Constructivism Or How Things Seem To Work In My Classrooms

Like Darren, I've been asked to be a "context filter" for the Connectivism Conference. My invitation came from Bill Kerr, who teaches at a high school not far from where I live here in Adelaide. As a filter, my job is to view the ideas and concepts from the presentations through the focussed lense of my particular context. I work in the primary school setting, mainly with middle school aged kids. I have been proactive in the use of Resource Based Learning, especially as the internet became a increasingly useful tool for gathering information and then constructing knowledge. This methodology was redefined as Problem Based Learning at my current school and although I have never really delved into educational theory (which is where participating in the edublogosphere has been a boon for my own learning in this area) I see a focus on kids developing crucial skills and sifting through resources in order to construct their own understanding, hence my own classroom learning environments would be classified as constructivist.

One of the great things about the Read/Write Web is the ability to participate in events like the Online Connectivist Conference in an asynchronous fashion. The live session times are impractical for me and so, I'll be relying on the archived presentations (when I find the link on the Moodle) in order to do my filtering. And as there are a stack of work related tasks to complete, start and get on top of, my eventual responses could be quite asynchronous!

Going out on a limb here but I suspect a lot of my Aussie colleagues don't spend a lot of their time thinking about learning theories but rather concentrate or what works for them in their daily practice. They may know that the curriculum framework of this state, SACSA, is reputedly built on constructivist theory and by using that framework, they must be default constructivists. Last year, I attended a session at the International Middle Schooling Conference by Israeli academic, Yoram Harpaz, who pointed out the hypocritical differences between what most educators say they believe and how they actually implement learning for their students. The good thing about this conference when I finally engage with the topic and the conversation is that it will be a great refresher course in terms of comparing practice to theory. I do wonder how connectivism can work for the pre-adolescent years of schooling and how technology dependent that form of learning is. I really like a lot of questions Bill raises on his wiki in regards to whether we need to declare allegiance to one theory or another. My own classroom practice uses a multitude of methodologies ranging from explicit instruction to student initiated curriculum. Nearly every task is constructed with multiple entry points - an absolute necessity in the composite classrooms of the Australian primary sector - so that strugglers and capable kids can still engage with the same concepts and knowledge. I've pointed this out to some of the US based bloggers who read here that the use of textbooks is very limited in Aussie public primary schools. In my classroom, it is non-existent, unless you count a Maths or English Skills textbook from our teacher reference library, used only for guiding and designing curriculum content. So the whole idea of constructivism applies to my planning and programming and flows over to the learning experiences I provide for my students. I still believe in what politicians call "the basics" as the foundations on which students can build their own learning and consequently, their skills and knowledge. But where can this idea of connectivism fit in, especially with the five year old to thirteen year old age group?

So, when George has his presentation archives functioning (an e-mail earlier today said that they were experiencing difficulties with the recording of the first session) I'll download, listen, read and have a go at responding. Tony Forster already has but I'm even loathe to read his thoughts fully as I don't yet have the context for them and they may influence my filter perspective. We'll see I go.

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3 thoughts on “Constructivism Or How Things Seem To Work In My Classrooms

  1. Chris Craft

    I would really like to see you elaborate on how you define constructivism. You seem to refer to it as being analogous to project-based learning, I would love to hear your thoughts in clarifying the definition of the term and how it relates to projects.

    Thanks!

    Chris Craft

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  2. Alexander Hayes

    Hi Graham,

    You’ve answered your own question;

    “…..So, when George has his presentation archives functioning (an e-mail earlier today said that they were experiencing difficulties with the recording of the first session) I’ll download, listen, read and have a go at responding.”

    The question was:

    “…..But where can this idea of connectivism fit in, especially with the five year old to thirteen year old age group? ”

    It’s grounded ( I consider ) in your ability to find ways to bring your learners into a learning ecology that dosent match the comfort of what you take for granted now as an educator – an a damn good one at that.

    This is hindered by the restrictions of the architecture that you bring your learners through and may even take root in the memory of text books or curriculum documents or coffee cups or progamming. I consider that each moment of what we organise for our learners negates what ways in which the intuitively know that they need to know to function in the world that we know little about.

    An example of what I speak of is my eight year old daughter who has requested for her birthday a nine mega-pixel camera to take photos with and build a collection of images of me for her own photo album which will never be in paper format, flicked through with grand-kids on knee nor torn nor stained nor traded nor lost nor disupted over in a property settlement.

    The connectivity of information is the key to source from what I can work out from George’s ramblings – how best to understand it in a educational context is the next challenge.

    Nine meagpixels ? What are our learners up to and why do we find it so difficult to understand them ?

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  3. Graham Wegner

    Thanks for your comments, Alex and Chris. About the only thing I can be sure of when grappling with learning theories and connected learning is that I’m uncertain and understand very little about any of it. The more I read and listen about what is constructivism and what is connectivism, the less sure I am about what I personally subscribe to and the more I realise there is still left to learn. Anyway, it’s preferable to be blissfully ignorant and thinking I have all the answers.

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