In my Researching Current Issues Class, we had to work in groups to write a proposal for a sixth grade teacher who wanted to integrate constructionist theories and technology. There were three of us in my group. The members were assigned. Our instructions: “propose two (2) ways that should could make good use of the technologies she [Janice, the teacher] has available in a constructivist way. Each proposal should describe what Janice should do (preparation, class activities, etc.), what the students will be doing, what you would expect students to get out of it, and the technologies used. Details are vital. For each proposed use of technology, explain why and how it fits the constructivist paradigm.”
Basically one of the group members, Bill (alias), had an idea about using a video camera to have student work in groups and research, write, and produce a 4 minute video to create interest in and awareness of a social issue that is important to the sixth graders. Good idea. Everyone agreed and Bill wrote out the proposal, etc.
I had been reading about blogs in the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom so my suggestion for the second proposal was for the teacher to utilize a BLOG in her class. My proposal stated that “the students may write about whatever interests them as long as it can be used under the categories in the BLOG. The categories are science, geography, health and fitness, math, social science, literature, language arts, and mathematics. Each student must make at least one post and two comments once a week. A post has minimum word count of 200 words. The students may use the available video camera to link video, audio, photos—anything as long as it relates to the content the class is studying (the word count may be removed in video instances).
The other two members didn’t care much for that idea unless there were a BUNCH of restrictions attached. (Quote “we need to incorporate some specific activities and expectations. For example, for each blog stating their opinions and research on a subject, the student has to cite at least one unique source and one unique blogger to back it up. I say “unique” meaning a different source or blogger for each of their blog entries. I think it is important to make the students responsible to do research and to collect a variety of perspectives.”) Bah Humbug. They missed the constructivist point! We learn what we are interested in! For instance, even though I am NOT interested in writing a paper for a sixth grade teacher that doesn’t even exist (my goal is to work in higher ed), I AM interested in blogging and constructivism. Therefore, I spent a lot of time looking at web sites of teachers who use blogs in the classroom. And I can tell you they were pretty neat. Not only that, a bunch of stinking rules is propably why smart people like Thomas Edison quit going to school. In the end, we are all selfish and want to learn what we want to learn.
Okay, Okay, I know we can’t run schools that way….too many lazy kids wouldn’t learn anything…I guess. And there are some things we just MUST know. But what would it hurt, for an hour a day for students to learn what they want to learn? Look at all the skills they would learn along the way!
- Computer skills,
- research skills,
- writing skills, proofreading skills,
- critical reading–bloggers read first, write second,
- collaboration with their piers (for ideas, how the blog should look, comments, etc.)
The purpose of the blog is to show that exploration is as important as facts, that if the excitement comes first, the learning will naturally follow. Since the “tenets are essentially to encourage pupils to initiate their own learning experiences, with an emphasis on their being able to ‘construct’ their own set of mental representations, topics, and issues,” (Tiene & Ingram, 2001, p. 76), then this assignment, at its very core, is constructivism. This project on blogging, correctly executed, teaches the students that they can learn on their own and write about subjects that they have a passion about. To write a post on the BLOG, the students browse, read and think about what is most interesting to them and then write about it.
Students often write on subjects and topics based on their prior knowledge. Therefore the student is an active participant in the process of building knowledge and are able to expand on what they already know through exploration of multiple perspectives. As the blogger continues to write about their interests, the blogger becomes an “expert” in whatever they are writing about. These ideas combine to fit the criteria of constructivism.
Constructionists believe that learning is social. We become learners by testing our knowledge with other learners. (Tiene & Ingram, 2001) Blogging is social. The BLOG is on the internet, available for anyone to read; in fact, Janice has already recruited an audience. Readers are encouraged to comment which provides a back and forth dialogue. “Constructivism proposes that learning environments should support multiple perspectives or interpretations of reality, knowledge, construction, and context-rich experienced-based activities.”(Jonassen,1998). Blogging encourages different and diverse perspectives in a social environment. The posts in the blog connects readers and writers to real world experiences in a context which is meaningful and builds knowledge.
Another important facet of constructivism is collaboration. “[K]nowledge is constructed individually and socially based on students’ interactions with the world and each other.” (Jonassen & Marra, 2011, Kindle Locations 595–596). The students must work together on the BLOG. Together they decide the name of the BLOG, the artwork and general layout. They work together proofreading and commenting on each other’s posts. The students share leads and other writing pointers. They may work together to produce a video or slide show for the BLOG.
Sounds like learning is going on to me. Anyway, I wore the other members of the group down. I’m interested to see what the professor will say.
Jonassen, D.H. (1998). Computers as mind tools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43, 24–32.
Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., (2011). Meaningful learning with technology (4th Edition) (Kindle Locations 595–596). Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.
Tiene, D. & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring current issues in educational technology.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.