Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructivist versus Constructionist

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

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great comment on how constructionist approaches do not have to be over the top. I often find myself trying to think outside the box and develop this elaborate, complex lesson plans. However, as you point out, there is value in taking the simplistic route every now again. Thanks for the reminder.

    - Alex Veltz

  3. I also thought that Smog City was an interesting web resource to use. I think it's important for students to see what can really happen if we continue to make certain choices. The interactive site also keeps them engaged and wanting to come back for more.

    Several of the web resources that were offered in this week's chapter were related to science due to the fact that it was discussing hypotheses. However, I'm really trying to figure out how to coordinate one of those sites to my English class without losing too much of the English aspect. I suppose I could attempt to co-plan with the science teachers to see what we could come up with!

    1. Emily-

      While I think PBL naturally fits into science, I think you could implement it within English. There are many resources on the internet, in which you can write to other students from around the world. I think implementing activities in which students write for authentic reasons will be the biggest bang for your buck. I went to a technology conference the other week and I found a lot of resources. While I have not had time to sit and look through them, one resource you might want to check out is: . On this website, you will find many resources about collaborating and conferencing. Maybe something would work for you. I believe he has the presentation he presented at the CUE conference on his website. Hope this resource can inspire you!

  4. The constructivist theory is all the rage at our middle school. Project based learning has been introduced in my computer applications class in the form of two applications that promote drawing. The first, SweetHome 3D lets you draw rooms in a home, complete with garage, porch, whatever you want to draw virtually on 3D graph paper. The second application is SketchUp which encourages the student to sketch just about anything. I have found that the boys in 4th through 7th grade in our middle school really appreciate that computer rotation is not just about typing. These two applications on the MacBook laptops encourage project based learning.