Technology-Mediated Collaborative Learning: The Bridge21 Activity Model in Theory and Practice

  • Jake Rowan ByrneEmail author
  • Sharon Kearney
  • Kevin Sullivan


This chapter explores the Bridge21 activity model designed to support the development of an innovative twenty-first-century learning environment in second-level schools. Over the past 10 years, the model has been developed, trialled and tested with over 14,000 students and over 2000 teachers, both in informal and formal educational scenarios. Research conducted at Trinity College Dublin has evaluated and underpinned the development of this learning model.

The Bridge21 learning model is a pragmatic approach to team-based technology-mediated learning. It is designed to leverage current technology and to release students’ potential through a structured move away from individualised, teacher-led learning. Essential elements of the model include technology-mediated, project-based, teamwork and reflection.

This chapter introduces the Bridge21 activity model and provides approaches and techniques to those who wish to design Bridge21 learning experiences. It empowers schools to build on what already works well for teachers and students while creating the space for innovative ideas and alternative approaches to teaching and learning. It presents a shift in focus from the teaching of individual subjects, to the teaching of key competencies and twenty-first-century learning skills.


21C learning 21C skills Teamwork Technology-mediated learning Project-based learning 


  1. Ananiadou, K., & Claro, M. (2009). 21st century skills and competences for new millennium learners in OECD countries (OECD Education Working Papers, No. 41). OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Blatchford, P., Galton, M., Kutnick, P., & Baines, E. (2003). Toward a social pedagogy of classroom group work. International Journal of Educational Research, 39, 153–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bruenig, M. (2005). Turning experiential education and critical pedagogy theory into practice. The Journal of Experimental Education, 28(2), 106–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Byrne, J. R., Fisher, L., & Tangney, B. (2015, October). Empowering teachers to teach CS—Exploring a social constructivist approach for CS CPD, using the Bridge21 model. In Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2015 IEEE (pp. 1–9). IEEE.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, J. R., O’Sullivan, K., & Sullivan, K. (2017). An IoT and wearable technology Hackathon for promoting careers in computer science. IEEE Transactions on Education, 60(1), 50–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chiaburu, D. S. (2005). The effects of instrumentality on the relationship between goal orientation and leader-member exchange. The Journal of Social Psychology, 145, 365–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Conneely, C., Girvan, C., Lawlor, J., & Tangney, B. (2015). An exploratory case study into the adaption of the Bridge21 model for 21st century learning in irish classrooms. In K. Marshall (Ed.), Shaping our future: How the lessons of the past can shape educational transformation (pp. 348–381). Dublin, Ireland: Liffey Press.Google Scholar
  8. Conneely, C., Lawlor, J., & Tangney, B. (2013). Technology, teamwork and 21st century skills in the irish classroom. In K. Marshall (Ed.), Shaping our future: How the lessons of the past can shape educational transformation. Dublin, Ireland: Liffey Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dangel, J., & Guyton, E. (2003, January). Expanding our view of teaching and learning: Applying constructivist theory (s) to teachers’ education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  10. Dede, C. (2007, February). Transforming education for the 21st century: New pedagogies that help all students attain sophisticated learning outcomes. Commissioned by the NCSU Friday Institute.Google Scholar
  11. Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st century skills. In J. Bellanca & R. Brand (Eds.), 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn (Vol. 20, pp. 51–76). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: D. C. Heath and Company.Google Scholar
  13. Donnelly, D., McGarr, O., & O’Reilly, J. (2011). A framework for teachers’ integration of ICT into their classroom practice. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1469–1483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fullan, M., & Langworthy, M. (2013). Towards a new end: New pedagogies for deep learning. Seattle, WA: Collaborative Impact.Google Scholar
  15. Geisinger, K. F. (2016). 21st century skills: What are they and how do we assess them? Applied Measurement in Education, 29(4), 245–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Girvan, C., Conneely, C., & Tangney, B. (2016). Extending experiential learning in teacher professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Griffin, P., Care, E., & McGaw, B. (2012). The changing role of education and schools. In P. Griffin, B. McGaw, & E. Care (Eds.), Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 1–15). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hills, H. (2001). Team-based learning. Farnham, UK: Gower Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  19. Johnston, K., Conneely, C., Murchan, D., & Tangney, B. (2014). Enacting key skills-based curricula in secondary education: Lessons from a technology-mediated, group-based learning initiative. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 24(4), 423–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993, March–April). The discipline of teams. Harvard Business Review, 71, 114–146.Google Scholar
  21. King, A. (1993). From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College Teaching, 41(1, Winter), 30–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kolb, D. A. (1985). Learning styles inventory: Technical manual. Boston: McBer and Company.Google Scholar
  23. Lawlor, J., Conneely, C., Oldham, E., Marshall, K., & Tangney, B. (2018). Bridge21: teamwork, technology and learning. A pragmatic model for effective twenty-first-century team-based learning. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 27(2), 211–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lawlor, J., Marshall, K., & Tangney, B. (2016). Bridge21–exploring the potential to foster intrinsic student motivation through a team-based, technology-mediated learning model. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 25(2), 187–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Michaelsen, L., & Sweet, M. (2008). The essential elements of team-based learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2008(116), 7–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mitra, S., & Quiroga, M. (2012). Children and the internet. A preliminary study in Uruguay. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 15, 123–129.Google Scholar
  27. O’Donovan, D., McCrea, J., Elena Gallagher, S., & Tangney, B. (2016). Living the lockout: The Dublin tenement experience participation design for locals, diaspora, and teenagers through engagement with one of the darkest times in Dublin’s history. Museum International, 68(3–4), 131–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Piaget, J. (1964). The early growth of logic in the child. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd..Google Scholar
  29. Ravitz, J., Hixson, N., English, M., & Mergendoller, J. (2012, April). Using project based learning to teach 21st century skills: Findings from a statewide initiative. In American Educational Research Association Conference (Vol. 16). Toronto, ON: Vancouver.Google Scholar
  30. Rotherham, A. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2010). “21st-century” skills. American Educator, 34, 17.Google Scholar
  31. Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational Technology, 35(5), 31–38.Google Scholar
  32. Silva, E. (2009). Measuring skills for 21st-century learning. The Phi Delta Kappan, 20(9), 630–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spiro, R. J., Coulson, R. L., Feltovich, P. J., & Anderson, D. K. (2004). Cognitive flexibility theory: Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In R. B. Ruddell & N. J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 640–654). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.Google Scholar
  34. Sullivan, K., Kearney, S., O’Kelly, M., & Tangney, B. (2017). Bridge21 – A pragmatic approach to “21st century” teaching & learning. Paper presented at the World Conference on Computers and Education (WCCE), Dublin, Ireland.Google Scholar
  35. Sullivan, K., Marshall, K., & Tangney, B. (2015). Learning circles: A collaborative technology-mediated peer-teaching workshop. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 14, 63–83.Google Scholar
  36. Tangney, B., Oldham, E., Conneely, C., Barrett, S., & Lawlor, J. (2010). Pedagogy and processes for a computer programming outreach workshop—The bridge to college model. IEEE Transactions on Education, 53(1), 53–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. Retrieved from
  38. Voogt, J., & Roblin, N. P. (2012). A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(3), 299–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wang, F., & Hannafin, M. J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wu, S. (2002). Filling the pot or lighting the fire? Cultural variations in conceptions of pedagogy. Teaching in Higher Education, 7, 387–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yelland, N., Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2008). Learning by design: Creating pedagogical frameworks for knowledge building in the twenty-first century. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 36(3), 197–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jake Rowan Byrne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sharon Kearney
    • 1
  • Kevin Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research in IT in Education and School of EducationUniversity of Dublin, Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations