Standing on a foundation of Pestalozzi, Montessori, Dewey and now Piaget, we begin again in the 1960’s in Brazil, where another revolutionary thinker named Paulo Freire was inventing his own theories about education. Frustrated by the poverty he was seeing throughout the depression, Freire showed through experimentation that literacy was the key to achieving true democracy, freedom and self-actualization. He coined a new learning model called critical pedagogy, where education was a tool to question any system of oppression, namely that of our current economic and educational systems. Friere was laying the groundwork for what we now call the “maker mindset” before the term existed, a sentiment that would resonate in Piaget’s work as well.
The idea that each individual should learn through direct experience rather than direct instruction is one so obvious to real scientists that the Latin phrase Nullius in Verba, which translates to 'take nobody's word for it' was adopted in 1660 as the official motto of The Royal Society of London. According to The Royal Society's website, the motto was adopted as “an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.” A scientist is a constructivist by nature and profession, but when would constructionism take root in schools?
In response to a literal call for #HELP on Twitter, I pulled together the following three blogs from various resources. This was not as easy of a task as I was hoping, but I continue to model the use of constructionism with materials like words to force me to better understand, aka construct my own knowledge on the topics of making in schools and the two learning theories constructivism and constructionism. I hope that the intended audience finds these blogs useful. If not, references are at the bottom of each blog so the reader can construct her own interpretation of constructivism and constructionism using the historical evidence.
In previous blogs I have addressed the role of co-teaching in a maker classroom, as well as the intersection of Reggio Emilia practice and working in a makerspace in hopes of redefining the role of teacher in a Constructivist learning environment. Lately, the FabLearn cohort has also been discussing the essay written by Paulo Blikstein and Marcelo Worsley, soon to be published in Project Zero’s Makeology book. In this chapter of the book, the power of the culture of making is said to be highly dependent on the pedagogical style and attitude of the teacher. Fostering a constructionist learning environment is no small charge, as it turns out. Once established, however, this environment offers a world of learning experiences that are pitted to challenge the status quo teaching and learning we see in most schools today.
What do these words mean? How are they interpreted by teachers, by administrators, by students, by politicians?
In the past few months I have been a part of a number of discussions surrounding this question. The conversations are genuine and in most cases have the best interests of students and learning in mind. There is one thing that I have noticed, there can be a wide range of perspectives and responses to these questions.
To an educator, summer brings much needed time for slowing down, reflection, and professional development. I had the opportunity to travel to NH to attend a most unusual, “minds-on” institute where you hang out with interesting maker educators and take the time to explore your ideas.