I had not heard of the word Constructionism until I read the prompt for this class. I read the first two chapters in our suggested reading book and researched the word and Seymour Papert online. This is what I have learned:
According to Edith Ackermann article, “Piaget’s constructivism offers a window into what children are interested in, and able to achieve, at different stages of their development. The theory describes how children’s ways of doing and thinking evolve over time, and under which circumstance children are more likely to let go of—or hold onto— their currently held views. Piaget suggests that children have very good reasons not to abandon their worldviews just because someone else, be it an expert, tells them they’re wrong. Papert’s constructionism, in contrast, focuses more on the art of learning, or ‘learning to learn’, and on the significance of making things in learning. Papert is interested in how learners engage in a conversation with [their own or other people’s] artifacts, and how these conversations boost self-directed learning, and ultimately facilitate the construction of new knowledge. He stresses the importance of tools, media, and context in human development.” This to me, sounds like place-based learning with a twist. Constructionism is the student wanting to learn more about “X” and guides their learning to learn about “X”.
Before the United States switched to high stakes testing of students, I would say that more hands-on learning and the “wanting to learning” happened in the classrooms. Once No Child Left Behind came into effect the way in which subjects were taught switched to traditional teaching and no more hands-on. Teachers had to teach to the test. Now with the maker movement pushing its way back into the classroom, I believe that we will see more inventing, more constructionism, happening in schools. “This is much more than “hands-on “ learning. The “meaningful” part of constructionism is not just touchy-feely new age language. It acknowledges that the power of making something comes from a question or impulse that the learner has, and is not imposed from the outside.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013)
The Inupiat communities on the North Slope of Alaska are facing a big problem with global warming and the lack of sea ice. It is affecting our way of life with the spring hunt of the bowhead whale. The use of drones with cameras has helped the scientist see what is happening from the safety of land. I would love to see our students working closely with whaling captains and crews to come up with questions and the willingness to learn. How do we save our tradition, our food, our way of life?
What would constructionist learning lab look like and how do we get started? Papert gives Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab (1999) and they are:
- Learning by doing
- Technology as building material
- Hard fun
- Learning to learn
- Taking time – the proper time for the job
- You can’t get it right without getting it wrong
- Do unto ourselves what we do unto our students
- We are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing.
I believe that if these big ideas were to be adopted by school boards and brought into the schools, we would see a shift in education. We would see a shift in dropout rates decreasing and engagement in education increasing. The students today are digital students but they use it for non-educational purposes (gaming and you-tube). So yes, I believe Constructionism can bring new ideas to the table as a theory of education.
Ackermann, Edith. Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference?. Retrieved May 18, 2019 from https://learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf.
Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.
Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). Constructionism. Ablex Publishing Corporation. Retrieved May 18, 2019 from http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html.
Stager, Gary. (2007). An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center. Retrieved May 18, 2019 from http://stager.org/articles/8bigideas.pdf.