Friday, January 28, 2011

A concept map on Constructionism

“The really interesting problems in education are hard to study. They are long term and too complex for the laboratory, and too diverse and non-linear for the comparative method. They require longitudinal study of individuals” (Hawkins, 1973, p. 135, Quote in Streefland, 1991) [italics added] What Hawkins called the “really interesting problems in education” are the ones that focus not only on the product, the outcome of the learning, but also on the processes that describe the different paths taken, extended, or abandoned by the learner (in Kafai, 1995, p.37).

I am starting my blog with the above quote because I think it captures the meaning and purposes of Constructionism, as reflected on my concept map. Considering the child to be the builder, the construction process a student goes through opens new ways of learning and of communicating with the computer, as those interactions afford powerful ideas to emerge and develop. Positioning the child as the builder, Papert created LOGO (Papert, 1993), a tool that enables students to create their own products by being able to programming the computer, instead of the computer programming them. As he stated, it is "possible to create computers so that the process of communicating with them is natural. Also, learning to communicate with the computer might change the ways other kinds of learning occur" (Papert, p.6).

On my concept map, I have, of course "Constructionism" at the center and then Papert and Kafai, that are tightly connected with the term and with learning in new media. Papert talked about mathophobia (fear for learning math) and explained that LOGO could afford new ways of learning math. Gong through the construction process, students are able to view the results of their programming. At the time this book was written, LOGO was a radical means of learning, that would open new doors towards learning and interacting with the computer (as we see nowadays). Those powerful ideas could be further developed and bring to the surface new ones.

At the end of the production process, there is an artifact, a constructed product. Kafai (1995) describes "Minds in Play", a game design project that constituted a pedagogical intervention. Time, diversity, integration, and choice were some of the characteristics of the multifaceted and rich learning environment. Through a rich description of what students were doing, new approaches were revealed to teaching and learning in schools.

Constructionism describes one view of how people learn, as Kafai and Papert describe. From my own experiences I can see how constructionism can explain many of the projects I work on. Even for the online class that I am teaching through a computer game, I can see how constructionism applies; my students participate online, collaborate and interact with their peers and the environment and they work towards specific goals that are achieved through the artifacts they produce.