This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Kolb's Learning Styles and Social Media Tools

Review Kolb's Learning Styles at or

In a (very simplistic) nutshell:  Kolb's Learning Cycle is a process of experience, reflection, abstraction, and experimentation, which feeds back into experience.  Kolb also classified four different types of learners based on their preferences within the learning cycle: thinking, feeling, doing, watching.

Considering all the different social media tools available, they share a fundamental function; one can be a consumer or voyeur, or one can be an active participant.  It is the difference between “watching” and “doing”, from Kolb’s learning styles.  Consider the following social media applications:

  • YouTube – Can be viewed entirely at a “consumer” level, and not as an uploader or participant.  Or, one can contribute to the community and content base; 
  • Twitter – Can be view-only, or can contribute.  Great for starting dialogue, brainstorming, quick sharing; 
  • Instagram – Photo-sharing; 
  • Pinterest – Collecting images and links, organizing and categorizing;

I realize there are many, many more social media sites available that each have their own "angle"; this is not an exercise in listing all the social media sites available, but a simplistic example to illustrate SM to Kolb's theory.

At the “watching” level, anyone can become a consumer of the content, browsing at will, or subscribing to specific feeds or channels.  Not until participation occurs, however, does it cross into the “doing” level.

Even as watchers though, consumers can use their experiences as “feeling” for further reflection and “thinking”.  Certainly as active participants who are “doing” and interacting with the social communities, “feeling” as concrete experiences can lead to further “thinking”.  In this manner, social media applications seem to fulfill all aspects of Kolb’s learning styles.


McLeod, S. A. (2010). Kolb's Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle. Retrieved from 

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Doctoral student in Adult and Online Learning; IT Director; Director of Distance Learning and Educational Technology.

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