Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Piaget's Constructivism and Project-Based Technology Use

Constructivism is ideal in most subject areas as the main courses in every grade level are either skill based (math and language/reading) or an application of those subjects (science, social studies, etc.). This means that application is natural to the learning environment.
Constructivism relies on an artifact, proof, learning evolved and applied. Orey explains that we are in a constant struggle for equilibrium in learning. We are constantly given new information that we are required to sort into some kind of schema, or heaven forbid, we are required to create a new "file folder" based on the new information. (Laureate Education, Inc. , 2008)
Constructivism naturally requires a person to create hypotheses upon applying and cultivating a new skill. Decision making, problem solving, and experimental inquiry are natural to my subject area, mathematics. These are 3 of the six tasks listed in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works (pg. 203). Quite often students are asked a question (real world math problems) that require them to make an educated guess as to what methods or courses of action make sense to investigate the given problem. I love math particularly because there is often more than one way to answer a question. Math affords a great ability to be adapted into many inquiry and research based investigations for this very reason.
I found that the website listed on page 214 of our textbook, "Using Technology" was a great example of incorporating numbers and operations into a science question, such as an investigation as to how the water cycle works. It requires students to make assumptions, revise or completely change these assumptions based on new information. This sounds a lot like the basic theories Piaget outlined.
If you are asking, what about an artifact? Constructivism asks for proof, for investigation through construction. The number one way to incorporate math using a technological artifact is Microsoft Excel or any other spreadsheet program. I myself have used Excel to have students investigate rainfall in rainforests, while including math topics such as average, adding and subtracting decimals, comparing and ordering numbers, and other sixth grade math concepts.
Be prepared to sacrifice time for constructivism.
But keep in mind, what is better, skimming through and only reaching the short term memory experience, or creating, applying, and reaching a long-term connection? (Laureate, 2008).
Glazer, E. (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 3/23/2010 from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Program 1: Understanding the Brain. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I can't figure out why the formatting is off on this post...argh.

  2. Hi Miss Ellis,
    Your bring up a great point having plently of time to do constructionsim in your classroom. I wish I could do more of it in my classroom, however I have so much content to cover. I try to do at least one constructionism activity in each unit I teach. I do find my students are more engaged and gain a better understanding when I do these activities.

  3. I agree that by using a constructionism approach, there would be a lot more classtime needed for these projects. We require our students to create their "artifacts" outside of class and we find that they enjoy and understand the concept better when they have to create it completely on their own. Creating the long term memory of the subject is the most important part of making the artifact and I think that it is more effective than just skimming through a book.


  4. I would love to ask students to create artifacts outside of the classroom. Unfortunately I found out last year that their parents don't provide glue and scissors at home to cut and paste things into their journals. Imagine asking these kids to do a project at home.

  5. As a math teacher also, it is important to make meaning of the concepts we introduce to our students. Not only will it answer the "why do i have to know this" question, but it will make meaningful and interesting for my students. Although in my district we are pushed to teach content and everything is about preparing my students for testing, I definitely want to make time to have my students work cooperatively in some semester or monthly project where they can use Excel and Power Point to generate and test their hypothesis on a mathematical concept presenting and using it in a real world application. They would then present their findings in a science fair or a end of class showcase of some sort. Either way, we do need to have the students excited about math and hopefully we are given more opportunities to allow them to be.