EDET 677: Reflection Week 1

This week was filled with some insightful moments for me concerning constructionism.

  • The fidgety, pencil-tapping, chair-tipping, hand-banging ‘disruptive’ kid of today would have been the tinkerer of yesterday, building and inventing to keep himself or herself occupied.
  • Making is more than I thought it was. Before this, I simply pictured electronics, but now I see a wide array of things that are made, from woodworking to cooking to sewing. This is a very exciting discovery for me, because I feel that it opens so many more doors for engaging students.
  • I engage in constructionism in my personal life in ways I didn’t know. I purposefully engage in making for enjoyment by quilting and trying complicated recipes. I also engage in making out of necessity when I build bookcases to fit a particular space in our home.

Through Josie’s blog, I was introduced to a school I was unfamiliar with, Chugach Optional in Anchorage, which uses making at the center of its curriculum model. I found the concept very interesting and would love to explore how it compares to a model like Brightworks Academy.

On Catherine’s blog, I wrote, “I like how you said, ‘I think overall it brings an old theory, Constructivism, to the forefront again with technology being its main vessel.’ I want to add to this, because I believe that when this method was being used as a model of education long ago, “modern technology” was also incorporated, but when we look back, we often don’t consider what we see then to be technology because it is such a part of our everyday lives. This topic has really gotten my brain thinking!” Sometimes I fail to think of technology as the things that have changed over time, not just the computers, but Catherine’s post made me think about this in terms of the past and the present.


EDET 677: Week 1: Constructionism

Essential Question: Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not? 


“Many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you have either ‘got it’ or ‘got it wrong.’ But when you program a computer you almost never get it right the first time. Learning to be a master programmer is learning to become highly skilled at isolating and correcting bugs … The question to ask about the program is not whether it is right or wrong, but if it is fixable. If this way of looking at intellectual products were generalized to how the larger culture thinks about knowledge and its acquisition we might all be less intimidated by our fears of ‘being wrong.’”

-Seymour Papert

Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge (Alesandrini and Larson, 2002). Constructionism use skills of old, such as tinkering and building, matched with technology of new, to create a learning experience which is meaningful and relevant to today’s learners. As explained by its inventor, Seymour Papert, “Constructionist learning involves students drawing their own conclusions through creative experimentation and the making of social objects. The constructionist teacher takes on a mediational role rather than adopting an instructional role. Teaching “at” students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way” (Papert and Harel, 1991).

I’ll admit that I am a bit of a tinkerer myself. More often than not, my tinkering and making come from moments of necessity. Growing up poor and subsequently living in rural Alaska have helped provided lots of those opportunities. I usually don’t jump into these situation with full abandon, but after some hesitation I have been known to tear down and rebuilt vacuums, replace toilets, rewire light fixtures, replace fuel pumps, change out a radiator, replace a breaker box, refinish a hardwood floor, modify cabinetry, and build bookcases.

I wish I could say I learned these skills while in school. Most I either learned from my dad, a master tinkerer if there ever was one, or on my own. But what I wouldn’t have given to have been allowed the freedom to explore through tinkering and making, alongside reading and writing and math. I remember vividly the day two boys in my fourth grade class tested out the principles of electricity while our teacher read his newspaper at his desk. With two wires, an electrical outlet, and a ball of clay, those boys learned that electricity can be painful and also make clay explode. They, too, could have benefited from a great Makerspace in the classroom!

While I don’t necessarily believe constructionism brings anything new to the theory of education, I do believe that it can bring back vital parts of the system which are missing. Those parts are the ones which make learning make sense for so many students. They are the parts which bring the facts, concepts, and ideas of standards and give them a place to rest, a real connection to student lives. When soldering, prototyping, programming, and inventing return to the lives of children, remarkable projects result (Martinez and Stager, 2013).

Alesandrini, K. & Larson, L. (2002). Teachers bridge to constructivism. The Clearing House, 119-121.

Martinez, Sylvia Libow & Gary Stager. (2013) Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance,CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press

Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). Situating Constructionism. Constructionism, Ablex Publishing Corporation: 193-206. Retrieved fromhttp://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html