Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Constructionism: An important learning method for the Information Age

We live in the Information Age, so it is important to teach using Information Age methods. Although it's been around a while, constructionism is a great Information Age learning method (Harel & Papert, 1991; Papert, 1993). Constructionism (with an “n”) is a student-centered learning theory that more specifically focuses on the role of technology in the learning process. In constructionism, technologies should not be used to simply present information to students. Instead, technologies should be tools that students use to think, to solve a problem, or to complete a task (Papert, 1993). This post is an excerpt from my textbook, Educational Technology for Teachers, which is now available online as an interactive pdf file and also on the Apple iBooks store. 

In constructionism, students should use technology to help them complete challenging activities that result in the building of an “artifact,” or representation of student knowledge. Constructionist theory further suggests that students should be able to make some of their own choices for learning as they create artifacts that represent their knowledge. Students could decide how to complete a task, how to work together, or what format to use when creating an artifact. Some examples of constructionist artifacts could include the following:
  • A student-created website about the battle for Atlanta during the American Civil War
  • A student-created printed brochure that portrays the health benefits of brushing your teeth
  • A student-created video newscast that outlines the plot of a famous literary work
Note how all of the above examples require students to have knowledge of the subject area in question in order to produce the artifact. Technologies can play a role in all three examples because they provide students with applications to help create the artifact. According to constructionist theory, as students create an artifact like the ones featured above, they also build knowledge structures and learn the subject matter featured in the artifact (Harel & Papert, 1991; Papert, 1993). 
Two summer camp experiences that I have been involved with embody the concept of constructionism. These include Digital Media Camp, held each year in Aberdeen, SD, and GameWerks, held each year in Athens, GA. 

At the heart of constructionism, students create projects that represent their knowledge. Within the requirements of the project, students might make decisions on what steps to take, what resources to use, what format to use, and how to represent knowledge. This approach supports student-centered learning appropriate for the Information Age because it emphasizes student responsibility for learning within student-led projects. 


Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1991). Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books. 

No comments:

Post a Comment