Reflection by Aleta May
For EDET 677 Mechanical Applications of Technology
This week I read a lot about a topic that truly intrigues me, constructivism. It only makes sense that constructionism can (and often should) be a major part of learning both from a person’s own context and experientially. One way I look at constructionism is to bring the students into the context. Sometimes students cannot be in the situation, such as in a historical moment. Yet, they can derive meaning by looking up the way people dressed to actually make clothing that is similar, they can look up the types of food they ate at a certain time and place to create an authentic meal set within the rules of etiquette at that time. This is what creating plays has always been about. Now we can use technology to create movies while importing an image to depict an era, or a snapshot in time, to use as a backdrop. Constructionism is creating. We have culture week at our school where students revisit the old ways of making, dancing, or being. For example, I helped supervise a group who used wire mesh to replicate hand made Blackfish traps that used to be made from branches. Some branches were included. The students helped each other and enjoyed learning from each other. It was interesting to watch the process as some students stayed on to finish the projects while others came in to start. This is an example of how students can weave in and out of ongoing projects as they self pace and move on to another room to complete another task. So constructivism is an umbrella way of teaching and learning that shelters specific ways to accomplish an adaptive learning style that challenges students. Constructionism is a way to see how things work by putting one’s hands on something, whether it be metal materials or computer replications.
The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program seeks to interrelate subject areas, constructivism. Constructionism is the actual trying it out before learning the theory behind the concept. Students discover, apply the concept, and solve problems together by communicating with each other, their teachers and others in the area of study, they are pursuing; such as, a gardener for how and why to plant certain plants side by side.
Below are comments I made to my peers after reading their posts. One post included a Ted Talks video clip that helped me to visualize teaching in a constructionism and constructivist manner. Reading and responding to each others’ blogs and responding to them is an example of learning deeply about the essential question.
Your blog post is inspiring!
Constructionism connected with technology is very powerful! I like the idea of a big open room and students working on projects as a project. It also seems important to have stations set up where students may research independently or in a small group with a computer. Students could have a station set up to write, draw, and sometimes translate this to graphs or mind maps online. Skyping with people at a computer set up for interviewing a local gardener, for example, would help structure the curriculum design to meet standards.
How students learn definitely should drive decision-making! It sounds so simple, and makes sense—I wonder how we got off track so far in traditional schooling? Even proponents of back to basics would see the value in applying what students learn to the world around them.
What a perfect point—designing lessons that contradicts students’ current mindset is truly teaching! I believe this is one place we stepped off the path dramatically when we started simply expecting students to listen quietly, absorb the truth of what we teach, and the only questioning should be in the form of drinking from our wealth of knowledge and not to ask why.
There are times, such as mini-lessons, where we present new concepts; but then let students try out the ideas right away, and make sure it adds to what they already know so they can build on their knowledge. How will they have the confidence to build thinking skills if they cannot relate at all to the concepts being taught? It is like taking 3 to 5 rungs out of the ladder and asking the student(s) to climb to the top of knowing without taking any time to build the ladder steps in between.
The quote by Seymour Papert that you posted led me to reflect back to my own educational experiences as a student, and experiences I have had as I teach students needing remediation; the part about being “less intimidated by our fears of ‘being wrong.’” One area for me personally is in learning to play a musical instrument. My best times were when I was in my room when I was about 12 years old playing the bass guitar to cassette tapes. I could practice scales and then try to apply them to my favorite music. Also, I learned the basics of guitar at a summer music camp and by watching my dad play. I could not get help from him, because missing a note or singing slightly off key meant I was not a natural musician, and therefore had no real business trying to pretend that I was. As I apply this to life as a teacher, I realize that many times (if not most) students simply do not believe they can read or do math, or whatever it is they are struggling with. I believe we have created an atmosphere of “you’ve either got it or you don’t” through traditional education; more so than ever once hands-on construction classes were removed (welding, mechanics, sewing, cooking, art, music, etc.).
I am so impressed that you can fix, modify, build and replace parts! So growing up poor and in rural Alaska is beneficial! I grew up in Alaska, and my parents were at the height of their careers, so my challenges were trying to keep up in math, reading comprehension and impressing my awesome dad with musical skills—he was a guitar player and singer. When I married at 17 years old, poverty and rural Alaska came along—so I learned much about making do. Though I did not fix things the way you did, I learned to sew, mend, cook from scratch with very little, and keep that rusty car as clean as possible.
I think the take away here is that necessity drives constructionism; and often we learn with or from others—constructivism. Our students need space and confidence for both!
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I thought about constructivism when I read the word constructionism as well! Further reading revealed the very strong connection between the two words to me as well. Wow, Gerald, it is so great that you wrote code and created a game! How did you get started doing this?
I watched the Alan Kay video clip you posted on Ted Talks: https://www.ted.com/talks/alan_kay_shares_a_powerful_idea_about_ideas?language=en#t-555545 that was filmed March 2007.
As I watched, I took notes. Thank you for sharing, as this was well worth the 20- minute view! In fact, I need to watch it again.
The world is not as it seems and we see things as we are—it is a waking dream. Powerful ideas sensory, reasoning, perspective (brainlets, additional parts in our brains; powerful ideas); this is not taught in K-12 curriculum. Emergent properties involve thinking about the nonobvious ways of the same things we looked at without considering what it means. We can view a movie clip about what happens inside a cell without understanding that this not just fortuitous rather it is too complex shapes finding each other and being catalyzed (each molecule spins at about 1 million revolutions per second). Simplicity is best when teaching, but without removing what is important about the data.
Students need to understand some principle before learning about sophisticated proofs. Look at what it means first, before looking at the many, many proofs. Make a shape out of a shape (enlarging the shape). The first one took 3 more and the total was 4 and the 3rd one took 5 and the total was 9. It doesn’t matter what the shape is, but the growth law is the same.
I really like how he connected the coding with the car turning at #5 vs. not turning at #0. Then he showed the concept of speed on the computer. Constant acceleration viewed with dots on a bar graph, dropping the ball and filming it to show gravity by then stacking the relative shapes on talk of each other.