Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Look Back: GAME-ing

Using a GAME plan for my professional growth has caused me to be more reflective about how I work with teachers and to review my progress in getting to goals I have set. It engaged me in making a concrete plan about areas of growth, required me to review what I am doing to complete the plan and when monitoring, showed me where my plan needed to be adjusted so it is realistic and attainable.  The major objective I included in my plan was to support teachers in understanding and implementing project based learning. Since I wrote my plan, I have co-facilitated a two hour professional development session introducing the concept of project based learning with an hour follow-up with three groups of teachers, elementary, middle school and high school. The major change to the way I will instruct teachers about PBL is that I will provide many more resources that are diverse in content, format and length to teachers and I will slow the whole process down from my original conception. 

When developing the PD session I realized again how complex this subject is. Realizing that teachers will need time to grasp the depth of the content, as well as have time to practice each part of the development of a unit of their own has caused me to adjust how I will present information and the pace I will use to move from lesson to lesson. One adjustment I have made in using technology while working with teachers is to use more of it so that I can model the use of the technology we have in classrooms. Teachers can then learn how it is used in lessons, and not just learn the functions of the hardware and software. We have had this available for a number or years, but teachers have not embraced using it. I believe partly because though they received workshops about how to use the hardware and software, they never saw it used, not were given examples of it being used to actually teach students.

An additional change in my teaching will be to include more ongoing monitoring. Not every assessment has to be written, nor even scored. Assessing students’ understanding of a topic while it is being presented is the most efficient and effective way to alter instruction to meet student needs. I have become more adept at writing rubrics which guide my teaching and student learning. Using social networking sites such as Edmodo has become a way to share information with students and for them to turn in assignments. Using less paper and more electrons makes my life easier and moves my teaching to align more with what students do outside of school.

I will continue to use my GAME plan, and will continue to monitor, adjust and evaluate my progress. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Moving On

I don’t think I have to modify my plan (meaning change the direction) but I am finding that I need to add to it; producing or presenting more information before teachers begin to use PBL. I realized that before teachers could use scaffolds for creating mini-units, they have to understand what PBL is more deeply. I have started developing fact sheets for teachers for learning about PBL. I am trying to give the essential information about PBL so they can understand in a relatively short amount of time what it is and begin to plan mini-units. I am finding plenty of information and resources, but I am finding it difficult to distill the information into one to two-page presentations that teachers will be able to digest easily, but that also present the information accurately. 

Image from
The first fact sheet I developed is “PBL - Introduction” (see image below) and includes a link to a video that has embedded questions to think about and answer. I hope teachers will watch this first, and then look through the rest of the fact sheet. I decided to included examples and non-examples of projects as a way to make clear just what PBL is and isn’t. I think that will help clarify the significant difference between doing projects (activities) and PBL (projects). I then included some questions and answers that I think teachers will find instructive. I’ve included a print out of the information from this fact sheet to give you an example of how I am trying to structure them. 

I have learned that my expectations are set very high and I need to back up a bit to be sure that the foundational information is present before moving into the project. I tend to move quickly into the deep-end without considering the full scope of prior knowledge that needs to be activated before the real work can start. Stopping to monitor what I am doing, taking time to think about the process, looking at the scope of the work, all of these make me aware of how complex learning is, for adults and for children. Developing a new set of skills requires a lot of practice, and providing the proper preparation is essential for success. The biggest question I have now is about the scope of my GAME plan. Is it even possible to provide enough support for this undertaking without serious and deep understanding of PBL? Is it possible to learn PBL by doing PBL?

Click on the picture below to see the original size of the sample fact sheet.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Planning for Success

To be successful in carrying out this plan I will need resources that will help me guide teachers in producing PBL mini-units. I found an article “Scaffolding Teachers’ Efforts to Implement Problem-Based Learning” by Ertmer & Simons (2005/2006) that not only gave me insight into what kinds of support teachers might need, but also resources to access that could give me more information in the Bibliography. I have decided that I will come up with actual scaffolds to help teachers plan PBL lessons. Because it is such a huge task and there is so much information available to sift through, I think giving teachers success in planning and carrying out a PBL mini-unit will provide the impetus necessary for further work.  I will also provide an Edmodo group that will have links to articles, online resources and documents for teachers who want to look more deeply into PBL.

The scaffolds I plan to start with are based directly on information from Ertmer and Simons’ (2005/2006) article. They are: essential (driving) questions (p. 5), locating/gathering resources (p. 6), creating student ownership of the problem (p. 7), creating a collaborative classroom culture (p. 8), and assessment methods (p. 10). I also want to give a short overview for teacher of what PBL is, why it is valuable for student learning and how it might look in a classroom. Resources I have found that will do this include this web page, What is Project Based Learning (Stanfill, n.d.), this video Project Based Learning: Explained (Common Craft, 2010) and this guide Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide (Edutopia, 2007). I may distill the information even further to give teachers a clear but concise introduction to PBL. I have found that teachers I have talked to believe that doing projects is the same as project-based learning.

To give an idea of how I plan to scaffold teacher implementation of PBL I will start with designing a worksheet for essential questions. One of the resources listed in the bibliography of the Ertmer and Simons article (2005/2006) provided a list of examples and non-examples of essential questions (Quebec English School Network RÉCIT , 2005). I will use some of those in the initial scaffold for designing questions. Information in Developing the Questions for Project-Based Learning (Kolk, 2011) includes an exercise to determine the enduring understanding behind topics from a curriculum and a quick description of what an essential question is. There are also links at the bottom of the article to Wallingford Public Schools Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions for Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies which provide great examples.
Image found:

I believe to make this plan a success I have to make PBL as accessible as possible. Providing resources to help develop each part of the plan, samples of exemplary components and explanations to give an overview of the whole process are essential to making it accessible. It is a complex process and requires a great deal of adjustment to teaching style, planning and expectations of students.


Common Craft. (2010, December 9). Project Based Learning: Explained. Retrieved from YouTube:

Edutopia. (2007, October 19). Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide. Retrieved from Edutopia:

Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2005/2006). Scaffolding Teachers' Efforts to Implement Problem Based Learning. International Journal of Learning, 319-328. Retrieved from Peg Ertmer's Virtual Home:

Kolk, M. (2011, July 18). Developing the questions for project-based learning. Retrieved from Tech4Learning Blog:

Quebec English School Network RÉCIT . (2005). QEP and ICT: Making the Connection Through Project-Based Learning. Retrieved from LEARN Quebec:

Stanfill, J. (n.d.). Personal Webpage, California State University, Sacramento. Retrieved from What is Project-Based Learning (PBL)?:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My G.A.M.E. Plan - The Beginning

Setting a game plan to improve personal and student confidence and competence based on the International Society for Technology in Education National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (that’s quite a mouthful) or the ISTE NETS-T, is a necessary step in continuing my growth and development in the teaching profession.  The game plan or G.A.M.E. plan, suggests that I set Goals, take Action, Monitor progress and Evaluate whether the goals are achieved (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  I cannot work on all five standards and be effective, so I have chosen standard 1.b and standard 2.a. The standards are as follows:

1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.
b. Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources (ISTE, 2008 para 5)

2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS·S.
a.       Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity (ISTE, 2008 para 10)

I do not currently work as a classroom teacher, but as the Educational Technology Coordinator at our school. This position allows me to work with teachers to support them in integrating technology into their teaching day. This game plan will be somewhat odd, because I am writing it not only for my personal growth, but to help me guide the growth of teachers I work with.  I want to focus my work with teachers such that it helps them positively impact student learning through changes they make to their teaching practice. I also want to insure that the changes are not onerous, but make teachers more efficient and effective. We have had technology available in each classroom for the past two and half years, however there was little professional development of the type that would encourage teachers to use it to do different things. Those who used it just did things differently (Thornburg, 2004). I have not had the opportunity before this year to work one-to-one with teachers as I would have liked. Now I am and I think it is making a difference in how teachers feel about technology and using it in their lessons.

Facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity through Project Based Learning (PBL) and incorporating digital tools is part of our strategic plan and a focus for teachers for the next three years. Supporting teachers in creating and carrying out PBL is a natural focus for me and based on my reading and understanding should improve student learning. My action plan for these standards will include co-planning and co-teaching PBL mini-units with individual teachers because I interpret “real-world issues and solving authentic problems” (ISTE, 2008 para 5) as PBL.  I think the important part of that statement is mini-units. Designing and carrying out a PBL unit is complex and can take a lot of planning. I believe every bit of the planning is worth it, but trying to complete a long-term project out of the chute is a bad idea. Neither students nor teachers are prepared for the role shifts required for a successful PBL unit, and both must practice the required skills necessary to complete a unit successfully.

I have already begun to work on this plan, and have had the great joy of hearing the teachers I have worked with excitedly sharing with other teachers how much fun, how great, how exciting the experience is. We have a small teaching staff of K-12th grade teachers, only twenty-two teachers. I have had the opportunity to work with five teachers so far. The experience has been wonderful, and I have enjoyed it immensely. Monitoring part of my progress should be fairly easy. I need to look at how many teachers I work with and how many PBL units of any size we complete. I also need to look at teacher and student use of technology, which can also be measured fairly easily with walk-through mini-observations. The most difficult part of monitoring is the impact these units are having on student achievement. I need to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and that will be a bit more difficult.

I have not yet designed a way to measure success quantitatively. I asked teachers to complete a technology use survey at the beginning of the year. I will ask for it again soon and then again at the end of the year. This will give me a subjective measure of how much technology teachers think they are using, but will not necessarily show if the hoped for additional use of technology will impact student achievement. Being able to isolate reasons for student success or failure is a task beyond my ability and beyond my job. Trying to measure student creativity objectively is also very difficult. I think the measurement focus should be on teacher use of technology, student use of technology, and number of PBL units/lessons taught as a result of my co-planning and co-teaching.  

I believe adding the G.A.M.E. plan to my ongoing work will be invaluable. It will help me focus my work on my goals instead of straying afield. By monitoring what I am doing and looking at successes and failures I will be able to modify my plan, change how I am interacting with teachers, and add or change actions I am taking to make sure I am still working towards the standards I have selected to work on. 


Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology Integration for Meaningful Classroom Use: A Standards-Based Approach. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
ISTE. (2008). NETS-T. Retrieved from International Society for Technology in Education:

Thornburg, D. (2004). Technology and Education: Expections not Options. Executive Briefing Number 401, 1-12.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What has changed, what is the same?

Going back to college after 34 years is a revelation. Not so much because I have not been learning since I left, but because what I am doing in my class has an immediate and relevant relationship to what I am doing in my work. It is exciting and enriching to think about what I am doing, and why I am doing it, instead of just going to class and completing the assignments. Reflecting on what underlies what I do gives me the opportunity to adjust thoughtfully; not just react. During this class, I even thought for a bit that college belonged after gaining life experience, but that is not exactly right. I think more, that advanced education should accompany work. As a pre-service teacher, taking advanced classes in education goes into the “this may apply someday” file instead of the “I can work on this tomorrow” file. When we rehearse and elaborate on our new learning (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a) it becomes deeply embedded and more easily retrieved. Thinking of ways to incorporate new knowledge into our work means that we have to figure out how it fits, we have to think about it and either assimilate it or accommodate our world outlook to fit it in (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011c).

Reflecting on my theory of learning during the first week of this class was really reflecting on my practice of teaching. Looking at what I did in the classroom over my teaching career and trying to decide what theory those actions embodied was an interesting exercise. I decided then, that my teaching style did not represent any one theory, but many if not all that we studied during the course of this class. I still believe that to be true. The difference has come in my understanding of the theories that explain what happens when I use particular strategies. This knowledge has given me a way to reflect on what I want students to do, and how to go about setting the stage so that can happen. I have assimilated the new information and now have access to it so that I can retrieve it and use it. Because I understand more about what happens in our brains when we work together to make things (Kim, 2001), I will be likely to guide teachers into designing lessons that result in an artifact, be that a concept map, a PowerPoint with vocabulary pictures, or a video. Knowing now how powerful it is to have students talk to each other while learning, to have them work together to solve a problem, or to have to come to an agreement about an assignment (Palmer, Peters & Streetman, 2003) I will suggest to teachers that they use more social learning in their lessons. I will encourage teachers to be sure that the students are actively involved in all lessons, if possible, all the time (Pittler, Hubbel & Kuhn, 2012).

I have already started to change the way I work with teachers. I am trying to convince them to let students use the technology tools they have available in the classroom most of the time. I want them to know that they should, as Dr. Marzono said, “give the technology to the kids, let the kids be responsible for their learning” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011b). I have started thoughtfully incorporating teaching strategies when planning lessons with teachers and talking about the strategies I am using, as well as where I learned about them. I have shared informational websites with teachers about Marzano’s Nine Instructional Strategies and plan to continue disseminating material I believe will not only inform the teaching staff, but will support their students’ success.

Two products I will promote with teachers are podcasts in the school for the blind and video production in the school for the deaf. These will allow students to use technology in many forms to make products that can support their learning, show what they have learned, and share their knowledge with the wider community. They are both ways for learners to work together to create something; they both are complex enough to be interesting but simple enough for even beginners to be successful. Kindergartners and 12th graders can be engaged and excited
about what they are doing, and students can become more expert as they get older so eventually they can work independently with minimal teacher support.

Most students who are blind or have low-vision learn and prefer to learn through sound. Using podcasts, listening to them and producing them, will give students the opportunity to share themselves and will open them to the world beyond the school. Using podcasting as a tool for students to share information, give reports and produce a collaborative product will require them to plan, produce and edit. This will require deep thinking about the topic and conversations about how they will complete it. It will give them many opportunities to work together and for elaborative rehearsals of new knowledge(Laureate Education, Inc., 2011c). I will share accessible tools such as Audacity or WavePad for recording and editing sound. Students who use screen readers can access all of the functions of both programs and with guides available online such as this one for Audacity, they can become independent podcast producers. Listening to podcasts using iTunes , Accessible Podcatcher or Juice Receiver will allow students to connect to the wider world. There is a community of podcast producers who are blind or who have low-vision who share information about accessible technology and ideas for coping with the world. There are also many who produce podcasts on subjects that interest them. Having access to such podcasts and seeing the possibilities could expand students’ view of what they can do.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing commonly depend on and prefer information presented visually. Using video of any sort is a great way to satisfy that preference. Video can also take many forms, but all forms are best when pre-planning is thorough. Using tools such as Storyboard Pro from Atomic Learning  to help plan the project (whether with student actors, whiteboard animation, or clay animation) and Microsoft MovieMaker to edit will allow students to complete videos with little additional cost for software, an important consideration.  This type of project gives students many opportunities to deepen their understanding, for elaborative rehearsal, for working collaboratively, for discussion about what they are doing and for to coming to agreement about what they want to produce. This is an opportunity for students to construct something they can share, to actively build their knowledge, and to investigate and create (Han & Battacharya, 2001). Learning through doing, sharing with an authentic audience and working together all make learning more active, and learners will create new ideas in the process (2001).

Because I am now working with teachers instead of students, my focus has changed. I see many teachers who feel incredibly stressed by documentation requirements, requirements for data collection, high stakes standardized testing, requirements to complete curriculum and the need for students to make acceptable progress each year. I see teachers who feel that no matter what they do it will not be good enough and they will not meet the goals set for them. I want to share Marzano’s Nine Strategies. I want to show the power of these strategies to teachers and give them tools to use to better meet the needs of students, and possibly reduce their stress because they have strategies that work and make the effort they expend more effective in supporting student achievement. I will share websites and titles of books, but what I think will be most effective is to incorporate these strategies when co-planning and co-teaching lessons. If that can demonstrate to teachers how a single strategy works, it can be an introduction to them. It can be a teaching strategy they add to their repertoire because they see it works. In my experience, teachers are too often given a book or a curriculum guide and required to use it with little support. Seldom are teachers asked what they need, or what kind of professional development would be useful. By introducing these strategies within lessons, I hope to bring them a useful tool instead of a new requirement.

In one of the discussion postings a while ago (I can’t find it now) someone mentioned a website, FuelEd. I was curious and decided to look at it, and reading through it saw that the idea comes from Louis Cozolino’s book, The Social Neuroscience of Education (Cozolino, 2013). One of the statements on the website really struck me:

The current system is also a bad fit for committed teachers who don’t find teaching to tests a meaningful human endeavor. People become teachers because they desire to be of service and, like everyone else, need to feel they are achieving some success. Instead, they find themselves in a system where, more often than not, decisions are made to support the survival of the organization instead of the needs of the students. Is it any wonder that teachers leave the profession, or even worse, burn out and stay in the classroom? (FuelEd, n.d., para. 4)

I have felt this, but have not been able to articulate it so clearly. I have purchased the book and begun to read it. I believe that it will be an excellent resource, and one that will be valuable to teachers, particularly new teachers. Giving these teachers a lens to see what they are doing, and giving them the tools to shape how they are doing it could sustain their excitement, enjoyment, and enthusiasm for teaching, and as a result could positively affect students they work with. So my second long term goal is to find ways to support teachers and help them find the joy again.

Using the tools I have read about and the resources I have learned about during this class in my current job will give me the power to work with teachers in a way that makes a significant impact. If I can continue to find and share resources, support teachers’ growth in integrating successful strategies and share ways to strengthen their connections to others I will feel that I have had a share in changing a small portion of the educational system. It is obvious to me that there has to be change, what is not so obvious is how to significantly affect that change as a single individual. Focusing on the teachers I am working with, within my circle of influence means that I have a chance to make a difference.

As Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you” (Rao, N. A., n.d.).


Cozolino, L. (2013). The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachments & Learning in the Classroom. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

FuelEd: Research Foundations, quoting Louis Cozolinso. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Han, S., and Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism.. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011c). Program two: Brain research and learning [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Palmer, G., Peters, R., & Streetman, R. (2003). Cooperative learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Rao, N. A.,  Mother Theresa [sic] Sayings: The Work, (n.d). Retrieved from:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Talk (and make) and Learn

Social learning, we all do it all the time. I belong to a quilt guild. I have often attended classes about quilting with others in the guild. Let me tell you, we are not silent. We talk about what we are doing, what we are confused about and often quite loudly about what we finally understand. This is social learning, and in particular social constructionism. One of the statements made by Michael Orey in his discussion of social learning theories is that as a Math teacher he understood much better what he was teaching after he taught it (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). I remember vividly teaching eighth grade students about number systems other than base ten and having an epiphany. I finally understood clearly what one-zero means in base two , and it was so obvious. I learned because I talked about it. I had to think about it so I could talk about it; elaborative learning right there in the classroom. Unfortunately at the time, the students were not allowed to talk to each other about what the understood, or try to figure out together what new concepts meant. 

Cooperative learning strategies not only allow students to talk about what they are learning, they require students to talk and work together. Strategies that group students for longer projects so they can develop trusting relationships are powerful ways to learn and can increase student achievement. Students ideally will become accountable to each other and will be held accountable individually. They will work long enough together that they will develop a "sink or swim together" (positive interdependence) attitude (Pittler, Hubbel & Kuhn, 2012) and so succeed together. Giving assignments that require more than one person to complete, that are complex enough to need multiple roles and multiple days to finish all provide the students the opportunity to learn and produce cooperatively so they can succeed in the work world once they are finished with school (Pittler, Hubbel & Kuhn). 

The social aspect of Edmodo, which allows students to communicate outside of school hours about assignments or work, supports social learning. Blogging when it becomes a conversation rather than a journal and is truly interactive, can be a social learning tool. Polleverywhere can also be used as a social learning tool when the questions are open ended rather than multiple choice or true false. If used in a classroom setting where students can see real time what their classmates are saying it can allow introverted students the time they need to process before sharing. It also can lead to discussions where students ask questions, agree or disagree and tell why. A class discussion can be a social learning strategy, as long as it requires students to think deeply about the topic under discussion. These discussion can take place in person, or online using technology such as VoiceThread and an evocative picture or topic. If we can get students to connect to each other and develop serious learning communities, and can provide rich educational environments that encourage deep learning, then our schools will again be the finest in the world.

I created a sample VoiceThread that I could use with a class to introduce a project. I used American Sign Language (ASL) to make my comments, as well as written English. This would support student comprehension of the task as well as provide practice in reading English. The first two slides are meant to get the students thinking about the problem before the problem itself is introduced. I would require students to make comments, either in written English or ASL on the first two slides, and if they wanted to on the last slide. If you want to see the VoiceThread you can click here


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. 2nd edition Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Make and Learn

Constructionism is just what it sounds like…making something and learning through the making. While I was still teaching there were sometimes projects that were incorporated into the curriculum, and then the projects were shared. We made topographical maps from salt clay to learn about land forms, we wrote books based on field trip experiences and we cooked. All of these ended with artifacts that we shared with parents, other classes and each other. However, most of the time the projects had very clear guidelines and requirements which constricted the flow of learning and guided it in a very specific direction with very specific goals in mind. This week’s readings showed me that to exploit the power of making, teachers must be able to stand back more, and allow students more freedom to explore, reflect, revise and share. The guidance has to be subtle; more like making sure the baby does not fall into the lake than making sure the baby stays on the concrete path. There is so much more to be learned by touching the trees, walking on the grass, picking up the stones and crunching the leaves than by walking carefully in the middle of the sidewalk. As a teacher, I tended to be sure we got where we were going, even if I had to grab the learners’ hands and drag them quickly with me to the goal.

Switching to a more learner-centered classroom practice would be hard, but I think, worth the effort. Allowing students more control over how and what and when they learn would give them the opportunity to develop skills they cannot when the are being led. Walking with a three year old anywhere can be frustrating if the point is to get there fast. Walking with a three year old and noticing what they discover, and listening to the questions they ask can be not only enlightening, but delightful. Giving students the tools to create their own learning can be delightful and enlightening as well, as long as the teacher can provide a clear goal and guidance along the way.(Han & Bhattacharya, 2001) Using technology as a part of the learner-centered classroom, giving students tools to create their learning makes sense for the world our students are living in. Technology opens doors for students, giving them tools that expand not only their access to information, but also breaking down the walls of the classroom and inviting the whole world in as part of the learning space. 

Giving students a problem to solve or a project to create, can certainly fall under the umbrella of constructionism. In order to solve the problem, one that is important to the students and is an authentic task, they have to do all sorts of learning. They need to reflect on the problem from their experience and previous learning and with guidance move from problem to solution. (Laureate Education, Inc, 2011) Along the way they have the opportunity to work together, ask questions, find answers, reflect on their paths, and revise their thoughts. They will undoubtedly have conflicting ideas about where to go and how to get there, but can arrive at an answer through discussion and collaboration and with teacher guidance.

In this week's readings, students were given spreadsheets with data and asked to produce hypotheses about what the data might mean, then asked to use the data to prove or disprove their hypotheses. (Pitler, Hubbell & Kuhn, 2012)  In order to come up with logical and supportable hypotheses, they have to think deeply and critically about the data. This undoubtedly created excellent opportunities for learning and based on Papert's statement that "Learners don't get ideas; they create ideas." this activity can also fall under the contructionist umbrella. (Han & Bhattacharya, 2001). These students are not creating an artifact, but though the problem they are asked to solve may be a limited one, they are coming up with a solution. The authors of  our text also suggest using software that supports brainstorming and using graphic organizers to allow students to put their thoughts into a scaffold to help them come up with hypotheses. This is needed because looking at data and coming up with hypotheses is a high level cognitive task. (Pitler, Hubbell & Kuhn). These technology tools which support student learning and expand their ability to hold and process information are constructionist tools in this case. Students are creating webs of information to help them organize their thoughts so that they can find answers to their questions.

To construct learning, students need tools, and technology provides tools of all sorts that are useful for many skill levels. The tools are many and varied and can be tailored to particular needs. When students have access to many technology tools, they can more easily build from their experience and create ideas that will lead them on to new learning. 


Han, S., and Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.