Constructivist Theory as a Framework for Educational Technology: An Annotated Bibliography

Farnoush H. Davis 2009

Introduction With the integration of technology and the utilization of technological tools into the classroom and curriculums, it has been observed that among the many teaching and learning theories, constructivism has been perhaps the most effective and efficient in its application. The reason for this is that the structure of the approach, with its student centered focus, is easily adaptable to the new computer delivered courseware, materials and class designs. By applying constructivist theory to the instructional design process, it seems that the theory and the tools have found a good match in each other.

Kanuka, H.; Anderson, T. (1999). Using Constructivism in Technology-Mediated Learning: Constructing order out of the chaos in the literature. Radical Pedagogy, 1(2). Retrieved October 10, 2009 from

Constructivism is becoming more accepted as a working theory in education, but there is still a lot of debate about how it can actually be applied to real situations. The theory of constructivism supports two main ideas 1) People gain knowledge by referencing it to something they already know and 2) learning is not a passive process, but an active one. This article discusses the different positions in constructivist approaches to education, and shows the different arguments that supporters of one position make against the other positions. There are many opportunities to use these models in technological settings, and the theory of constructivism lends itself to the many possibilities for application in educational technology. This article gives the foundation for understanding the theory, and provides a starting place to find ways to apply these ideas into my teaching designs and plans.

Petraglia, J. (1998). The real world on a short leash: The (mis)application of constructivism to the design of educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 46(3), 53-65.

This article discuses a problem that is very abstract, but that has a real impact on how instructional designers use educational technology. Petraglia argues that most designers try to create computer simulations that have the authenticity of real life. Since 1|Page

authenticity is one of the key factors in constructivst theory, this would seem to be a necessary step. But according to Petraglia, the reason why authenticity in constructivist theory is so important is that the circumstances are interpreted by each person to find a meaning, and an answer to the problem. By doing what he calls “preauthentication” designers are limiting student’s ability to find solutions. The points he make are important, because thinking that because you are using technology it is automatically constructivist is wrong, and we have to focus less on instruction and more on how to make the student participate in the course to discover the answers themselves.

Farnoush H. Davis 2009

Perkins, D. (1991, May). Technology Meets Constructivism: Do they make a marriage? Educational Technology, (13) 18-23.

The article talks about ways that constructivism theory and technology can help students to see how the things that they learn in the classroom can be understood in real life situations. The author discusses two types of constructivism – BIG and WIG – which stand for “beyond the information given” and “without the information given.” In BIG, the students have to think beyond the information they have, and in WIG they have to do projects where the students don’t have the necessary information. Perkins also talks about how the marriage of the theory and technology can help students to understand more what they are learning. His ideas are important because is shows again how using technology with a constructivist theory behind your designs can help students to comprehend and apply the things they are learning.

Cradler, J.; Bridgforth, E.: Recent Research on the Effects of Technology on Teaching and Learning, Retrieved October 10, 2009 from

This article showed a summary of over 100 major research findings about education and technology. While it didn’t specifically say anything about a “constructivist” approach, the results showed how this theory was behind many positive changes and advances in the use of technology in education. It talked about a shift to a more student centered approach, how certain subjects were more interesting to learn for students when they participated in groups or had participation in creative activities. While these results are a little old, they show how the solutions to the problems that were faced ten or fifteen years ago are the same ones that we face today, and it also shows that the answers are also mostly the same. Instructors need to know how to use technology and design courses and training that involves the student, and not just present information.
Matusevich, M. (1995, May). School Reform: What Role can Technology Play in a Constructivist Setting?

In this paper, Matusevich shows how constructivist theory can be applied by using the example of the Montgomery County Pubic Schools. She first begins with an explanation of constructivist theory, and shows the important parts like how learners gain knowledge 2|Page

by making connections with what they are learning and their own experience. She also stresses how it is important to make the tasks and activities matter to the students, so that they can “authenticate” what they are doing. The most common way to do this is by making them have real life applications, which is something that Petraglia had warned against. She also makes the case that using technology has made the constructivist approach not just more desirable, but that it is the only way to teach with these new tools. Teachers become coaches and not just lecturers, and students take on a bigger role in their own learning. One important point that she explores is how to have a good assessment of what has been learned by using a constructivist approach. This is something that will be important to me and others as we try to figure out the best way to measure what has been achieved.
Issroff, K., & Scanlon, E. (2002). Educational technology: The influence of theory. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 6. Retrieved February 17, 2009 from

Farnoush H. Davis 2009

This paper looks at the history of educational technology, different ways that it has evolved, like artificial intelligence in education (AIED) and human-computer interface (HCI). Finally it looks at how different theories have been used to design materials and courses using the new technologies. The authors do not just consider just one side or just one approach. They look at several theories and show examples of how people have tried to use them in educational technology. The biggest focus of this paper was to compare the theories that have come from AIED and HCI with the major theories in education to see if there are similarities, or if they can be used together. I think it is important to look at theories from all sides, because a lot of the time educators think in the old ways that they’ve used before the technology. At the same time, people who are mostly thinking about technology do not always consider the theories of education and learning, which matter to the tools that they are building.
Karagiorgi, Y., & Symeou, L. (2005). Translating Constructivism into Instructional Design: Potential and Limitations. Educational Technology & Society, 8 (1), 17-27.

This article discusses constructivism and its impact on instructional design. It thoroughly examines all of the variety of constructivist approaches. What is interesting is that the authors point out how instructional designers to not always take the requests of constructivists into consideration when they are designing (22). Many times, designers do not agree with the constructivist view that knowledge is a result of a students unique perspective of the world. They try to pre-specify information for the learner, which was what Petraglia argued, calling it “preauthentication.” This conflict between educators and instructional designers seems to be one of the major problems faced by educators today. While educators have tried to use constructivist methods in their instruction, designers are still hesitant to use this approach in their design. It is important to me to find a way to have effective instruction using a proper design, which the authors also say can be done easier using technology. 3|Page

Farnoush H. Davis 2009
Wilson, B. , Myers, K. (2000). Situated Cognition in Theoretical and Practical Context, Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments 57-88. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This chapter discusses situated cognition (SitCog) and its role in educational theory and in instructional design. It is stated that instructional designers mostly use theories psychology, and often ignore other important approaches from education, an argument made by many other supporters of constructivism. This chapter begins by discussing the foundational learning theories and how SitCog is an alternative to information processing theory. This is important in instructional design because there are two approaches, the rational or interactional. This is another example of the two thoughts about what is important, having a set of actions that can be done and measured, or having interaction and group activities to help the student find meaning. Another important point was that theory should be a guide, but that the design has to be flexible to meet differences in culture and educational knowledge. Learning is based on one’s situation and their understanding, and that has to be considered when designing. Judson, E. (2006). How Teachers Integrate Technology and Their Beliefs About Learning: Is There a Connection? Jl. of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(3), 581-597. This article is about how teachers with student-centered beliefs (constructivism) are willing to integrate technology into their classrooms. The arguement of this article is that based on the transformations in the educational system, many teachers with traditional teaching backgrounds are using a student-centered teaching environment to improve the learning process. Traditional teachers use technology only for presentation, while the student-centered teaching style lets the students use the technology freely, based on their interests. The question of this article is, how is technology used in this environment? To answer this question, thirty-two classroom teachers were observed to see how teachers integrate available technology into their lessons. The findings of the study showed that teachers who believe in constructivism do not necessarily integrate technology in a constructivist way. Rakes,G.C., Fields,V.S. & Cox, K.E. (2006). The influence of teachers’ technology use on instructional practices. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, (38)4, 409-424. This article studies whether the level of technology use in the classroom is a consequence of a constructivist teaching style. The question asked is if there is a relationship between a teacher’s using constructivism learning theory and development of technology implementation. For this study, eleven schools with traditional instruction practices in rural districts are chosen. Rural areas, in particular, are reporting low performance in educational experiences because of poverty, lack of high level of resources, and the need of qualified teachers. The results show that using constructivist instructional practices impacts technology integration in the classroom in increasingly positive ways. 4|Page

Farnoush H. Davis 2009 Palak, D. & Walls, R. (2009). Teachers’s Beliefs and Technology Practices: A mixedmethods Approach. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 41(4), 417-441. This study looked at how teachers in technology rich schools used that technology in a classroom as well as in other areas of their work to see if there was a connection between having a lot of technology available and developing student-centered instruction practices. The authors stated that they undertook the study because of the mixed results from previous studies, some showing that there was a connection between having technology and using student-centered practices and some showing no connection. They used a mixed method research approach with a selection of K-12 teachers, using surveys and interviews to gather information. Although most teachers used technology, it was mostly in class preparation or administrative tasks. When technology was used in class it was very controlled and teacher-centered. The authors argue that if there is not a studentcentered frame technology use will only reinforce the traditional teacher-centered instruction.


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