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

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

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

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


The digital revolution necessitates, but also makes possible, radical changes in how and what we learn. This book describes a set of innovative educational research projects at the MIT Media Laboratory, illustrating how new computational technologies can transform our conceptions of learning, education, and knowledge. The book draws on real-world education experiments conducted in formal and informal contexts: from inner-city schools and university labs to neighborhoods and after-school clubhouses. The papers in this book are divided in four interrelated sections as follows:

Perspectives in Constructionism further develops the intellectual underpinnings of constructionist theory. This section looks closely at the role of perspective-taking in learning and discusses how both cognitive and affective processes play a central role in building connections between old and new knowledge.

Learning through Design analyzes the relationship between designing and learning, and discusses ways that design activities can provide personally meaningful contexts for learning. This section investigates how and why children can learn through the processes of constructing artifacts such as games, textile patterns, robots and interactive devices.

Learning in Communities focuses on the social aspects of constructionist learning, recognizing that how people learn is deeply influenced by the communities and cultures with which they interact. It examines the nature of learning in classroom, inner-city, and virtual communities.

Learning about Systems examines how students make sense of biological, technological, and mathematical systems. This section explores the conceptual and epistemological barriers to learning about feedback, self-organization, and probability, and it discusses new technological tools and activities that can help people develop new ways of thinking about these phenomena.


Seymour Papert

Why is there no word in English for the art of learning? Webster says that the word pedagogy means the art of teaching. What is missing is the parallel word for learning. In schools of education, courses on the art of teaching are often listed simply as "methods." Everyone understands that the methods of importance in education are those of teaching--these courses supply what is thought to be needed to become a skilled teacher. But what about methods of learning? What courses are offered for those who want to become skilled learners?

The same imbalance can be found in words for the theories behind these two arts. "Theory of Instruction" and "Instructional Design" are among many ways of designating an academic area of study and research in support of the art of teaching. There are no similar designations for academic areas in support of the art of learning. Understandably: The need for such names has not been felt because there is so little to which they would apply. Pedagogy, the art of teaching, under its various names, has been adopted by the academic world as a respectable and important field. The art of learning is an academic orphan.

One should not be misled by the fact that libraries of academic departments of psychology often have a section marked "learning theory." The older books under this heading deal with the activity that is sometimes caricatured by the image of a white-coated scientist watching a rat run through a maze; newer volumes are more likely to base their theories on the performance of computer programs than on the behavior of animals. I do not mean to denigrate such books--I am myself the co-author of one and proud of it--but only to observe that they are not about the art of learning. They do not, for instance, offer advice to the rat (or the computer) about how to learn, although they have much to say to the psychologist about how to train a rat. Sometimes they are taken as a basis for . . .

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