Constructionism

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This page was originally authored by Kereen Tatham-Maye (2009)

This page will also be my major wiki entry. Please do not edit it until I have completed my assignment on March 1. 2009. Thank you.


Seymour Papert of MIT


Constructionism is an educational philosophy that is inspired by the constructivist:[1] perspective of learning. It proposes that learning is an active process in which learners construct mental models and theories of the world around them. This theory is based on the principle that meaningful learning occurs when individuals actively construct things in real world. Constructionism was initiated by Seymore Papert:[2] of the MIT Media Lab. According to Papert (1999) “...learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner constructs a meaningful product.” Constructionism is connected with experiential learning:[3] and builds on some of the ideas of Jean Piaget:[4].


Constructionist asserts that learners do not simply get ideas from teachers, but actively create ideas. This is facilitated through students’ involvement in the building of external artifacts that can be reflected on in a collaborative learning environment. Papert also believes that computers would greatly impact learning by allowing students to achieve full formal thinking. Although conctructionism and constructivism support the view that learners must be active builders of knowledge, both can easily be differentiated. The focus of constructivism is on cognitive skills, whereas additional emphasis is on psychomotor skills in constructionism. The design of Moodle:[5] is guided by a constructionist pedagogy.


One advantage of constructionism in classrooms is that it gives students ownership of what they have learnt. Constructionism, also promotes social and communication skills by encouraging learning environments that focus on collaboration and the exchange of ideas. However, there are also disadvantages of constructionism. One major criticism is that constructionism fails to distinguish content from processes.


Overview

Sandcastle building: An analogy of constructionism


In a constructionist learning environment, one can expect to see various student centred strategies in which teachers act as facilitators and not merely transmitters of information. Student learning activities include investigating, creating and solving problems. The setting of learning goals and expectations is at the centre of constructionist planning. Presentation and discussion are popular methods as they allow learners to reflect on their constructed artifact.


Constructionism can be implemented in two forms: Learning by Design (LBD): [6] and Project Based Learning (PBL): [7]. Learning by Design emphasizes learning through creating, programming or participating in other forms of designing. Learners create objects representing meaningful learning outcomes. Project Based Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that engages learners in complex activities over an extended period. The general framework of project based learning entails three phases: planning, creating and processing.



Characteristics of constructionism

Kolb's Learning Cycle: A model for effective learning

Characteristics of effective constructionist learning environments include:

  • Student-centred approaches to instruction
  • Presentation of rubric at the outset to define expectations
  • Exploration of multiple strategies to complete tasks
  • Inquiry/learning discussions
  • Presentation of work
  • Revision and development of project ideas
  • Learner collaboration
  • Learners engagement in authentic real world tasks


Critiques of constructionism

Critics argue that with the great emphasis on the use of computers to teach in constructionist learning environments, social fragmentation may occur as the underprivileged could worsen in social and economic participation. Another popular argument is that not all students can handle the pressures of being critiqued. Critics also draw attention to the potential mental health hazards of computers. They also believe that students will start to think mechanically due to the adoption of computers as models.


Instructional Implication of Constructionism

It is implied that constructionist learniing environments promote higher order thinking skills and process understanding rather that content coverage. A significant part of the application of this theory involves planning and preparation by teachers. Teachers must strive to accommodate learner preferences and ensure students' understanding of the design process.

The open-ended and ill defined nature of constructionist learning tasks presents challenges for student assessment. Although reflection is a critical element in this theory, students are often times not given an opportunity to look back at their creation. Hence, reducing the possibilities of deep understanding.

Constructionism Learning Tools

The following learning environments were developed on the premise of constructionism to promote learning through design and collaboration:

  • Moodle:[8]
  • OLPC XO:[9]
  • LOGO Programming:[10]
  • Robotics Technology in Education (Lego):[11]

Summary

At the heart of constructionism lies the belief that learning occurs in the process of creating a product that can be shared with others. In this environment, learners choose, plan, design and construct artifacts. This allows students to develop ownership of a problem and its solution. The roles of the teacher are to guide and motivate students along their learning paths. The teacher must provide adequate scaffolding experience and feedback for improvement.

The major criticisms are centred around the possibilities of negative impacts of computers in education. These include the effects on learners mental health.

Several current learning environments adopt the constructionist views of instructional designs. LOGO Programming and Moodle are among the list.

See Also

Drama of Constructionism:[12]

Social Constructionism and Critics: [13]

Review of Constructionism: [14]


References

Kolb’s Learning Cycle: [15] Retrieved Image March 1. 2009


Papert, S.A (1999), Mindstorms : Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (2nd edition), Basic Books (Short Disc); ISBN: 0465046746


Sandcastle; [16] Retrieved Image March 1. 2009


Seymour Papert Photo: [17] Retrieved March 1. 2009

External links:

Constructionism: [18]

Constructionism project: [19]

Construction: [20]

Constructionism powerpoint: [21]

Amy Bruckman: [22]