Adventures in Electronic Constructivism


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Article where term "Electronic Constructivism" was coined by Dr. Maureen Yoder
Yoder. M. (2006). Adventures in electronic constructivism. Learning and Leading With Technology, 34 (1).

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Adventures in Electronic Constructivism

  1. 1. Adventures By Maureen Brown Yoder in Electronic Constructivism You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself. —Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) I gniting students’ curiosity and Constructivism in the Present building an environment that using Personalities from the Past encourages and supports their Throughout the history of education, creativity can also invigorate your students have been asked to report teaching. We know that a constructiv- on influential and inspiring people ist approach involving project-based, and events. World history classes are student-centered activities can result punctuated with explorers and their in students taking an active role in discoveries, monarchs and politi- their own learning and engaging in cal leaders, philosophers and rebels. thought-provoking challenges. When American history instruction includes accomplished with collaborative biographies of generals and presi- activities, students develop skills that dents, educators and civil rights lead- will serve them well in the future in ers. When a language arts curriculum any group project. focuses on literature, students learn Critical to this approach is the about novelists, poets, and non-fiction articulation of the challenge, often writers. Science and mathematics stu- one or more questions and scenarios. dents learn about inventors, theorists, This article provides a context, and and their contributions. The great then proceeds to demonstrate how composers, painters, dancers, actors, you can modify already good cur- and other artists have inspired stu- riculum to create engaging and mo- dents of the arts. tivating challenges for your students. Much of the traditional curriculum Exciting results occur when existing involving these individuals consist of technologies and the emerging Web fact finding and reporting, with at- 2.0 applications are integral aspects of tention given to their contributions. information gathering, data analysis, Although useful and interesting, a and presentation possibilities. teacher can enhance these assign- WebQuests, originated by Bernie ments to incorporate more extensive Dodge and Tom March, exemplify information gathering, reflection, and electronic constructivism and incor- analysis, and an original, culminating porate scenarios and tasks that go far project. A traditional approach could beyond fact finding and reporting. be transformed into a constructivist When tackling WebQuest challenges, learning experience often with only a students engage in transformative minor revision of the assignment. thinking, combining their innate cre- The following examples are models ativity and curiosity with the vast array of practice, meant to be modified and of resources on the Internet, to create customized so that they are relevant to an original product to demonstrate specific classroom situations and cur- their new knowledge. The examples ricula. Any of these could be used as that follow are meant to provide in- the basis of the Introduction and Task spiration for practictioners to write in a WebQuest. (Editor’s Note: Activ- the Introduction and Task portions of ity details are available on the L&L WebQuests. Web site, Copyright © 2006, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l),, All rights reserved. 24  Learning & Leading with Technology  |  September 2006
  2. 2. Using information about famous individuals throughout history, help your students go beyond fact findingby creating motivating and challengingcollaborative learning experiences and intriguing WebQuest tasks Juxtaposition: Conversations President George W. Bush’s for- across the Centuries eign policy. Create a conversation A Tale of Two Georges. When I was that the two might have had if in grade school, I was asked to “write they could communicate across a report about George Washington.” the centuries using e-mail, or We had an encyclopedia at home, another technology we have been and I turned to the “W” volume. On exploring.” 3×5 cards, I copied down informa- See the activity details online for tion about Washington’s background, next steps. his involvement in the Revolutionary Taking on the persona of accom- War, and his ultimate legacy as our plished figures in history can bring first president. On lined paper, I trans- the individuals to life and remind us ferred my notes into sentences, using that they were human beings, like us, my very best handwriting. I convinc- not just static characters described ingly articulated the facts in my own in black and white text. We can learn words, and my penmanship was leg- what led up to their adventure, imag- ible. I was given a good grade. ine why others did or didn’t support There was no analysis, however, no them, and discuss how their beliefs collaboration with my classmates who and actions affected history. basically went through exactly the Instead of the traditional assignment same process I went through, and un- of focusing on an individual explorer less we read the papers in front of the and gathering information about his class, no one heard my words except travels, consider the following: for my teacher. Imagine, though, how different the Around the World—Years vs. Hours. experience would have been if the as- Imagine that you are preparing to signment were: moderate a podcast discussion be- tween two explorers, Ferdinand Ma- “Compare President George gellan and John Glenn. Both depend- Washington’s foreign policy to ed on the accumulated knowledge of their time. First, gather the facts. My Trip to Mars, a WebQuest Consider such questions as: Why did for 5th–9th grade science Magellan’s voyage span from 1519 students, begins with the to 1522 when he supposedly died in following challenge: “You 1521? Second, based on the facts, what and a team of explorers would you want to know about them? have recently returned What kind of sense of adventure and from the planet Mars and fear do you think each would have? everyone wants to hear Third, relate their accomplishments about your experience. to your own life. How do they inspire What did you see? What you? What evokes anticipation and did you do? Did you learn fear in you? Are your feelings more anything new about this like Magellan’s or Glenn’s? Incorporate planet that will be valuable for future expeditions and colonists?” these questions and answers into a script for the podcast. Copyright © 2006, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l),, All rights reserved. September 2006  |  Learning & Leading with Technology  25
  3. 3. Stories of Adventure and Discovery.Exploration and adventure are topicsoften seen in WebQuest Introduc-tions and Tasks. The following are twoexamples of real-life explorations, onerelating to the past and the other to We proceeded on...the future. Remembering Lewis & Clark, designed by Shayne Russell, asks Each of these WebQuests involves students to work collaboratively ontaking on roles different from a the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Coun-student’s everyday identity. Reflect- cil. The scientific community, civic lead-ing on what Lewis and Clark might ers, geographers, and anthropologistshave been thinking would inform each have their own agenda. Studentsthe teams involved in creating the must research each group’s viewpointanniversary event. Imagining what it and create an event honoring the analysis and reflection that would lead expedition that will reflect eachwould be like to explore Mars would to a creative demonstration of what group’s interest.involve extrapolating current knowl- they have learned?edge and creating a scenario basedon data, experience, and conjecture. Digital Video: Bringing the Past to LifeThese are truly constructivist ap- It’s easy to find information aboutproaches, ones that ignite the imagina- it.” Grace Hopper and Sally Ride were famous people; when they were borntion and require data collection, analy- also successful in endeavors previ- and died, where they lived, what theysis, and creativity. ously open only to men. did for a living, or what they wrote. The assignment is to collaborate, Learning more about their lives, theirPeople Who Inspire: Learning possibly with another classroom, personalities, what motivated them,from Courageous Individuals to form a panel of 10 women from and how they were able to achieveWebQuests often address issues that various times in history, including the what they accomplished is often moreinvolve social and political change, present and future. The format will be difficult. Identifying these uniqueinspired by individuals and groups an online summit using Elluminate traits, though, can often inspirewho are daring and courageous. or another real-time audio or video student’s creativity and provide themHere are some examples: conferencing system. There is further with examples of how to overcome information in the Web supplement.First Ladies and Other InspiringWomen. Abigail Adams took care of the Striving for Change. In Women’sMassachusetts farm while her husband, Equality: A WebQuest for 11th & 12th An InterviewJohn Adams, second president of the grade, the question is “Did suffrageUnited States, spent time away at the accomplish full equality for women?” Interviewer: This is WPST,Continental Congress and as a diplo- After much research, 11th graders are People from the Past, the asked “As a concerned citizen, submit premier provider of oldmat in Europe. She was an advocate for news. Today, thanks to a newwomen’s rights and, in particular, a vo- an editorial article that answers that technology allowing time travelcal promoter of education for women. question. 12th graders are asked “to videoconferencing, I’m going to be interviewing the Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “No one write a letter to your representative in famous philosopher Socrates. … Welcome to our Congress either asking his/her posi- show “Meet the Muses.” I am not sure what to callcan make you feel inferior without tion on the issue or to vote a certain you, Socrates. Do you have a last name?your consent.” She was a spokesperson way on the bill that will affect women Socrates: I am like Cher, Madonna, and Oprah.for those who were made to feel infe- in the U.S. People know me by one name.rior by other people, by tradition, and What questions would you ask toby the law. She helped write the Uni- motivate students to study influential Interviewer: Can you please tell us about yourversal Declaration of Human Rights, writings? individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi,adopted in 1948. Golda Meir, Martin Luther King, Jr., Socrates: Writings? What writings? If you had even The Nike advertising campaign “Just or Nelson Mandela? What kind of Googled me, my little green olive, you might havedo it!” may have had its roots in some- learned that it was my student Plato who wrote the scenario would you create? What proj- Socrates dialogues.thing that Amelia Earhart said: “The ect would you assign to engage yourmost effective way to do it, is to do students in not only fact-finding, butCopyright © 2006, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l),, All rights reserved.26  Learning & Leading with Technology  |  September 2006
  4. 4. How you ask a question and what you expect of your students can make a huge difference in how they learn. adversity to attain their goals. Internet the appearance, personality, and at- students who have had experience de- resources provide us with access to titude of an individual, an activity that veloping original solutions in a variety photographs, letters, journals, quota- involves research, compilation and of formats will be most likely to think tions, and other authentic resources evaluation of the data, and, depending creatively and consider multiple op- that can inform our research. on the available information, a great tions. Those who have worked collab- Digital video capabilities make it deal of imagination. oratively and learned how to reach a possible to capture and edit video The images and script below are consensus will be the ones likely to be and audio, import clips from pub- from a digital video of an interview successful working as part of a team. lic domain sites, and consolidate a with “Socrates.” Most descriptions Teachers are central to this process collection of clips into one project. of Socrates summarize his “Socratic and can facilitate it by engaging their An assignment that asks students Method” of questioning. He encour- students in thought-provoking activi- to interview a person from the past aged the youth of Athens to continu- ties that inspire them to think deeply can motivate students to go beyond ally question widely held beliefs and and encourage them to demonstrate the demographic data and re-create to form groups to discuss and debate their imagination and creativity. How important issues. He eventu- you ask a question and what you ex- ally lost his life because of pect of your students can make awith Socrates his efforts. He was known as a smart aleck with a huge difference in how they learn. prickly personality, traits Interviewer: There is a famous quote attributed to you: Acknowledgements “An unexamined life is not worth living.” that are reflected in the Photos provided by and used with permission interview. from the U.S. Department of State, Bridgeman Socrates: Yes, but if you had done your homework, my Find more examples Art Library, NASA, Library of Congress, Lyndon little grape leaf, you would have known that except for online. Baines Johnson Library, and Maureen Yoder. that one famous quote, I was known more for my ques- tions than my answers. … (questions about the Internet, primary sources, his work in Athens) … Summary Resources Ultimately we want our Find Resources and Web sites used in this Interviewer: Is there one parting thought you would like article in the Web supplement at http:// to leave with us before you drink the students to be able to face hemlock? challenges with confi- dence. We want them to Dr. Maureen Brown Yoder is a Socrates: Yes, I would like to tell all the teachers and students out there know how to approach professor at Lesley University, to make sure that you go beyond a task, what questions to Director of Online Learning, fact-finding questions and ask prob- ask, how to gather the and the program director of the Online Technology in Edu- ing, open-ended questions that will necessary information, make them think and come up with cation master’s degree pro- and how to apply their gram. Yoder spent 15 years in something original. Farewell. experience and skills to K–12 public schools as a classroom teacher and reach a solution. Those later as a computer specialist. Copyright © 2006, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l),, All rights reserved. September 2006  |  Learning & Leading with Technology  27
  5. 5. WebQuest: Adventures in Electronic Constructivism Web SupplementA Tale of Two Georges: Next Steps George Washington George W. Bush 1732-1799 1946- Assuming we were working in a group, we could divide up the necessarytasks. First we would need to understand what a foreign policy entailed. Wecould then divide up and research both presidents, looking for evidence of theirviews and practices relating to other countries. Artifacts such as Washington’sFarewell Address would provide information about his beliefs. Once wegathered a sufficient amount of material, we would analyze it, find patterns,and articulate statements representing each president. We would then create ascript of a dialogue the two might have had and decide on what availabletechnology would be most appropriate. The United State government Web sites are some of the best sources ofinformation. The Farewell Address of President George Washington, given onSeptember 17, 1796, provides some of the information that would be helpfulwith this activity: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; …I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. … Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”
  6. 6. First Ladies and Other Inspiring Women Abigail Adams Amelia Earhart Eleanor Roosevelt 1744 – 1818 1887-1937 1884 – 1962 First Lady 1797–1801 1928; First woman to pilot a First Lady 1933–1945“If particular care and attention plane across the Atlantic “We gain strength, and is not paid to the ladies, we “The most difficult thing is the courage, and confidence are determined to foment a decision to act, the rest is merely by each experience in rebellion, and will not hold tenacity. You can do anything you which we really stop toourselves bound by any laws in decide to do. You can act to look fear in the face... which we have no voice or change and control your life; and we must do that which representation.” the procedure, the process, is its we think we cannot.” own reward. Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt were public figures married to powerful men. Amelia Earhart, Grace Hopper, and Sally Ride became famous because of their achievements. Identify other women who did not start out as public figures but who faced similar challenges. Include an imaginary woman to represent the future. List questions that you would ask the women and topics that you would like them to debate. Assign roles to groups of students in class. Research the Internet for information, images, legislation, and anecdotes. Determine a format for the panel and prepare what each woman will contribute. Allow each to briefly tell their story then talk about their rights as women and the struggles and challenges they’ve faced, socially and legally. End the summit with plans for the future. Find out what might have led to their achievements. Were they brought up in homes of privilege? Who or what inspired them? What obstacles do you think they faced? What can you learn from them that could impact your life? What did these accomplished women have in common that may have
  7. 7. influenced their choices in life? Imagine other groupings of men and womenwho accomplished something that took intelligence, creativity, persistence, andcourage.ResourcesBecker, H. J. & Riel, M. (2000). Teacher professional engagement and constructivist— Compatible computer use. Available:, J., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (expanded edition). Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available:, J. (2004). Learning to question to wonder to learn. Bellingham, MA: FNO Press.Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.Sprague, D., & Dede, C. (1999). Constructivism in the classroom: If I teach this way, am I doing my job? Learning & Leading with Technology, 27(1), 6–17.Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Web SitesBernie Dodge’s WebQuest sites: Lamb’s Information Inquiry for Teachers: March’s sites: McKenzie’s Five Types of Slam Dunk Digital Lessons: Sites for people mentioned in the print articleThe Encyclopedia of Informal Education site: Adams: Earhart: http://www.ameliaearhart.comGrace Hopper:
  8. 8. Sally Ride: Roosevelt:[Need sites for Magellan/Glenn, Gandhi/Meir/King/Mandela, and Socrates]WebQuestsGeorge Washington Lives!—On the Internet Trip to Mars by Benjamin Hughes: Proceeded On—Remembering Lewis and Clark by Shayne Russell’s Equality: