EDET 677 – 2017 (Douglas Waclawski)

Essential Question: Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not? 

In its most basic form, Constructionism is where students explore, experiment and tinker to create their own understanding of the world.  This philosophy assumes that the best type of learning happens when the student figures things out by themselves.  On the face value this seems to make a lot of sense, but it has had problems getting traction in the traditional educational setting.

The hacking community takes Constructionism theory to heart and is one example of how it can work best.  Martinez, in her book, Invent To Learn:  Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom states, “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it,” and the emphasis on learning-by-doing resonates with the Hacker Ethic dating back to MIT a half century ago. Hacking is one area that even today thrives on the Constructionist model.  Hackers try to find weaknesses, how to break into computer programs and networks and see how they can manipulate things.

Does Constructionism bring new ideas to education?  Constructionism has been around for over a hundred years, from  John Dewey to Jean Piaget.  I think the bigger question is how Constructionism can fit within a more traditional learning environment.  We also need to deal with the elephant in the room, which is why hasn’t Constructionism caught on after over 100 years?

To answer the above questions let’s look at the pro and cons of Constructionism from Wendppp from her article “Constructivist Learning Theory: Pros 7 Cons”.

Wendyppp’s lists the following as pros for Constructionism:

  1. It focuses on sensory input
  2. It works well with special needs students
  3. It encourages students to challenge ideas
  4. Students are actively involved in their learning
  5. Activities are interactive and student centered
  6. What students already know is the starting point
  7. It personalizes what is learned for each student

Wendyppp’s list of cons for Constructionism are as follows:

  1. Lack of structure (Can be a problem for many students)
  2. No standardized curriculum
  3. Personalizes what is learned for each student
  4. It is difficult to assess
  5. It is challenging to determine what is learned and if students are struggling
  6. Students may struggle if they don’t have skills to deal with abstract ideas and relationships

I feel Constructionism does have a lot to offer to education today.  The key is carefully choosing where it will work best in a traditional setting and in finding ways to transform existing schools.  Constructionism is not very efficient with 30 students and in all subjects.  There still is a base of knowledge that that the traditional setting is better at imparting.  I do think that we should integrate a Constructionist model whereever possible.  There is no doubt that that tinkering, inventing and exploring are powerful learning experiences, but it is not a magic bullet to education by itself.

Resources

CEY, T. (2001).  Moving towards constructivist classrooms. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Retrieved on 5-17-17 at 8:50 pm at http://etad.usask.ca/802papers/ceyt/ceyt.pdf.

Martinez, S. L. Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (Kindle Locations 400-402). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

Wendyppp. (2012). Constructivist learning theory: Pros & cons. Bright hub education.  Retrieved on 5-17-17 at 9:01 pm at http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/76645-pros-and-cons-of-constructivist-learning-theory/

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