Technology That Guides Learning

Using technology in the classroom

Constructionism in Practice March 21, 2012

Filed under: Constructionism,Education,Instructional Strategies,Technology — emilypartyka @ 6:54 pm

This week we were asked to look at the instructional strategy “Generating and Testing Hypotheses” and reflect on how the strategy relates to constructivist/constructionist learning theories. Generating and Testing Hypotheses is an important tool that can be experimented with on many levels and in several content areas. The constructivist/constructionist learning theories show how important it is to make this type of learning hands-on to promote deeper meaning.

As Dr. Orey mentions in the video “Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories” (Laureate, Inc., 2011), the two theories are often mistaken for each other, however, they are very different in meaning. Constructivism is “A theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his own meaning,” whereas Constructionism states that “people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate, Inc., 2011). Both of these are important to keep in mind, but Constructionism is most imperative to incorporate in the classroom to deepen students’ understanding.

The instructional strategy Generating and Testing Hypotheses as described in our course book “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works,” states that “When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, p. 202). Regardless of what is being tested, students are required to access different aspects of knowledge in order to come to a hypothesis. And although this concept of testing hypotheses is generally thought of as a Science tool, it can also be used in other subjects.

Technology clearly plays a vital role in engaging students in generating and testing hypotheses. The examples that our course book offers include spreadsheet software, data collection tools, and web resources. Of these, I find web resources to be the most relevant to my content area – English. Using different web sources, students are given a specific problem or question related to their content. Using the simulators, they are able to manipulate different aspects of the problem to get the desired results or to test their hypotheses.

While there are not very many examples of how to incorporate this into English, I wanted to challenge myself to come up with an example. First I came up with a project-based learning (PBL) unit that gives them a specific “problem,” then I would turn this into a concept where they would have to generate hypotheses. My example includes William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Using the PBL that is highly praised as a strategy to promote constructionism, I would introduce the story of “Romeo and Juliet,” but I would intentionally leave out any mention of setting except the town that it takes place in – Verona, Italy. The “problem” that my students would encounter is that William Shakespeare has misplaced his notes on what the city looks like and now they have to use their resources to help him describe the city. Using virtual field trips and web sources, my students would need to find ten different facts about the city and its surroundings. In order to make this a group effort, my students would gather their information and place it on a Wiki. This way, all of their information stays in one place and they are able to see if a specific fact about the city has already been found. Once they have found this information, we would read the story in its entirety. Afterward, we would come back to this project to complete the hypothesis aspect. I would ask my students to generate hypotheses on how the story would change if the setting were different. Again, my students would have to do proper research to determine where the new setting would be and how much of a change could impact the story. I’m sure there are parts of this PBL unit that could be fine-tuned, but it was refreshing to come up with a fun activity for my students to potentially do in the future.

Generating and testing hypotheses easily correlates with the concept of constructionism and the PBL that helps students to gain a deeper meaning in their learning. This week’s resources have shown that students are much more engaged in the learning process when they are actually building or creating something. What is unique about this week’s theories and strategies is that the individual learner is able to create his/her own experiences as he progresses creating a more meaningful education for himself.

A video I found offers a great description of what constructionism is in the 21st century classroom. Check it out.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.