[IAEP] Path to Constructionism (was Re: Its.an.education.project Digest, Vol 4, Issue 8)

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Tue Jul 8 00:21:08 CEST 2008

Thank you for these clarifications. I prefer not to object to
objections that I don't understand.

On Mon, Jul 7, 2008 at 2:47 PM, Carol Lerche <cafl at msbit.com> wrote:
> Edward,
> Your mail said:
>> aspects of constructionist learning can be introduced early but for it to
>> flourish takes:
>> (a) time, quite a lot of (note alan's 3 year trial period)
> That is not the time required to introduce teachers to the concepts
> and basic methods. That is the time to design and refine new lesson
> plans, including field testing.
>> (b) expertise in software being used
> Much can be done with only moderate knowledge. Particularly if someone
> else programs the framework or the simulation needed.
>> (c) knowledge of taking classes through the stages mentioned above
>> (d) culture that accepts innovative approaches
> Field research contradicts these claims, showing rapid improvements in
> early weeks and months in the most conservative and hidebound
> education systems, as reported in Ethiopia.
> I understood from this that you were saying Ethiopia showed rapid
> improvement in early weeks and months toward introducing constructionism.

Indeed they did, but only at the most basic level. I make no claim
that they did anything on the level of the lessons that we are trying
to discuss here, such as exploring Galilean physics in Etoys and

> If that is what readers understand from your mail, I don't believe that is
> accurate.  I also don't think it is productive to minimize the work and time
> needed to introduce these methods to cultures that have a radically
> different education system from ours.

I don't think I am minimizing anything. I'm talking about getting
started, with the idea that we have to do that before we can talk
about finishing anything.

> Also, to the extent that you believe that western educational systems are
> welcoming to constructivist or constructionist approaches, that has not been
> my experience.

My estimate of how welcoming western educational systems are to
Constructionism: 0 at most.

I have seen what happened to Smalltalk, Logo, Bruner's proposed
reforms, New Math, John Holt's Unschooling, and many other
initiatives. I am aware of objections to genuine education on the part
of the Christian Right and other authoritarian forces in American
society, who would basically like to go all the way back to the
Prussian/Calvinist model of blind obedience and mindless patriotism.

However, there are a few exceptions, as in Emilia in Italy.

> In my children's case we had to participate in founding a
> charter school to provide an environment where these ideas were welcome.

I helped physically construct the elementary school where I sent my
children, and later homeschooled them until they qualified to take
junior college courses. Our local college at that time was about at
the level of the high school I attended.

> Right now "directed instruction" is highly touted in the U.S., especially in
> schools serving low income and at risk populations.  And there are a lot of
> peer reviewed academic studies backing up the use of this style, possibly
> because its outcomes are friendly to being measured by standardized tests
> with automated scoring, but also because some of what kids are in school to
> learn requires acquisition of a body of facts.

I have written in several places that you can't get the right answers
if you don't ask the right questions, and applied that idea in detail
to comparisons of XOs and Sugar with other computers, and to
conventional education.

> Carol Lerche

I hope that it is clear now that we are on the same side. I am calling
for organizing a research program into Constructionist education, and
publishing the results under the title Lesson Plans in order to bring
in teachers who know no better and give them the experience of success
in teaching via collaborative discovery. Alan Kay points out that it
takes three years to develop individual plans for single topics, and I
agree. That means that we need lots more people doing it and sharing
the results.

We also need to examine and rebuild complete curricula based on our
entirely new understanding of children and of knowledge,
understanding, and mastery. We must also write textbooks of a
completely new and different kind. I'm working on one, which I hope
will make my ideas clearer. Lots to do. Decades, even centuries of
work. So we need to get to it as soon as possible.
Edward Cherlin
End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

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