Constructionist learning theory explains that the learning process begins when a person experiences disequilibration, or an incident that does not match the person’s existing knowledge, or schema (Laureate Education, 2015). The learner then either assimilates the new information into their current schema or accommodates the new information by creating a wholly unique place for it within their knowledge base (Laureate Education, 2015).
In order for a teacher to promote constructionism in the classroom, she must first provide a learning situation complex enough that students will experience disequilibration (Laureate Education, 2015). Such lessons are learner-centered and revolve around real-world questions or problems that don’t have a definitive answer (Orey, 2001). The open-ended nature of these lessons creates the intricacy necessary to cause disequilibration. Additionally, successful constructionist lessons require students to create a product during which assimilation and accommodation occur (Laureate Education, 2015). Because learners understand that their product is meant to be shared with others, they remain engaged and motivated as they keep in mind the genuine audience that will view their work (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2015).
Social media platforms have become one way for students to share their creations (Greenhow & Lewin, 2015). Like other technology tools, Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk provide learners with an audience beyond the classroom and more feedback than one class alone. Within the classroom, students can use slide-generating software like Power Point or Google Slides to easily construct the artifacts necessitated by the constructionist approach (Laureate Education, 2015). Teachers can utilize web-based tools such as web quests or design their own problem-based lessons in order to provide the disequilibrium and subsequent resources required to facilitate these constructionist lessons (Orey, 2001).
In my fifth grade classroom each year, students create Power Point presentations on an ancient civilization of the Americas. To prepare them for the Internet searches that they must do, they first learn how to evaluate reliable sources, an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) (2007) standard for students. As a teacher, I apply an ISTE (2016) teacher standard when I design such lessons and use the products as summative assessments of students’ learning. In the future, I can make the lesson more constructionist by having students use Google Slides instead, allowing them to make their work public and open it up to comments. This would empower students to use feedback to make their work even better, another ISTE (2007) student standard.
As I plan my upcoming Module 7 Genius Hour lesson, I see that allowing students to use a social media platform to share or gather ideas may help them engage and even promote wanted disequilibrium but can also lead them to off-task behavior (Greenhow & Lewin, 2015). To avoid the possible negatives, I plan to have students post their reflections within our Google Classroom platform. Although this limits commenters to their peer group, it will provide an age-appropriate public space for them to share their thoughts. One resource that I tweeted out this week, Lego Education, has lead me to consider bringing Lego bricks into my classroom so that students who prefer more kinesthetic or concrete ways of learning can possibly construct models of their Genius Hour ideas (The Lego Group, 2017). These resources not only are applicable in constructionist scenarios, but also allow for differentiation within the lesson.
Greenhow, C., & Lewin, C. (2016). Social media and education: Reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 41(1), 6- 30. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1064954
International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards/standards-for-students
International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards/standards-for-teachers
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015e). Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2015). Teaching and learning with technology, Enhanced Pearson eText (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Main_Page
The Lego Group. (2017). Engaging learning experiences in elementary. Retrieved from https://education.lego.com/en-us/elementary/explore