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Constructivism and its Role in Educational Technology Greg Andrade Boise State University

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " " Abstract This paper explores the use of educational technology as a vehicle for implementing a constructivism learning theory within public classrooms across the nation. Educational technology is at the forefront of molding new types of instruction by changing the way schools deliver curriculum. Constructivism can play a major role in creating a positive learning


environment, which can ultimately establish success amongst students. New technology provides the tools to aid and support the principles of this theory, which can bring about positive change and new ways of deeper understanding within the learner. Together, educational technology and constructivism can be the answer to guiding and fostering success in public education.

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " " Introduction Teaching and learning methods in place today are 100 years behind the times. The educational system within this nation is in drastic need of a constructivist way of thinking in order to bring our students fully into the technological world we/they live in (Strommen & Lincoln, 1992). As a nation, we rank 17th in the world regarding public education. Our public schools are slowly decreasing the cognitive learning fiber needed to compete within the workplace and higher education. In 1994, United States Congress attempted to reconstruct the educational system through Goals 2000: Educate America Act. The proposal was meant to prepare children for the new millennium; however, it was unsuccessful as less than 10% of our nations schools had the required technology to make this change possible. Educators and our school systems have tried many solutions to conceivably bring back


the success in K-12 schools and create rich instruction that is rigorous, as well as relevant, so that our students can develop the skills needed to be productive citizens in society. Without access to the technology to support their efforts, their goals are unreachable. It is essential that our young leaders of tomorrow have the right tools to excel and to meet the requirements in order to attain higher education after high school. Educators must ask themselves, Do our learners have those cognitive and deep-thinking skills in conjunction with the required work ethic, to enter a university or community college? Lunenberg (1998) states that constructivism, with the use of technology, is the only successful solution to combat our immediate decline in education as a nation. Constructivist methods and principles, with the application of technology, can be the solution to bring about success for our learners. As we look at this theory and its basic principles, it is evident that

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " %" " technology is the appropriate vehicle for this learning theorys success within the classroom and can ultimately foster change in the landscape of education today. Constructivism: An Overview Constructivisms core is based on philosophy and psychology and can be considered the theory of instruction. Its main emphasis is on fostering significant meaning and relevance for the learner through prior experience. Through these experiences, the learner creates the meaning of knowledge rather than acquiring it (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Constructivism stems from the social activism theory, wherein learning revolves around the social experiences of the learner. The philosophy of constructivism developed from unsatisfied theorists who believed that traditional theories of knowledge were incomplete. Constructivism claims that knowledge is not discovered but constructed (Yilmaz, 2008). During the learning process, the learner builds knowledge through hands-on activities as well as through discovery and social engagement. John Dewey, one of the most notable and contributing figures of this educational theory, implies that we do not learn by ourselves but with others, collaboratively, throughout our lives (Petraglia, 1998). Jean Piaget, a notable psychologist and philosopher, noted for his contribution to epistemological studies with children, was entrenched in the constructivist theory of knowing as it is applied to discovery learning, hands-on activities, social collaboration and project-based instruction (Scott, 2001). According to Matthews (2000), there are eighteen types of constructivist approaches in the sense of radical, methodological, didactic and dialectical. However, most theorists place constructivism in three categories: sociological, psychological and radical constructivism.

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " &" " Social constructivism is a theory that is based on principles that are constructed by the human spirit. The knowledge is constructed by the individuals ideals, value system, political status, belief system and economical status. This principle is manifested by social, political and economical factors that affect how social groups or individuals determine their understanding and knowledge of the real world (Yilmaz, 2008). Psychological constructivism, in theory, focuses on the theoretical approach that the individual constructs knowledge and meaning through their own perception based on their prior knowledge. The construction of meaning can take place within a social group where individuals come to a consensus and determine new discovery of meanings as formal knowledge (Yilmaz, 2008). Radical constructivism, as presented and coined by Ernst von Glaserfield in 1974, is an absolute or complete approach to constructivism, hence radical. This principle claims that the individual cannot know the external reality of things by the senses, rather all knowledge is constructed by the individual. Radical constructivism cannot be judged or determined by metaphysics. It can only be determined through experiment and experience (Yilmaz, 2008). The Constructivist Instructor In a constructivist classroom environment, there very well could be a great contrast to a traditional classroom. The role of the instructor assumes a very different job description than that in a regular learning environment. In a constructivist classroom setting, the instructor becomes more of a facilitator for the students and does not take on the authority figure of knowledge or the focal point of the class, as in a traditional classroom setting. Instead, the instructor will act as a confident professional and team player where the learners have the ability to improvise

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " '" " curriculum on a flexible basis (Salomon, 1998). The instructor will encourage student-centered learning along with social and peer collaboration amongst learners. Teachers will allow learners to have a wide degree of latitude in exploration in order to construct meaningful ideas and knowledge. A constructivist teacher is less concerned about the structure and pace or sequence of instruction, and more concerned about responding to the needs of the learner (Windschitl, 1999). The teacher must incorporate an assorted range of teaching strategies in order to support individual learner understanding in problem-solving situations. Scaffolding is one strategy that helps make understanding through learning less complex. The concept of scaffolding is very basic. The instructor creates small learning tasks that the learner can easily digest in order to develop a skill set. Each small task is presented chronologically and connects, or scaffolds, to another. As more skills are developed, the tasks can gradually become more complex. However, the previous skill supports and strengthens the understanding of the next, much like building blocks on top of each other. Building blocks of knowledge support the learning because each skill learned supports and relates to the others. Modeling is another strategy that is implemented as a constructivist approach, by either acting out or thinking out loud to guide learners to discovery. In this case, the instructor will take on the role of a coach or an advisor to better facilitate learning (Windschitl, 1999). When creating tasks and facilitating instruction, according to Lunenburg (1998), instructors use cognitive terminology such as classify, analyze, predict and create. In a constructivist learning environment, assessing students is key to the learning process. Teachers assess students but they also encourage learners to assess themselves while evaluating the criteria. For example, the teacher will initiate verbal discussions where the learner

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " (" " can explain the concept or objective of the assignment. Teachers can ask the learners what they know, what they want to know, what they have learned and how they know it. This is known as the KWL method (Jared & Jared, 1997). Another example of assessment is where learners will demonstrate their knowledge through hands-on activities, known as performance tests. Learners are also encouraged to defend their evaluations in order to bring about self-awareness and create ownership of their actions and progress (Hesser, 2009). Lastly, the instructor will set the tone for reflection within the learning environment. It is essential to assure student learning by reflecting on what has been constructed or discovered. The learner has the ability to control their learning by reflecting on their own experiences, whether it is abstract or based on their own interpretation. This should be seen as the learning process of constructing knowledge. Their ideas are accepted as reality and the learners then take ownership of defending, proving and justifying their newly-found ideas and meanings, which in turn can assist in developing confidence in ones skills and capabilities (Yilmaz, 2008). The Learner As for the learner, they must be the center of the learning environment as an active part of the learning process. The learner is continuously active, interpreting information through prior experiences and student-driven discovery. The main concept and goal of the learner is to construct what has been learned and engage actively in their own learning process. Learners assume a very different role than in a traditional setting in that constructivist students collaborate and negotiate with their fellow classmates. In turn, the learner develops a deeper understanding, cognitively, through cooperative experiences (Neo, 2005). In a constructivist classroom environment, learners are constantly challenged to think creatively and critically, which helps

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " )" " develop problem-solving skills. The application of these problem-solving methods helps in the development of the learner knowing how to learn through teamwork, collaboration, studentdirected discoveries, experimentation and presentation. Ultimately, students take ownership of their own learning by building and constructing knowledge from their own experiences. During this process, learners will actively reflect on what has been learned, collectively, in a social setting. Learners can take the initiative in participating in assessing their own achievements, which can foster good learning habits. Students who have developed these skills have a better sense of the outcomes in their learning results. They tend to have an appreciation for their accomplishments and develop work ethic, which in turn, gives them self-esteem and a new outlook on the big picture (Neo, 2005). Classroom Application The following principles and ideas are indicative of a successful, constructivist learning environment. The following fourteen points will present what might be implemented in a classroom, according to Ludenberg (1998) and Yilmaz (2008). Student-driven/centered learning is key to the learning environment. Learning environment should be cooperative between the learner and the instructor, as well as between the learner and their peers. Within the classroom environment, learners are allowed to drive lessons in accordance to learner responses. Instructors encourage learner autonomy and initiative. Instruction and content should be relevant in order to stimulate the learners interest. Different teaching strategies must be applied in order for the learner to grasp

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " " the knowledge. Context must be challenging. Instructors need to create a culture of interest on all levels. Students must have the opportunity to explore, to make sense of the world. Learners are encouraged to explain their thinking through sharing. This in turn, will help develop reasoning skills. Learners must be given adequate time to explore and investigate. Assessment should be a part of teaching. Therefore, assessing learner performance is essential. Tapping into the learners prior knowledge plays a role in understanding and learning. Social interaction and collaboration is essential to learning. Learners are encouraged to construct relationships and build metaphors. Constructivism and Technology Working Together


The marriage of this learning theory and technology is where learning and knowledge can be successfully constructed. Technology can enhance this learning theory and support its practice within the classroom. The combination of these principles and technological tools is implemented not only for instruction, but the application also makes this pedagogy the perfect learning environment for the learner and invites new discoveries for both the learner and the instructor. Teamwork amongst learners and collaboration with the instructor, using various forms of devices, software, media and information, through the application of technology, make for a rich learning experience (Yilmaz, 2008). With the appropriate instructional design through educational technology, along with constructivist learning principles, the learner can experience

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " !+" " real-life situations, whereas in a more traditional learning environment with rote learning, this would rarely take place. With these collaborative factors, learners can construct their own critical-thinking skills by controlling their own learning, hence, develop independence and predict outcomes. One major factor within this learning environment is the constructing of projects. Learners can distribute or delegate parts of each project to a member of their group. Learners will analyze, create solutions and rectify problems to parts of the project prior to final construction (Neo, 2005). This is where critical thinking skills and cognitive learning take place. Scaffolding experiences through social collaboration and networking can build more and more knowledge as the learner utilizes computer technology along with the Internet (Lunenberg 1998). Educational technology can bring the world to the learner, which can incite endless learning possibilities. Student-centered learning is key in the manifestation of knowledge within a technology-based classroom. The instructor facilitates the instruction as a professional and as a technology resource that the learner can utilize for support and inquiry for problems that arise. The instructor can use different types of strategies to guide the learner toward success in an appropriate direction. The instructor can also be a support for the learner with technical skills and troubleshooting, however, the instructor takes an equal role with the learner (Neo, 2005). After the outcome and completion of the project, learners will reflect on the knowledge constructed through the process of the learning. Constant assessment is critical and essential to a technology-based, constructivist learning environment. Assessment, normally observed by the instructor, can be self-directed by the learner. During assessment, the instructor encourages

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " " cognitive terminology and dialog through classifying, analyzing, predicting, and creating,


through the use and application of the technology within the classroom. Learners are encouraged to create metaphors in the assessment process to substantiate comprehension, proof of successful learning and knowledge constructed (Neo, 2005). In Conclusion Constructivism and technology together is not new to educational technology. As educators, we have seen a great paradigm shift in the last ten to fifteen years, in teaching strategies using technology tools within the classroom. When the phrase web-tools 2.0 was coined in 2004, it essentially revolutionized the way we think, and the way we utilize and implement the Internet within new technologies. With the onslaught of technology tools and other devices flooding the workplace globally, it has gradually taken hold in many classrooms across the United States. Using a constructivist approach, along with educational technology within the classroom (levels K-12 to higher education), has been proven by theorists and educational leaders to be one of the best combinations of teaching and learning strategies for the students in this millennium. Learners are now able to build their learning through self-directed, rich, critical-thinking skills as well as develop deep-thinking skills. They can identify, be selfaware and take ownership of their success through learning, knowledge and social collaboration. Within these new technology-enriched classrooms, learners can teach themselves how to learn in order to write their own destinies in life and to create their own reality of the world through their constructed knowledge. There is a need for education, most importantly in the United States, to change to a more democratic, socially based learning environment where technology can be implemented to its fullest. We need to give our young leaders of tomorrow the tools to

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS USE IN CONSTRUCTIVISM " !#" " succeed in society; to compete and to flourish in this globally based world of ours. It is up to us as educators to make a change in the way we facilitate our instruction. Educational technology with a constructivist approach could be the single most important thing to reconstruct Americas educational system today. If we can change the way our students think and develop knowledge, maybe we can ultimately change lives for the better.

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