB: AU Press. Retrieved from

Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapters 6-8. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Bates Associates Ltd. Retrieved from

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines: Version 2.2. Retrieved from

Kay, R., & Knaack, L. (2008). Evaluating the learning in the learning objects. In Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning22(1), 5-28. Retrieved from https://doi-

Millwood, R. (n.d.). Learning Theory [Interactive map]. Retrieved from Theory.pdf

Siemens, G. (2014) Overview of Connectivism [Video file]. University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Retrieved from