Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructivism in Practice

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; 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

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Constructionism, Learning by Design and Project Based Learning. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Judy:

    I believe that students are engaged, motivated, and put forth the most effort when teachers implement constructionism. I was not aware that I was incorporating this type of learning in my classroom until this week. I enjoy having the students research a topic that they feel strongly about and then teaching the class about it. I also enjoy letting the students use technology as much as possible because they are more productive. I usually have the students create PowerPoint’s to present their information; however, I believe that I will start allowing them to chose from other types of technology such as, PowerPoint’s, wiki sites, and blogs.

    I am really glad to see that you allow your thir graders to use technology to create things as well. The earlier they begin the better they will be!


  2. I like learning experiences where I am the facilitator and the students collaborate to build an artifact. This ultimately places more responsibility on their shoulders than what is seen in traditional classrooms, and it gives them a greater sense of ownership over what they create. These types of learning environments also provide many opportunities for the students to experience disequilibration, which can only be resolved through accommodation or assimilation of the information (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). These experiences are harder to come by in a traditional classroom setting where the students are listening to the teachers lecture. When I taught 7th grade science, I tried to provide many opportunities for my students to show they have learned through creating a final product. Sometimes the students created PowerPoints, or videos, and sometimes they created their own experiments from scratch. These types of activities always lead to deeper learning through the process of creation.

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

  3. Christopher-
    I agree students like to take ownership for projects. They really like to complete projects using some form of technology. The biggest problem I face is I teach third graders and usually the only experience they have, if any is with navigating game web sites and typing in Word software. I have to first teach them how to navigate web sites for research and to check validity and how to use Power Point, wiki and blog sites. They enjoy what we do get accomplished in the class but I do not get to do as much as I would like because I have to spend a lot of time teaching it. I also like to use e-mail with them. They see a lot of adults using it and makes them feel "grown" when they get to talk to their teacher via e-mail!

  4. Heather-

    Thank you for the compliment. I try to use as much technology as I can in the classroom. I find the students not only are more attentive but they also enjoy it. I agree the earlier we start teaching students the right way to use technology the better prepared the students will be for the twenty first century workforce. I have used Power Point for several years now but have ventured out into other areas the past year. I even like to use e-mail with my students. Last year I would post an assignment on the class web site. Once students completed it they had to send it to me as an attachment. I then sent their grade and comments as a response. They loved it! They used e-mail on their own afterward to send me letters throughout the rest of the year.