Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructivism in Practice

 According to Dr. Michael Orey, constructionism is a “theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” Laureate Education, Inc. 2009f). Teachers in today’s classrooms, with the advent of technology, can easily find projects that enable students to build and learn from lessons that teachers plan. Examples of building strategies include, but are not exclusive to, “spreadsheet software, data collection tools, and Web resources” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In history classes, teachers can use Web Quests, game simulators, and other problem based learning tools.

In my own history classes, I have successfully used a web quest on the 1920s. In this web quest, students chose a group; each group has the responsibility of reporting one of the following: sports, current news stories, advertisements, political commentary and cartoons, all in the 1920s. Students have to research using web sites I have already found and distributed, they students may use additional web sites they have found. Students then have to write a short newspaper article with photographs. Finally, the group gives their newspaper a name, a price, a date, and prints out a copy that they then orally present to the entire class. Student newspapers have included A Decade in Review, the 1920s, Sports Almanac of the 1920s, the Grand Experiment, and so many more.  My students enjoy the project; they learn from research and from each other about the 1920s. The student assessments are the written newspaper, the oral presentation and an image quiz I give the class with images from each of the newspapers presented.

In the scenario above, teachers will act as facilitators. According to Glazer, teachers as facilitators, “give students control over how they learn and provide support and structure in the direction of their learning” (Glazer, E. 2001). To set up the scenario the teacher must help to create the framework to the project, allow students to read the rubric before they begin the project and teachers should show examples of earlier work (modeling). By following these simple suggestions, a teacher can set up the project so that students and the teacher learn from each other, the internet, brainstorming with group members, creating and presenting.

Some sites a teacher can use to help with constructivist learning tools are:

A site that will allow students to create their own flipbooks you can use:

Finally, for students to develop their own comic books or graphic novels you can use:


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009f). Program 6, Constructionist & constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1

Glazer, E. (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from

           Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Denver, Colorado, USA: McRel.


  1. This is the word that I hear more and more: facilitator. I think that students definitely benefit from building an artifact and working with other students. It is not as easy to argument that this is the best way of learning, due to the fact that there is a wide variety of learning styles and learning preferences. Nonetheless, the project based activities are a good way to introduce something new into everyday routine and most importantly let the students be the explorers and responsible for how they learn.

    1. Sergio,
      I could not agree more. With my 11th & 12th grade students, they should be doing the research and presenting. This type of collaboration is only going to help them in college and in their future employment.

  2. I like the idea of giving students websites to visit while still allowing them to find some of their own. The websites can be a great starting point so that they are not frustrated or overwhelmed when starting out. I absolutely love the links to the online resources you provided. The flip book and comic book would be perfect for students to organize and present their projects. The implementation of tools like these are necessary for students to build those 21st century skills needed to compete in the workplace.

    Great post, thanks for sharing the links!

    Liana Gray

  3. Liana,
    You are welcome --- I always appreciate learning new things from my classmates. It seems like we are so busy teaching our classes and doing our everyday responsiblities, yet we do find time to discover new and exciting internet sites to share with each other.

  4. Debbie,

    Yes, we are always busy. An educator's job is never done. There are so many great resources out there and it is important that we share all the wonderful tools we come across.


  5. Debbie-

    I love the webquest ideas. I used quite a few webquests when I taught American and World History and they are very fun and engaging tools that ask students to do most of the research and legwork themselves so they can construct their own ideas about a historical place or event. I think using the 1920s is a fantastic period to have students use webquests since they were so many different social, political, and economic issues confronting the country at that time. It can be tough as the teacher to not want to jump in and give them some answers but it is doing more for the students to stand back and let them work (with some guidance of course). Awesome post, love the ideas.