Context: The idea for this article sprang from a desire to revive a conversation with the late Ernst von Glasersfeld on the heuristic function - and epistemological status - of forms of ideations that resist linguistic or empirical scrutiny. A close look into the uses of humor seemed a thread worth pursuing, albeit tenuous, to further explore some of the controversies surrounding the evocative power of the imaginal and other oblique forms of knowing characteristic of creative individuals. Problem: People generally respond to humor, i.e., they are inclined to smile at things they find funny. People like to crack jokes, make puns, and, starting at age two, human infants engage in pretense or fantasy play. Research on creativity, on the other hand, has mostly scorned the trickster within. Cognitivists in particular are quick to relegate wit, whimsy, and even playfulness to the ranks of artful or poetic frivolities. Method: We use the emblems of the craftsman, the trickster, and the poet to highlight some of the oblique ways of knowing by which creative thinkers bring forth new insights. Each epitomizes dimensions intrinsic to the art of “possibilizing.” Taken together, they help us better understand what it means to be playful beyond curious, rigorous beyond reasonable, and why this should matter, even to constructivists! Results: The musings characteristic of creative individuals (artists, scientists, children) speak to intelligent beings’ ability to use glitches intentionally or serendipitously as a means to open up possibilities; to hold on to a thought before spelling it out; and to resist treating words or images as conventional and arbitrary signs regardless of their evocative power. To fall into nominalism, Bachelard insisted, is a poet’s nightmare! Implications: Psyche is image, said Jung, and when we feel alive we rely on the imaginal to guide our reason. Note that image is not here to be understood as a picture in the head or a photographic snapshot of the world. The imaginal does not represent, it brings forth what we understand beyond words. It does not lock us into a single mode. Instead, it is a call to be mindful, in Ellen Langer’s sense: in the present, mentally alert, and on the outlook for our psyche’s own surprising wisdom (sagacity. Constructivist content: Debates on the heuristic function and epistemological status of oblique ways of knowing have long occupied constructivist scholars. I can only guess whether my uses of Jung’s imaginal or Bachelard’s anti-nominalism would have amused or exasperated Ernst! I do know that, on occasion, Ernst the connoisseur, bricoleur, and translator allowed the rationalist-within to include the poet’s power to evoke as a legitimate form of rationality. He himself has written about oblique knowing as legit!
Context: There is a movement to change education so that it is adequate to social expectations and uses the full potential of technology. However, there has been no significant breakthrough in this area and there is no clear evidence why. Problem: A potential issue explaining why education falls behind is the way educators focus on education. There is a possibility that a significant step in the learning process is routinely neglected. Method: Two different approaches to using IT in education are tested in two different environments: a university level course based on constructionism and IBL projects for secondary school students. Results: It is possible to apply constructionism in education, but there are still problems. They are not related to how students construct knowledge, but how they deconstruct knowledge. Implications: The most significant problem of deconstruction is that it requires creative skills. This makes it very difficult to formalize it and to provide effective recommendations for its application. Constructivist Content: Deconstruction is a prerequisite of construction, thus deconstructionism deserves more attention and study. A proper application of deconstructionism will make it possible to reconstruct education in a way that is impossible with the current approaches.
Context: In 2015, we are surrounded by tools and technologies for creating and making, thinking and learning. But classroom “learning” is often focused on learning about the tool/technology itself, rather than learning with or through the technology. Problem: A constructionist theory of learning offers useful ways for thinking about how technology can be included in the service of learning in K-12 classrooms. To support constructionism in the classroom, we need to focus on supporting teachers, who necessarily serve as the agents of classroom-level innovations. This article explores a central question: How can we support teachers to engage with constructionism as a way to think beyond a technocentric view in the classroom? Method: I approach this work from the perspective of a designer, using the process of supporting teachers working with the Scratch programming language in K-12 classrooms as a central example. I draw on reflections from six years of the ScratchEd project, which includes interviews with 30 teachers, and observations from teacher professional development events and an online community of educators. Results: I describe five sets of tensions that I encountered while designing the ScratchEd model of professional development: tensions between (1) tool and learning, (2) direction and discovery, (3) individual and group, (4) expert and novice, and (5) actual and aspirational. I describe how these tensions are negotiated within the elements of the PD model (an online community, participatory meetups, and an online workshop). Implications: The tensions I describe are not specific to Scratch, and can serve as a more general model for PD designers to scrutinize and critique. Constructivist content: This work contributes to ongoing conversations and questions about how to support constructivist/constructionist approaches in classrooms.
In a previous paper, an interpretation of spirituality along constructivist lines was proposed (Gash and Shine Thompson, 2002). One of the lines of exploration discussed personal transformation as a possible consequence of an experience of an epiphany – a moment of grace. Epiphanies are first, grounded in constructivist psychology as moments when a person shifts levels to reach new understandings (Gregory Bateson, 1987). Epiphanies are also moments of insight that allow the possibility of personal transformation, and hence potentially desirable experiences of spiritual growth. In the present paper we outline a series of experiences of epiphanies in children’s learning in the context of a project on constructionist learning led by one of us – Deirdre Butler. The purpose of the paper is to make a case for the importance of such moments as providing opportunities for personal growth, encapsulated in the title of the project EmpoweringMinds. Relevance: The value of wonder in education; using digital technology in classrooms
Context: Sustainability is among major societal goals in our days. Education is acknowledged as an essential strategy for attaining sustainability by activating the creative potential within young people to understand sustainability, bring forth changes in their everyday life, and collectively envision a more sustainable future. Problem: However, teaching and learning about sustainability and sustainability-related issues is not an easy task due to the inherent complexity, ambiguity, and context-specificity of the concept. We are in need of innovative pedagogical approaches and tools that will allow us to design learning activities in which learners will be empowered to develop new, alternative interpretations of sustainability in personally and collectively meaningful ways. Method: We argue that a constructionist perspective involving the use of expressive media for digital storytelling offers an appropriate frame for designing learning activities fostering collaborative creativity in thinking and learning about urban sustainability. Our study is based on the design of a learning activity following this rationale. We adopted a qualitative approach in the collection and analysis of different sources of data with the aim to explore collaborative creativity as a learning process based on the students’ collective processes and resulting in the co-construction of new ideas and insights about sustainability, and new tangible artefacts (the digital stories) encompassing them. Results: Our analysis of the collaborative creativity exemplified in the three digital stories produced identified important creative elements with regards to the three components of a digital story (script, technical characteristics, and ideas of urban sustainability) and how they were embodied in each digital story produced as a result of the students’ joint constructionist activity. Implications: Our study provides some preliminary evidence that collaborative creativity from a constructionist perspective can stand as an appropriate framework for designing learning activities addressing the difficult concept of sustainability. There are several implications for both theory and educational practice in environmental education and education for sustainable development, constructionism, and digital storytelling in education. Moreover, our study opens up new fields for research and theory in creativity.
This article offers an account and defence of constructionism, both as a metaphilosophical approach and as a philosophical methodology, with references to the so-called maker’s knowledge tradition. Its main thesis is that Plato’s ‘‘user’s knowledge’’ tradition should be complemented, if not replaced, by a constructionist approach to philosophical problems in general and to knowledge in particular. Epistemic agents know something when they are able to build (reproduce, simulate, model, construct, etc.) that something and plug the obtained information into the correct network of relations that account for it. Their epistemic expertise increases with the scope and depth of the questions that they are able to ask and answer. Thus, constructionism deprioritises mimetic, passive, and declarative knowledge that something is the case, in favour of poietic, interactive, and practical knowledge of something being the case. Metaphilosophically, constructionism suggests adding conceptual engineering to conceptual analysis as a fundamental method.
Context: In the digital era, it is important to investigate the potential impact of digital technologies in education and how such tools can be successfully integrated into the mathematics classroom. Similarly to many others in the constructionism community, we have been inspired by the idea set out originally by Papert of providing students with appropriate “vehicles” for developing “Mathematical Ways of Thinking.” Problem: A crucial issue regarding the design of digital tools as vehicles is that of “transfer” or “bridging” i.e., what mathematical knowledge is transferred from students’ interactions with such tools to other activities such as when they are doing “paper-and-pencil” mathematics, undertaking traditional exam papers or in other formal and informal settings. Method: Through the lens of a framework for algebraic ways of thinking, this article analyses data gathered as part of the MiGen project from studies aiming at investigating ways to build bridges to formal algebra. Results: The analysis supports the need for and benefit of bridging activities that make the connections to algebra explicit and for frequent reflection and consolidation tasks. Implications: Task and digital environment designers should consider designing bridging activities that consolidate, support and sustain students’ mathematical ways of thinking beyond their digital experience. Constructivist content: Our more general aim is to support the implementation of digital technologies, especially constructionist learning environments, in the mathematics classroom.
In spite of decades of use of agent-based modelling in social policy research and in educational contexts, very little work has been done on combining the two. This paper accounts for a proof-of-concept single case-study conducted in a college-level Social Policy course, using agent-based modelling to teach students about the social and human aspects of urban planning and regional development. The study finds that an agent-based model helped a group of students think through a social policy design decision by acting as an object-to-think-with, and helped students better connect social policy outcomes with behaviours at the level of individual citizens. The study also suggests a set of new issues facing the design of Constructionist activities or environments for the social sciences.
Context: The article discusses design strategies for infusing constructionism and creativity into widely recognised media such as e-books. Problem: E-books have recently included constructionist widgets but we do not yet have creative designs for readers who may want to both read and tinker with an e-book. Method: The generation and study of a community of interest collaboratively designing e-books, with a strong constructionist element. Results: Some first examples of social creativity in the collaborative design process are discussed in the article, showing the complexity of fusing reading with constructionism and the importance of the designers’ own ability to exchange widgets meant for the book and at the same time use them as boundary objects to communicate with each other. Implications: Social creativity in such design processes is considered as key for spreading and democratizing design for constructionism and creativity.
Upshot: Constructionism is an epistemology, a theory of design and a theory of learning. It addresses constructivist learning in individual and social environments where bricolage with digital expressive media plays an important role. This editorial situates constructionism within constructivist discourse, and discusses the potential for constructionism to play an identifiable and important role in a wider educational discourse and theory networking. In this framework, it provides a short synthetic review of the eight papers addressing constructionism from a diversity of perspectives.