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1 Definition

  • Constructionism is constructivist learning theory and theory of instruction.

See also (constructivism)

2 The basics according to Dougiamas

Constructionism asserts that constructivism occurs especially well when the learner is engaged in constructing something for others to see:

"Constructionism shares constructivism's connotation of learning as `building knowledge structures' irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it's a sandcastle or a theory of the universe... If one eschews pipeline models of transmitting knowledge in talking among ourselves as well as in theorizing about classrooms, then one must expect that I will not be able to tell you about my idea of constructionism. Doing so is bound to trivialize it. Instead, I must confine myself to engage you in experiences (including verbal ones) liable to encourage your own personal construction of something in some sense like it. Only in this way will there be something rich enough in your mind to be worth talking about." (Papert, 1990)

In studying constructivism, it has become apparent for Dougiamas that one of the most important processes in developing his knowledge has been by explaining and exploring his ideas in conversation with fellow students. He noticed, on reflection, that a great deal of his own development was fostered by participating in ongoing dialogue and creating "texts" for others to answer back to, whether in conversation or as a class presentation. He feels also that the construction of web sites and computer sofware (Dougiamas, 1999) has a similar effect.

Gergen (1995) explores the use of the metaphor of dialogue to evaluate a number of educational practices. Particularly, he views knowledge as fragments of dialogue, knowledgeable tellings at a given time within an ongoing relationship. This relationship can be between learners, between a learner and a teacher, or between a learner and an environment experienced by the learner. Gergen describes a lecture as a conversation where, because the lecturer has already set the content, the student enters part-way through the dialogue and finds they have no voice within it.

Steier (1995) looks into this dialogue process in more detail. Steier highlights the circularity of reflective thinking in social research, and presents a number of ways mirroring occurs between learners (like two mirrors facing each other) where each reciprocator affects the other. Awareness of such issues can help frame the dialogue used to communicate more effectively.

For your own learning, this single essay is a poor vehicle. Here I am, stringing together words about constructivism in my word processor, and there you are, reading these words using your own cognitive framework, developed via your own unique background and frameworks of language and meaning. I am translating a variety of texts, using them to build an understanding on my own background, then translating my new understandings into building my own text, which you are deconstructing to reconstruct your own understanding. All these translations are introducing unknowns and I can never know if I am reaching you. In attempting to teach through this medium, all I can hope to do is to stimulate a curiosity in you to read further on these subjects, to write about them, to talk to people about them, and to apply them wherever possible in your own situations.

3 Technologies

Most modern (socio)-constructivist or situated designs do have a constructionist component. DSchneider believes that environments that don't, do not deserve the label "constructivism": E.g. the initial author of this article quotes Dougiamas a lot, but his Moodle system - the only LMS I bear to use - is just one of those border cases within which construction and collaboration are encouraged but not very well supported in reality- In particular, collaborative knowledge construction (modern constructionism) is difficult because students can't see each others homework, wikis are extremely local and do not extend outside a class, etc. Fortunately there are several extensions that got towards this direction. Collaborative knowledge construction is definitly the way Moodle has to go if it doesn't want to become yet another Scorm engine.

4 Links

5 References

  • Dougiamas, M. (1999). Moodle - a web application for building quality online courses.
  • Eden Hal, Mike Eisenberg, Gerhard Fischer, and Alexander Repenning (1996). Making Learning a Part of Life. Communications Of The ACM, April 1996/Vol. 39, No. 4 PDF
  • Gergen, K.J. (1995) Social Construction and the Educational Process. In L.P. Steffe & J.Gale (Eds) Constructivism in education (pp 17-39). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Kay, A. (1991). Computers, Networks, and Education. Scientific American, vol. 265, no. 3, pp. 100-107 (Sept. 1991). PDF
  • Papert, S (1991) Preface, In: I. Harel & S. Papert (Eds), Constructionism, Research reports and essays, 1985-1990 (p. 1), Norwood NJ.
  • Papert, S. (2000). What's the big idea: Towards a pedagogy of idea power. IBM Systems Journal, vol. 39, no. 3-4. PDF
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books. Introduction PDF
  • Resnick, M., Kafai, Y., et al. (2003). A Networked, Media-Rich Programming Environment to Enhance Technological Fluency at After-School Centers in Economically-Disadvantaged Communities. Proposal to the National Science Foundation. PDF

Resnick, M. (2004). Thinking Like a Tree (and Other Forms of Ecological Thinking), International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 43-62. PDF

  • Steier, F. (1995) From Universing to Conversing: An Ecological Constructionist Approach to Learning and Multiple Description. In L.P. Steffe & J.Gale (Eds) Constructivism in education (pp 67-84). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.