According to Dr. Orey (Laureate Education Inc., 2011) constructionism is a learning theory where students learn by creating an artifact as they go through the learning process. Students are building their knowledge as they progress through planned learning experiences. During this process the teachers becomes the facilitator and motivator to encourage students to explore and solve real-world problems. Students then become the teacher as they create artifacts that show their learning and can be shared with their peers to increase or enhance their learning. This changes the atmosphere of the old classroom. It has its challenges but also advantages.
During constructionism lessons, students are responsible for gathering information to solve a problem or complete a project. They are expected to generate some form of artifact or finished product to share with the class. There are multiple venues teachers and students can explore to create various types of artifacts that promote constructionist ideas. This week as we studied the strategy “Generating and Testing Hypothesis” we learned two programs students can use to generate their finished product: spreadsheet software and data collection tools.
When students are performing tests on hypotheses they must gather data. Using spreadsheet software is one way to gather and analyze information. Depending on the desired learning, this information can be made readily available or students may be required to gather the information themselves. Students gather their information and plug it in to a spreadsheet template. This can be teacher or student generated, depending on the learning goal. The program will perform the necessary calculations and display the results. Students can then visually see the impact of each stimulus. When students are able to manipulate the data the program becomes interactive (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski, 2007). They can change numbers around to see its effect on the outcome. Regardless of the format used for the process, students are able to create a visual that displays their results. This demonstrates the constructionists’ view for learning.
Students can also use other data collection tools on the computer to generate a display of their results from tested hypotheses. Programs such as Graph Club allow students to place the results from their tests into labeled tables and then the program generates different types of graphs from the data. Students can then print out the table and graph for their artifact. This is the proram many teachers in my school use with science fair projects. However, we have seen that students can generate and test hypothesis in other subject areas.
Social studies is one subject area students are able to create and test hypothesis. Over time stimuli can affect the population on an area. In studying the effect of manufacturing on population, students can create their own theory. Then choosing towns across the country, they can access information about the population of cities before and after new manufacturers have entered the city and compare the results. A data collection tool can be used to create an artifact that displays this effect on populations. This project displays the use of a constructionist idea in social studies that integrates the use of technology.
There are so many technological tools students can use to create artifacts of their learning. Power Point, publisher, and blogs are a few examples. Students can have the freedom to choose a format that fits their personality, once they are taught how to use them. As a third grade teacher I try to use multiple programs for whole group projects so students have the opportunity to see various tools they can use in future presentations to avoid redundancy in the class. Power Point allows students to use text, pictures, video and audio in their presentation. This allows them to format their artifact to fit their learning style. It helps the teacher overcome the challenge of planning class projects that are biased to her preferred learning style (Orey, 2001). Teachers can also use blogs to help students share their learning. One way is to create a class page and have students blog during projects. Students can start their own posts or respond to classmates’ posts. This is a product where they are sharing their knowledge and collaborating while using a technological tool that will prepare them for the modern workforce. Whichever tool teachers choose to use with students they can use web sites to share their data collection; www.globalschoolnet.org is one such site.
Creating a constructionist environment takes time and practice. It requires detailed planning from the teacher and patience in allowing students the time to learn the information on their own. Classrooms become student centered and activities become projects with products for display of the learning that is taking place. Students work on these projects “as” they are learning instead of “after” the learning has taken place. They are building their knowledge through various experiences. The teacher must motivate the students to learn. When they are motivated to learn then achievement will take place.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.
Constructionism, Learning by Design and Project Based Learning. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.