Thursday, May 22, 2008

tidying up the constructionist suitcase

Constructionism has become a suitcase word. If we are to continue using the word we need to tidy up the suitcase because different sorts of garbage have crept in.

So, what is in the suitcase, what should stay in and what should be taken out?

Take out:
  • religious aura or grandiosity, it's the answer to all our problems regarding learning
  • fuzzy goodness, it's similar to other good things like freedom
  • superiority by assertion, it's better than all other learning theories
  • stand alone definition - definition is only one narrow and fragile pathway to knowing
  • technocentrism - something that will just happen by sending out OLPCs to children, it is somehow embedded in the hardware and software of the machine
  • straw man opponents - all School is "Prussian" or some other derogatory term

Keep in:
  • learning by the process of designing things (design, make, appraise)
  • objects that are good to think with (eg. logo, LEGO, OLPC, Scratch, etoys)
  • deep structural learning, knowing the "fundamentals" (not quite the right word) not just knowing how to get the "correct answer"
  • rich concept development, knowing a thing in multiple ways, not just one way
  • personal appropriation, aka as love, where the separation between cognitive and emotional (affect) becomes hard to maintain
  • setting up whole new learning environments (total learning environment) - changing lots of things to achieve synergistic learning effects, not just one thing - this includes creating "context(s) where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity" (Papert/Harel)
  • meta cognition (thinking about ones own thinking) and meta conceptual development (thinking about ones own knowledge and understanding of concepts)
  • an honest children's version of a powerful idea, based on the non universals
Rough notes - thought arising partly from some recent discussion at list

One thought is that the suitcase still looks rather full

Reference: Software Design as a Learning Environment, Idit Harel and Seymour Papert. MIT. January 1990

These are the guys who initially made this suitcase (Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert):

updates: I'm adding some updates to the original, in italics


Tony Forster said...

also "this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity"

(which could be the old fashioned school play or concert)

Bill Kerr said...

thanks tony,

that could one part of the changed environment, eg. in the case of ISDP creating a fractions problem to give to other students to solve was a public entity of sorts - producing a product for a real audience

one issue here is quality control - much of the blogosphere, for example, is low level, the balance b/w writing, reading and reflection has been skewed toward writing because it is now so easy to write publicly - it's great that our students can write publicly but the real issue is how can we create environments to improve the quality of that writing - Konrad Glogowski is one blogger who systematically addresses this question

how to evaluate the public entity criteria against the other criteria of deep structural learning, in the age of Big Brother, the attention seeking economy and shoddy claims that the digital natives have altered brain structures?

Bill Kerr said...

I'm adding some updates to the original post, in italics