According to Dr. Michael Orey the constructivist learning theory explains how each person’s knowledge is unique to his or her individual experiences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). The example he uses to explain this, is that while two people both know what a chair is, the chairs they have seen and sat in are different. So, if the word chair comes up in conversation, different people will picture different chairs. While this learning theory is a good reminder for teachers that students do not all come to school with the same experiences, it is not a useful theory for classroom practices.
Whereas, constructionism is a learning theory that can help teachers drive their classroom practices. Constructionism is a learning theory, which explains that students learn best when they build or create something that can be shared with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). What is great about this learning theory is that it does not have to be elaborate or over the top to be effective! Dr. Orey explains constructionism can be as simple as having students construct a Power Point presentation using text, pictures, visuals, and then presenting to the class (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).
In Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the authors explain how spreadsheets can be used to integrate constructionism and Project-Based Learning (PBL) into the classroom. For example, students can use spreadsheets to manipulate, graph, and test predictions by using software such as Microsoft Excel (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p.204). This correlates with the idea of constructionism because students are given the chance to create spreadsheets and graphs using a technology tool, which can then be shared with others.
Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, also addresses web resources, which let students use their “background knowledge, make decisions, and see the outcome of their hypotheses” (Pitler et al., 2007, p.212). The website Smog City allows students to create a city with certain parameters and then see the effects on a city’s ozone and smog levels. Web resources, such as this one, allow students to construct situations they would not be able to do normally in a classroom setting. By giving students the chance to construct scenarios, they are creating an experience they can then share with others, which supports constructionist learning.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.