Category Archives: Constructivism

Important learning theory with major implications for ed tech

PYP Key Concept: Form

Young children like to sort. They’ll do it on their own based on myriad
of qualities subjective, objective, and fantastical. When asked to sort for
a functional reason, such as testing and sorting colored markers for color
and how well they work, the activity can go on for hours. Asked to do it
for inquiry and again there seems to be a bottomless well of ideas and
criteria on the activity. Sorting comes intuitively and naturally to most.
We are, on the whole, naturally observant of form.

The fun goes deeper when subtle differences are seen and leading questions
go to why and what for. The shared learned vocabulary is deep as well –
each participant shares and brings in new words and concepts in verbalizing
the similarities, differences, and patterns they see. Qualities are
discussed; preferences announced, sides taken and opinions and fact
delineated upon its form.

Patterns seen in similar objects, or those which repeat in one, are grist
for the inquiring mind. Do the patterns match the algorithm definitively or
on occasion? Have we seen this pattern anywhere else? Can you create this
pattern using numbers? Does the pattern help it to survive?

Some forms are so obsequious to their use we hardly give it a second
thought and other forms are a mystery to their purpose. The latter can
perhaps lead to more immediate interest, but the close observation of
something which so wonderfully combines form and function can lead to great
explorations as well.

I use the key concept of form on my own investigations, frequently when I
work with children, and it’s difficult to avoid across all disciplines.

503 Words on the Transformation of an Educational Technologist

If you asked me last year what kind of an educator I was, what learning theory I subscribed most closely to, how you and I were going to frame our lessons together, I would have answered easily: “I am a Constructivist.” Ask me the question again today and I wouldn’t be so definite in my answer. I would ask back, “What’s our learning objective, what are we teaching, who are we teaching, and how will we know that we’ve been successful?” Somewhere, very likely, within that reflection we would offer our learners a chance to “mess about” and to come up with or reinvent their own solutions or rediscover well-trodden territories that they now call their own. We would allow for a wholly constructivist approach to our tasks, but we would, along the way, be using aspects of Behaviorism, Instructionalism, and Cognitivism to reach and reflect upon our objectives.

Within educational technology I looked at behavioristic methods critically, but I was using poor criteria. I had become over-sensitive to what I automatically believed were the less attractive aspects of learning applications – the fireworks, the badges, the “bells and whistles,” trying to ignore the clear fact that the students enjoyed them and had purpose. I saw it as a weakness in the program. Now I’m not so quick to judge. Yes, there are ways to incorporate behaviorism with more finesse, but now I am looking at the content and pedagogy more closely to determine whether the technology is appropriate for the objectives at hand. Previously, having been a strict constructivist, I would have looked at instructivists too critically, but now with an educational technologist’s view I see many good resources that are essentially well crafted lecture. This year I take on the mind-set of a cognitivist to frame my reaction toward my students’ thinking more than I did – to think more deeply about individuation, load, and style.

Within all of this rearranging and incorporation of new ways of approaching learning, teaching, and technology, I learned something new despite the fact that it surrounded me at every turn – Connectivism. Thinking about education and technology as a connectivist redefined and transformed me as an educational technologist. Thinking in this way helped me to see how enormous applications such as Google’s G-Suite for Education allows community to connect in the smallest way to the broadest. That smaller applications, such as Front Porch Forum, connects community together at a local level in small and broad ways as well, and how it’s possible to connect people with seemingly disparate culture and country, who share a common interest, using translation, email, video, and ways not yet invented, to connect with meaning.

And of course, as with most good learning, I understand how little I do know – which is both humbling and exciting, and makes me both hopeful and anxious as to how I will find my way to further my career helping others to find their own way through this vital aspect of teaching and learning.

Logo Programming / Constructivism

Using Logo Programming with Constructivism in mind:

Coincidentally, I’ve been using Logo, among other computer science related applications, with a small group of students for a consultancy I’m doing for Hilltop Montessori in Brattleboro. We use “papert―logo in your browser and a good cheat sheet I found for the kids to get started.

In my learning I had a hard time visualizing angles. The first times I tried to make triangles I fell too far back onto my knowledge of the angles of a triangle and my attempts failed. I was only turning 60° after moving forward – it took me a while to see that I had to turn around the outside of the angle 120° and not 60° in. My students felt much more comfortable being ‘wrong’ then I did.


Hilltop Montessori student remixing a Logo program

On two occasions we went outside to make a square and a triangle as imaginary turtles:

We had a lot of dialogue during this exercise. I did my best to ask questions that led them from one place to another with their own thinking in place. What I noticed most clearly from this exercise was that the students who were in some disequilibrium on the screen before going out on the field could make more sense of their task when they returned.

I learned so much about Logo from watching the students. I was familiar with the repeat command, but one student hammered it home for me with her use of repeating repeat commands:

Questions like, “What are you going to do next?, “How can you find out?”, “Was that what you wanted to have happen?”, and my command to show their work to their partner was way more informative for the student than me trying show what I knew…

Mindstorms: Computers, Children, and Powerful Ideas

In my “Creating with Code” class I’m taking at the Marlboro College Graduate Center we have, appropriately, been studying Seymour Papert’s constructionism based on Piaget’s work in constructivist theory.


I will be revisiting meaning-making throughout this course and every course I take (and teach) while receiving my #42 endorsement and reinstatement of my teaching license.