EDET 677 Do you believe Constructionism brings any new ideas to the table as a theory of education? Why or Why not?

Mechanical Applications of Technology EDET 677

Aleta May

May 21, 2016

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

Constructionism definitely brings old ideas back into the schools in an age that has more opportunity than ever to bridge technology to making and creating for real purposes.

 Constructive technology has received its heritage from tinkering! It is constructionism versus instructionism; and the framework of making, creating, is built upon an interdisciplinary point of view (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, 2013).

Instructionism has the teacher imparting knowledge to students with little consideration for how one subject (discipline) is related to another. The students are receivers of knowledge in this theory of teaching. What is often not considered is that the learner has an internal set of schemata (preformed ways of understanding based on what they already know from prior experiences). In the theory of constructivism, therefore, the teacher facilitates learning, because, “knowledge does not result from the receipt of information transmitted by someone else without the learner undergoing an internal process of sense making” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 13).

As far back as Jean Piaget (1896-1980), he reminded teachers to ground teaching in action, not rote memorization; and to begin “with real and material action” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14); and Piaget’s collegue, Seymour Papert, would later frame the educational establishment’s favoring of the former approach over the latter as a battle between instructionism and constructionism” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14).

John Dewey (1859-1952) promoted the interdisciplinary learning based in authentic projects; thus preparing children to observe, problem solve and create methodical procedures for expressing their reasoning. Dewey was concerned with viewing the process of learning from the point of view that children are more than intellectual beings! They are social, emotional, and physical. Modern making can be expressed in the words of John Dewey: “First, that the problem grows out of the conditions of the experience being had in the present, . . . the new facts and new ideas thus obtained become the ground for further experiences in which new problems are presented. The process is a continuous spiral” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 14).

Is today’s maker movement based on such theories? In my view, yes! We have so much constructive technology available to us now. We can socially communicate our understanding and build our knowledge just from discussing our reasoning, ideas, and thoughts by way of hands-on technology. Considering this list alone, children and adults alike can communicate to create by using “3D printers, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computers, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and new programming languages” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, article, p. 13). Both formally and informally, any person can use sharing tools and find ideas with instructions online.

Born in 1928, in South Africa, Seymour Papert may inadvertently be the originator of the modern day term, metacognition. He was an advocate of “coercion-free learning environments that inspire children to construct powerful ideas through firsthand experience” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 18). As he grew up, he started by tinkering with automobile gears; which in turn led him to think about thinking in his tinkering experiences—metacognition. Years later, Papert began to wonder out loud why schools took a tool with such potential, the computer, and simply transferred rote learning to the computer; without realizing the potential of creating! In fact, in 1971, Seymour Papert wrote a paper entitled Twenty Things to Do with a Computer (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book, p. 19). With Papert’s theory as a basis, constructionism, is a learning stance that says we need to teach students to construct and share real artifacts.

Having graduating in the area of Home Economics / Social Services, I completely appreciate this comment: “Some of the time-honored practices that were common in classrooms a generation ago—art, music, drama, woodshop, sewing, cooking, playing with and using real tools and craft materials—nee to return to the daily experience of children trapped in schools with no time for anything but test prep” (p. 14). There is so much to learn that fits the paradigms of integrating content areas and hands-on learning. Fast forwarding to current day, there is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focus; however “STEM is still mostly science and mathematics, taught separately with little or no attention to technology and engineering” (Asunda & Mativo, 2016). So far, in the school district where I teach, the STEM program is located in Bethel. It appears to me, from the vantage point of our school, the math teacher has the most say in who “qualifies” to attend the semester long training, as there are limited spots to fill. I believe that a better way would be to develop project-based learning at the local level, which deals with solving local community issues while rotating groups of students to use the more expensive advanced resources in Bethel. Ideally, the units would be pre-planned with a vision for what the emphasis would be when they go to Bethel for a week or two at a time.

The purpose of project-based learning, that includes constructionism as well as constructivism, is to develop learning within the context. In one way, this is not new thinking. As the chapter opens up on page 11, it states: “Making things and then making those things better is at the core of humanity” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, book). The difference now can be that with the computer age and multi-devices, “New open source microcontrollers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical world to the digital world” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, article, p. 13). We can program computer devices to use as controllers to make connections between the digital and physical worlds. This is an advantage with potential for everyday students to invent, create and apply making things to learning more than ever before. Learning becomes effective because it is goal oriented and situated within an environment that is meaningful to the students. A systems thinking model affords the opportunity for students to benefit from “the merging of the content from two or more disciplines “ (Asunda & Mativo, 2016, p. 10). More and more teachers will be drawn into a systems approach to teaching. Teacher planning will need to be mapped out as a team so that they can share expertise with each other. Students benefit when they are able to connect learning across contents, through hands-on projects, comprehend and retain what they learn. An example of integrated STEM process that integrates STEM programs begins with reflection to form the problem’s context; research to gather relevant information; discovery to help students determine what they need to know and how to break into small groups to solve the problem; application may be a stage for testing a model solution; and communication is where students learn to give and receive constructive feedback from each other and the expanded community (Laboy-Rush, extracted on 5-21-16).  Here is a link that gives a brief overview of how digital arts can be incorporated into a STEM Camp:

This STEM camp includes arduino microprocessors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wbU8bxP_yo

The simple design of the swing can be used to teach students “mathematical Pythagorean theorem to figure out swing position; using science in selection and use of energy equations; and using engineering and technology to determine loads applied to the A-frames and sketch the concept” (Asunda & Mativo, 2016, p. 12). What a project to design and make at the high school level for elementary schools!

Contructionism, in my opinion, is a reaction and response to the last several years of teaching subjects primarily in a non-integrated way, removing arts, welding, construction, mechanics, etc. in favor of a back to the basics of reading, writing and math—with science and social studies on the side. The current STEM movement is a method that integrates subject areas into meaningful projects. This maker / creator movement also implements authentic assessment; definitely a reaction to over testing in way too many separated areas. Assessment alone is another topic.


Asunda, P. A. & Mativo, J. (2016). Integrated stem: A new primer for teaching technology education. Technology and Engineering Teacher.

Laboy-Rush, Diana (extracted 2016, 21 May) from http://www.rondout.k12.ny.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_719363/File/12-13/STEM/STEM-White-Paper%20101207%20final%5B1%5D.pdf

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. S. (2014). The maker movement: A learning revolution. Learning & Leading with Technology.

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. S. (2013). Invent to learn: Makers in the classroom. Education Digest, 79(4), pp. 11-15.

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. S., Ph.D. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

“Summer STEM Camp 2016 at The Digital Arts Experience in Westchester, NY” and include arduino microprocessors: extracted on May 21, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wbU8bxP_yo .

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