[IAEP] Concise explanation of Constructionism from the LearningTeam

Costello, Rob R Costello.Rob.R at edumail.vic.gov.au
Sat Aug 16 07:06:55 EDT 2008

Bill I agree that its risky to simplify down; and thumbnail definitions
do oversimplify  


But I also think it must be possible/necessary, at some level, to do so


Always having to say 'no, its more subtle or sophisticated than that'
can risk appearing as if there is no definite content or position 


A simple version of any philosophy can be useful for several reasons, -
eg an 'advance organiser' that gives a grid for the general thinking


'we can't give a simple version' seems a bit elusive to me








From: iaep-bounces at lists.sugarlabs.org
[mailto:iaep-bounces at lists.sugarlabs.org] On Behalf Of Bill Kerr
Sent: Saturday, 16 August 2008 4:09 PM
To: seth at laptop.org
Cc: Education; Educators and OLPC; Grassroots OLPC
Subject: Re: [IAEP] Concise explanation of Constructionism from the


On Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 4:15 AM, Seth Woodworth <seth at laptop.org> wrote:

	Inspired by Sameer's recent conversations with a pair of
Montessori Kindergarden teachers.  I went to talk to Cynthia Solomon of
the OLPC Learning team.  We got to talking about the theory of
Activities and a few other topics.  Eventually she showed me this
snippit from the Media Lab's Future of Learning Group:



	We are developing "Constructionism" as a theory of learning and
education. Constructionism is based on two different senses of
"construction." It is grounded in the idea that people learn by actively
constructing new knowledge, rather than having information "poured" into
their heads. Moreover, constructionism asserts that people learn with
particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing
personally meaningful artifacts (such as computer programs, animations,
or robots).



	I thought that this explination was concise and really
interesting.  I would love to explain this to people who want to desige
activities, just to give them a little snapshot of the concept.  Does
anyone have a problem with this deffinition? Does anyone have an



hi Seth,

It could be a mistake to try to summarise a complex idea as a thumbnail.
Cynthia does not do that in her book (Computer Environments for
Children) where she compares 4 different approaches to learning. Her
description there of constructivism is far more nuanced with example of
logo learning and historical and philosophical background. Some of the
concepts included in that chapter are -

*	a definition of mathematics
*	people possess different theories about the world
*	children build their own intellectual structures
*	why would they change their theories?
*	intuition
*	natural learning development
*	the role of computers
*	the role of relationship
*	different ways of looking at maths (constructive and intuitive
compared with rule driven and formal)
*	discussion of turtle geometry
*	other mathematicians who hold similar views - Poincare, Brouwer,
*	value of an anthropomorphic approach
*	etc. (there is much more)

It's tempting to try to develop a thumbnail definition, it appeals to
our sense of tidiness and closure, but with this complex idea it doesn't
seem to work.

While I was writing this Albert's response appeared which adds another
dimension to the discussion -  oversimplification does make an easier
target for critics. Since your definition does not distinguish Papert's
constructionism from open ended discovery learning then it is easy to
criticise in this way.

The 4 models in Cynthia's book are:
Suppes: Drill and Practice and Rote Learning
Davis: Socratic Interactions and Discovery Learning
Dwyer: Eclecticism and Heuristic Learning
Papert: Constructivism and Piagetian Learning

This illustrates the point that distinctions ought to be made between
the latter three, rather than lumping them all into some exploratory


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