Understanding Constructionism

Part of this week’s task was to familiarize ourselves with a Logo emulator by using tasks outlined in this Logo Workbook.  Like Brooke, this was also my first experience using computer codes to generate images.  Perhaps my first observation of this coding program was how useful it would be in a mathematics class for students learning concepts such as angles, rays, patterning, sequencing, measurement and computation.  After receiving necessary instructions from teachers, students could practice skills using this program.  As the constructionism approach to learning suggests, the best way to learn is through active creation of something tangle outside of your head and that learning happens as a consequence of experience.  Allowing students to experience the creation of images based on computerized instructions, would allow this type of learning to take place.  I strongly believe that coding would provide an engaging activity that students could apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.

When exploring the work of Seymour Papert, the following video contributed greatly to my understanding constructionism.

In this video, Gary Stager discusses many of Papert’s powerful ideas and the impact Papert had on progressing computer-based eduction for children.  I would like to point out two points that struck me in this video.

1. Stager highlights the comparison that Seymour Papert made of a modern-day surgeon visiting a hospital 100 years ago to a modern-day teacher visiting a school 100 years ago.  Papert suggested that a modern-day surgeon would enter a surgery suite and not recognize anything about the practice.  However, if a teacher had a similar time machine and travelled back 100 years, they would know exactly what to do.  For me, this comparison really exemplifies how little education models have progressed, despite evolution of the digital world.  This can serve as encouragement for educators to continue their work in incorporating computer-based education (such as the use of coding and other programs) into everyday teachings in schools.

2. Stager spoke of Papert’s belief that educators need to create a mathland where learning mathematics comes naturally.  Papert believed that we need to provide the youngest of learners with mathematical experiences that would not be possible without digital technologies.  He believed that if we were to provide these types of opportunities to students, then mathematics would be learned in a more engaging, natural way.  This idea of Papert reminded me of the Logo activities that we completed this week.  The Logo activities were engaging and would be a natural and meaningful way to teach and practice mathematical skills in today’s classrooms.

One example of how Canadian educators are practicing the ideas of Papert and constructionism is in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the provincial government has provided funding for students to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics through activities such as computer coding.  Details of this project can be found in the following article:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/coding-funding-brilliant-labs-1.4621415

As one teacher who is working to facilitate the technology-based education outlined in the article states, “Technology and certainly coding is a language that’s as important to learn as English in terms of our school system.”  This statement aligns with the beliefs of Papert and the importance he placed on technology as a tool for learning.

In closing, I am left to wonder if the Saskatchewan curriculum is progressing towards technology-based education and programs like those outlined in the news article about Newfoundland and Labrador school systems.  Any thoughts regarding this are welcomed!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Kelsey

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