Thursday, July 5, 2018

The integration of technology in problem-based learning

In problem-based learning, students learn by solving problems, becoming active learners, situated in real-world problems and allowing students to be responsible for their learning paths (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Its implementation in educational settings has promoted collaboration, problem-solving and independent acquisition of new knowledge. The integration of technology in problem-based learning supports exploration, collaborative inquiry and the development of the skills required for students moving into the modern world. Technology can support problem-based learning because of the wide range of tools available; the way in which technology naturally lends itself to collaboration, and its ability to help students explore problems.

Below is an infographic I created based on the research on technology and problem-based learning. 

Characteristics of effective problem-based learning environments with technology use.
Green (2018)

Consider the following defining characteristics of problem-based learning when selecting technological tools which promote this type of learning:

Learner-centered: With students at the forefront of this style of learning, teachers are able to engage and motivate learners. In learner-centered environments, the focus on abilities and process of the learner are of priority. This strategy also centers on what the students already know which encourages motivation (Megwalu, 2014).

Collaborative: It is important that a technological tool create a community of learners by broadening repertoires and personal resources (Conoley, 2010). Collaboration promotes engagement as well as positive well-being. Collaborative spaces have proven to positively impact well-being, “People with relationships to other individuals they trust and depend upon are healthier, more productive, and happier”, (Uchino, Cacipo, Kiecolt-Glasser, 1996 as cited in Conoley, 2010, p.77).

Real-life applications: When students are able to make connections between new material and the real-world it creates for authentic learning environments, “Learning is stronger when it matters” (Brown, Roedinger, McDaniel, 2014, p.11). Repetition has not shown to remain in long-term memory, however, when connections are made to real-life problems, the learning is better retained (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Educators play a key role in developing questions and creating tasks, “Real learning involves students immediately using what they learn to do something and/or change something in the world” (Prensky, 2010, p.20).

Engages critical thinking: In order to help students adapt to ever-changing situations and problems, critical thinking is an essential skill; “Higher level questioning requires students to further examine the concept(s) under study through the use of application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis (Nappi, 2017, p.1).


Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.L., McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Learning is misunderstood. Make it stick, pp.1-22.

Conoley, J. (2010). Why Does Collaboration Work? Linking Positive Psychology and Collaboration. Journal of educational and psychological consultation, 20(1), 75-82.doi:10.1080/10474410903554902

Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2004). Problem-Based Learning: What and How Do Students Learn? Educational Psychology Review. 16(3), pp.235-266.

Megwalu, A. (2014). Practicing Learner-Centered Teaching. The Reference Librarian, 55(3), 252-255, doi: 10.1080/02763877.2014.910438

Nappi, P. (2017). The Importance of Questioning in Developing Critical Thinking Skills. The Delta Kappa Gamma bulletin, 84(1).
Prensky, M. (2010). Partnering. Teaching digital natives. Partnering for real learning. pp. 9-29.

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