Sunday, 31 July 2016

Constructivism and Constructionism - What is the difference and how are they similar?

While constructivism is a well known educational psychological term, this week we were introduced to the term constructionism and challenged to find how they are similar and how they are different. It became clear quite quickly that the two theories were influenced by each other.  While we were able to identify some differences in class, I felt my understanding of the two different theories was not clear enough to be able to articulate a clear difference, so have worked through this blog post to clarify my own understandings.  Like Guzdial (1997), "the confusion that I and others have about these terms stems from (a) similar looking words and (b) meaning at different levels of the word construct. Piaget was talking about how mental constructions get formed, philosophical constructivists talk about how these constructions are unique (noun construction), and Papert is simply saying that constructing is a good way to get mental constructions built. Levels here are shifting from the physical (constructionism) to the mental (constructivism), from theory to philosophy to method, from science to approach to practice."

Both concepts emerged from the understanding of culture and cognition and acknowledge that variables such as biology, culture, class, gender and age influence the way that an individual perceives the world.

Constructivism was founded by Piaget, while Constructionism was founded by Papert - one of his students.  Constructivism is the idea that people construct an internal understanding of reality, and that 'reality' is produced by interactions between people and within environments.  Constructivism highlights the abilities of students to achieve different educational tasks at different ages and stages.  According to Piaget, Constructivism "opens a gateway to the interests and abilities of children to achieve specific education goals at different ages.  It studies the manner in which students engage in different tasks and how these change over time."  He acknowledged that children's views about the world are forever changing as children interact with others and acquire new experiences.

Papert based his theory of constructionism on the work and theory of Piaget, however unlike constructivism, in constructionism attention is given to the manner of learning, or the art of learning. Constructionism is more of an educational method which is based on the constructivist learning theory. Constructionism shifts the focus from what is created internally through the process of learning, to what is created externally. Papert believes constructionism adds to the idea of constructivism by saying that it occurs when "the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it's a sand castle on the beach of a theory of the universe". He believes that students will be more deeply involved in their learning if they are constructing something that others will see, critique, and perhaps use. Through that construction, students will face complex issues, and they will make the effort to problem-solve and learn because they are motivated by the construction.

So why is this important?
  • These theories open possibilities for alternative understandings of the relationship between learning, education, and society.  
  • They relate to the ideas about the impact of individual, cooperative and collaborative initiatives on communities and within education.
  • We want our students to be creators of learning, not merely consumers.

Reference List:

Guzdial, M.  (1997).  Constructivism vs. Constructionism.  Retrieved from

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. Constructionism, 1-11.  Retrieved from

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Web 2.0 vs Social 3.0 - The Next Generation

It is no surprise that in this period of rapid technological development, the way we interact with the internet is changing.

While still useful, the traditional Web 1.0 sites simply provided information; the mostly read-only web.  They are content driven and the user has no way to increase their involvement or interact with the interface.

We then moved into Web 2.0, sites that support asynchronous collaboration; the wildly read-write web that encourages interaction between people through sites such from Facebook to Edmodo, from Pintrest to Flickr.  These sites move beyond mere posting of content by allowing the user to become part of the process through collaboration.

We are now moving into Social 3.0, software (sites and apps) that support synchronous collaboration; real-time, simultaneous, collaboration.  The shift away from 'Web' being caused by the vast array of apps running on mobile devices that have now been developed to complement web pages.

So as we move into this new realm, what defines Social 3.0?  Norris & Soloway (2014) propose the following:

  • Two or more individuals verbally conversing
  • While those two or more individuals are engaged doing "something" inside an app or in a web-page.
  • While those two or more individuals are either co-located, or more interestingly, not co-located.

As educators we need to ensure the content we deliver is relevant, valuable and specific to our students needs.  If there is new functionality in Social 3.0 that help us to do this, can we optimise it?  Just like we do with Web 2.0?  Absolutely!  I think we would be foolish not to, and I doubt we'll have much choice!

This is where an understanding of Web 3.0 becomes important.  The pretense behind Web 3.0 is that content will be made more relevant through context.  The internet will begin to understand you and your specific needs better, by considering which devices you have, or are searching on, the location you are searching from, your previous and current relationship with the content, your preferences (and how they shift over time), your behaviours, your buying history, your personally trusted friends and colleagues across different social networks.  In other words, thanks to this new functionality, the semantic web will deliver the precise content a unique individual is looking for, in the right format, at the right time - and much more too! (Seagar, 2011).

Saturday, 9 July 2016

John Hattie's 8 Mindframes

Engaging in the bigger picture: The importance of the Key Competencies in 21st Century Learning

In terms of curriculum design, the NZC states:
Curriculum is designed and interpreted in a three-stage process: as the national curriculum, the school curriculum, and the classroom curriculum. The national curriculum provides the framework and common direction for schools, regardless of type, size, or location. It gives schools the scope, flexibility, and authority they need to design and shape their curriculum so that teaching and learning is meaningful and beneficial to their particular communities of students. In turn, the design of each school’s curriculum should allow teachers the scope to make interpretations in response to the particular needs, interests, and talents of individuals and groups of students in their classes. (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 37)

The NZC challenges us to think very deeply about core values and beliefs and how these might look in practice.  Engaging with the major philosophical thrust of the NZC has proven to be a complex and challenging task for school organisations.  For many schools, the introduction of the new curriculum in 2007 required leaders to rearticulate (rather than question or reinterpret) what they were doing in order to meet requirements. The deeper philosophical changes that were gifted to us in the NZC were not fully explored and grasped through this implementation period.  There appeared to be little interest in exploring alternative organisations of curriculum at the time and for most of the schools, the greater part of their curriculum continued to be organised along subject/discipline lines.  I believe this was an opportunity lost.  

School leaders turned towards 'strong' leaders and look for quick fixes, rather than engaging critically with the big picture questions, examining the kinds of knowledge that schools and students needed to engage with.  Few school leaders saw the enormity of the shifts in society, and therefore the curriculum that were needed, and of those even less felt they have the knowledge and confidence to administer the possible changes.

This was complicated with some political scepticism; certainly confusion over mixed educational priorities emerging as a result of political transitions.  In my opinion, the national standards continue to stand for different values to the NZC.

The social, economic, cultural and political arrangements that surround us are changing and these changes require teachers to see themselves as leaders.  Geijsel and Meijers (2005) suggest that today’s innovations require changes in teachers professional identity.  We need to not only see our role as leaders differently, but we must also engage differently in our teaching and learning.  We need to take ownership of this change.  Although we cannot change another person, a person may change as a result of something we do.

We need to teach our students to speak in an environment where their voices have traditionally been silenced. How can school staff learn to listen carefully to these voices without imposing convenient interpretations or forcing students to express only what is expected? How can students learn to articulate their needs in the language of school staff? How can school staff learn to interpret the messages of students if they do not fit the words, categories and protocols in their own language? How can we start thinking about student participation in decision-making processes if teachers’ voices are still not fully incorporated into those processes?  We need to see our students as partners in their learning, and empower them to hack education.

Paraphrased from Freeth, W. & de Oliveira Andreotti, V. (unknown).  "Towards Reconceptualising Leadership: The Implications of the Revised New Zealand Curriculum for School Leaders."

Reference List:
Geijsel, F. & Meijers, F. (2005). Identity learning: The core process of educational change. Educational Studies, 31(4) 419–430.

Reimagining and Reconceptualising Education for the 21st Century

Innovation is tipped by many Educational Change Leaders and Business Leaders as the currency of the future.  If this is in fact true, then we need to prepare our students to have the best ideas in the global knowledge society of the future, in order for them to be successful.  This is challenging when students have become less curious even over my own short lifetime.  Grant Litchman suggests the ecosystem of learning needs to change.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that do not exist, to use technology that hasn’t been invented and to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet.  Effective teaching and learning can not longer be focused on the transmission of pieces of information.  It must help students to learn how to learn, in powerful ways, so they can manage the demands of changing information, technology, work and social conditions. 

In a very short space of time we have transitioned from an economy where in order to do well financially, you needed to be skilled with your hands; to one where you now need to be intellectually skilled.  The skills for career enhancement, continuous learning and for active and informed citizenship have converged.  While educators are aware of this, the dilemma continued to lie in our lack of knowledge and experience to teach and assess these skills, and educational structures that continue to be anchored around concepts like time, space and subjects.

Educational reform will not provide a solution to these two problems.  Education needs to be reframed: We have to rethink, reimagine and reconceptualise education to dramatically reshape teaching and learning in the 21st century.

After visiting over 60 schools throughout the United States of America, Grant Lichtman suggests the following in his TED Talk titled "What 60 schools can tell us about Teaching 21st Century Skills":

Any job that can be turned into a routine is being either sent off shore, or automated.  Many of the top jobs in 2012 didn't exist in 2002.

So what are the skills our students will need?  What careers will be available to them in the future?
Laura Vitto suggests that by 2030 we will see careers such as Nostaligsts, Telesurgeons, Gamification Designers and even Robot Counsellors.  Milla Inkila from The MindLab has even gone as far as to suggest that there may be a place for Robot Lawyers or Dinosaur Breeders.

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard's Change Leadership Group, suggests that students need 7 skills to be successful in the future:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving skills
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading between networks
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialship
  5. Effective oral and written communication skills
  6. The ability to access and analyse information
  7. Curiosity and imagination
There is already evidence to show that employers are looking for a very different skill set to the traditional skills people of our generation were asked to provide:

Today's students are motivated to learn in a completely different way.  So how do we motivate these students to achieve excellence at an even higher level that previously required?  Students must learn how take responsibility for their own learning.  To do this, they need time and a myriad of opportunities to practice, and wicked problems to solve.  Content is important but it is not enough.  We need to use content to teach Key Competencies, and we need to be assessing our students abilities to meet those Key Competencies. 

In the last 5 years the digital universe has grown by 1,000%.  This generation has grown up wired to high speed internet.  They use the internet to extend friendships; they are engaging in self-directed, exploratory learning; and they are using it as a tool of self expression.  Outside of school, these students are constantly connected.  They are collaborating and multi-tasking.  The difference between how these students are choosing to learn in their own time and how they are learning within school is increasing exponentially.  Carolyn Stuart, the Education Sector Lead at Network for Learning, warns that if we do not address this gap, the trust our school communities have in us to cater for the needs of their children as an institution will plummet.

The relationship we have with our students is also changing.  Today's students have less fear and respect for adults - possibly because they are learning more from their peers.  Yet they still really crave coaching and mentoring from the teachers they respect.  They want and need to make a difference, and they believe they can.  This causes them to be intolerant of 'busy work' ... They might do it to get by, but they will not do it in a way that is meaningful or really engages them.

We need to hold ourselves accountable to what matters most.
We need to talk to our students; collect, analyse and really listen to their voice.
We need to learn from each other, and problem solve together to transform teaching and learning.

We need to do new work, in new ways.