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What do we understand by Constructivism. Constructivism is the term used to refer to the idea that learning takes place when the learner is active and constructs new ideas based on previous knowledge.
History of Constructivism
Constructivism has been around the beginning of the 20th Century; amongst some of the people who supported this idea were Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget.
Lev Vygotsky worked a lot on the Social Constructivist Theory were learning takes place in a 'social context' (Jennifer Andersen, 2011). Lev Vygotsky also developed the idea of "Zone of Proximal Development" (ZPD). (Atherton, 2011) This idea discusses that with guidance a child can learn a little more.
Jean Piaget, is well known for developing a theory that children best learn in four different developmental stages but Piaget also stated that "A child constructs understanding through many channels: reading, listening, exploring, and experiencing his or her environment." (Clark, 2012). So during the lessons the students must be presented with varied activities as to keep them engaged and give them the opportunity to exploit these different channels as described by Piaget.
Benefits to a Constructivist Classroom
The following are some benefits that the learner may benefit through a constructivist approach. Thirteen Ed Online gives some benefits of constructivism in the classroom as presented below.
In this approach the learner is actively involved and is not a passive receptor. In this way, the student will enjoy learning. Constructivism also allows the learner to think and understand, rather than focus on memorization. Learning is based on students' exploration and research. Knowledge gained through constructivist approach is not shallow learning but knowledge that tends to be retained and maybe transferred to real life situations. Students are more engaged in constructing their own knowledge through questioning. Constructivist teaching promotes and enhances communication skills where the students work together on a particular task. Here the students are encouraged to work in team in order to discuss new material and challenges. (Sue Young Wilson, 2004)
How can Constructivism be applied in the Classroom?
The teacher in a constructivist classroom should seek how to help students to 'learn how to learn' (Sue Young Wilson, 2004) in a world where challenges are met in everyday circumstances. This comes to terms with the theory of Life-Long Learning as expressed by John Dewey. Dewey emphasis was that "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." John Dewey (Piscitelli, 2012)
In a constructivist approach students move from what they already know to what they should acquire. In other words they should move "from the known to the unknown" as Bruner noted. (Overbaugh, 2004)
Constructivist learning is student based; the role of the teacher should be that of a facilitator. Here the teacher should help students to focus on how to construct their knowledge. The teacher has to be flexible to the different scenarios which may arise in such a classroom. "Constructivism offers flexibility to teachers to individualize learning for each student while using technology tools to augment cognitive and meet cognitive processes." (Aloka Nanjappa, 2003)
Using the computer and possibly different resources in the everyday practice of teaching and learning will for sure help students to engage more in the learning process. "Computers, video and other technologies engage children with the immediacy they are used to in their everyday lives." (Erik Strommen, 1992) Using resources such as videos, online worksheets and PowerPoint presentations will make learning fun and more interesting. Also in such an approach students are encouraged to collaborate together, think and exchange the knowledge they create with their peers. As suggested by Wong 2008 "...technological innovations used in classrooms are also documented as an evidence for tracing changes in teaching and learning towards a student-centred approach. Technological innovations may take the form of PowerPoint, World Wide Web, mindtools, and simulation software etc." (Wong, 2008)
When using videos, such as YouTube videos, which are good sources of information will help the students to learn more about the subject being presented. "Emerging technologies, such as the YouTube video-sharing web site (www.YouTube.com), are important to both in-class and online instructors for establishing a sense of classroom community and achieving better learner outcomes." (Sloane C. Burke, 2009)
When the use of technology is used as a routine, student will feel as if it is part of them, part of everyday life. Technology becomes accepted, students are more willing to learn and in fact they do learn more. In classrooms where students "routinely use technology to collect, organize and analyze data; to enhance presentations; to conduct simulations and to solve complex problems. In these classrooms, the technology seems almost invisible; it is the learning that is apparent." (Mary Burns, 1998)
Worksheets used are graded where students are expected to work together and look for information on a website. Here they are to use websites to gather any information which they have not yet assimilated and will have further time for discussion. We learn by doing, by interacting with others and through authentic (real world) tools and experiences. (Sloane C. Burke, 2009)
"The richness of the technology permits us to provide a richer and more exciting (entertaining) learning environment . . . our concern is the new understandings and new capabilities that are possible through the use of technology" (Duffy, 1996). Using a variety of different online resources such as games will help the learner enjoy learning and thus making more effort in trying to make more sense of the information presented. Moreover students will construct new knowledge. When learners construct their own knowledge they become more responsible for their learning.
Hands on activities - And because they allow for exploration and highly creative and individualized self-expression, computers are perfect tools for hands-on learning. http://www.sedl.org/pubs/tapinto/v1n1.pdf
Research suggests that educational technology is most effective when used to enhance constructivist or student-centred instructional strategies. http://www.sedl.org/pubs/tapinto/v1n1.pdf
Learning is different for each individual. Teaching practices based on constructivism are flexible and varied and therefore accommodate different learning needs. Computers, for their part, offer students individualized learning, allowing them to progress at their own pace http://www.sedl.org/pubs/tapinto/v1n1.pdf