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Can Technology Support and Encourage Constructivist Practices?

15 December, 2015 - 13:04
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Considering our second question, first recall the basic principles of constructivist teaching and learning. Let's begin to interconnect technology to the picture as we begin thinking about effective teacher development programs. Teachers can use technology to engage students in more meaningful learning than is presently occurring in many classrooms today. Technology can assist with providing meaning to students in a social context accompanied by interaction between the learner and other people. With careful planning of professional development programs, principals can successfully fulfill their significant and powerful role in improving teaching and learning.

To assist us in creating appropriate technology staff development programs for our schools, we will visit an American Association for Curriculum Development document (ASCD, 1993) entitled, In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Of particular interest is an article written by Grennon Brooks and Martin Brooks, entitled, Becoming a Constructivist Teacher, which outlines 12 descriptors of constructivist teachers. These descriptors can serve as a framework for the design of effective technology staff development programs.

Descriptor 1

Constructivist teachers encourage and accept student autonomy and initiative. Though we contend that students should be given the freedom and choice to explore concepts and information on their own and take responsibility for their own learning, much evidence exists that this is not truly the case in many classrooms in regard to the use of technology. Too often, computer assignments consist of passive drill and practices activities with little opportunity for students to display autonomy and initiative.

Descriptor 2

Constructivist teachers use raw data and primary sources, along with manipulative, interactive, and physical materials. This descriptor focuses on the students using real-world data and other information to generate their own explanation and inferences about existing problems in our world. When teachers encourage students to wrestle with their own interpretation of existing phenomena, students must move beyond the usual practice of drill and practice, providing opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. Observing the common software used in many classrooms, one notices a lack of opportunity for students to experience multiple perspectives or critical thinking.

Descriptor 3

When framing tasks, constructivist teachers use cognitive terminology such as "classify," "analyze," "predict," and "create." Much of what transpires in today's classrooms involves multiple choice, such as asking students to select the correct answer from a list of options. Correct answers are provided quickly and too willingly by teachers. Observing what happens in the classroom in regards to the use of technology reveals a similar practice. Students have little opportunity to predict or create their own interpretation of solutions to problems or endings to stories. Analyzing, interpreting, predicting, and synthesizing are mental activities that require students to make connections, delve deeply into texts and contexts, and create new understandings (Brooks & Brooks, 1993)