Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World

By Yasmin Kafai; Mitchel Resnick | Go to book overview

a crayon out of her mother's hand and saying, "I want to draw it myself." Interestingly though, Shamia took ownership over defining and applying computational ideas in a way that is not typical of many children in school, particularly children of color.

As described earlier, Bob Moses points out the need to provide children of color with mathematics learning experiences that support rather than undermine their confidence in their abilities to work on challenging math problems. Shamia's "rainbow learning" experience presents a clear example of a child rising to the challenge of working to understand computational ideas that are new to her. There are also indications from this story that the espoused African-centered nature of the learning culture at Paige was involved in supporting Shamia's confident approach to solving her problems.

Reflecting Papert's views of constructionism, Logo was a successful tool for fostering Shamia's engagement and allowing her to find her own way to think about the rainbow. Turtle graphics provided her with a way to assert her own way of thinking about how to make her rainbow and to understand new ideas in the process of constructing all the parts of her rainbow.

The fact that Shamia is learning in a school environment where her interests and cultural heritage are recognized and respected is congruent with Moses' message and presents a unique opportunity for learning research. With the intention of supporting her learning needs as an African-American child, her teacher creates a learning environment filled with expectations that she can figure out a complex problem (like the rainbow), support for her work on her problem, and respect for her assertion of ownership of her strategy. Her story shows how this environment offers opportunities to explore resonances between the ways that mathematical ideas are embedded in work with Logo and the ways that mathematics learning is emergent from the pedagogy within an African-centered school. Her story is one of many from this school that help to make a case for including analysis of cultural diversity and sociocultural context within both research and practice of constructionism.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This chapter is part of an ongoing thesis research study of children's learning at Paige Academy with constructionist technologies from a perspective that includes sociocultural context as an element of knowledge construction. This chapter would not have come together without the help of Mitchel Resnick. I thank Joe Cook, Seymour Papert, and Eleanor Duckworth for their constant encouragement and support for telling the stories of children at Paige. Special thanks to the students in Group 3 for their hard work and inspiration. I also thank the National Science Foundation (Grant 9153719-MDR), the LEGO Group, and Nintendo Inc., for their support of this research.

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