Create, Share, Learn!
Students have been creating artifacts in schools for a long time. I remember being an elementary student and stringing the colored noodles onto yarn to make a necklace for my Mom. I remember those perspective drawings we have all done in our art classes. I remember the compilation of poems we saved in our high school creative writing course. I am sure you all can remember some of the artifacts that you created during your years in education as well. This is an educational theory called Constructionism, which in short states, students learn as they build artifacts or something they can share with others ¹. Constructionism suggests that learners, in an attempt to achieve equilibrium of the mind and understanding (schema), do one of two things when exposed to new information: we assimilate, or we accomodate in an attempt to return to schematic equilibrium. When learners assimilate, they respond to new information that does not fit their current schema by simply adopting or changing their belief. When learners accomodate, they alter their understanding to include the new information within their already developed schema. By doing one or both of these things, learners are able to keep their schema in equilibration ¹.
The goal here is to get students to build stuff. While building and creating “students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understating of the the content.” ²
Enter the age of technology. Technology provides teachers many new and engaging tools and avenues, from blogs to podcasts, powerpoint presentations to digital video and images, technology has given everyone the tools necessary to quickly and easily create an artifact. Here are some tools to create in the classroom.
Sure students need the opportunity to build stuff, but I think the deeper learning will come from sharing what they build or create, to an audience that is much larger than the classroom or local community. The internet has become social and interactive. Despite the fears and apprehension, this is a great venue for students to explore and experiment in creating their online identity, their digital footprint. This is not to say that we shouldn’t give merit to some of these issues, but use it as an opportunity to teach, model, and demand responsible use…but that’s another story.
Recently, an educator, Dean Shareski, addressed a global 2010 k-12 Online Conference audience with his opening keynote titled, “Sharing: The Moral Imperative” . Continuing with the Constructionism theme, Shareski states that we are a remix of ideas and influences that have touched us along our own journeys. Perhaps a bit of assimilation and accommodation taking place. Another point Shareski makes is that we are all better when we share. This I believe is the power of technology. Sharing. We now are able to share what we build, create, produce to a variety of audiences in a quick and easy manner. We can use document cameras to capture student work and post it to a website. We can use audacity to record our voices or instruments and share that recorded track with whomever we choose. We can voice our opinion, seek help from experts, and listen to opinions from around the world with ease. To me, this is the power of the technology.
Another colleague whom I have been following since visiting with him at a conference last year, Jeff Utecht, recently shared via twitter a very moving experience that some students he works with had. 10 middle-schoolers from the International School of Bangkok were selected to take part in a 4-day Operation Smile Mission in Mae Sot, Thailand. Upon their return, they were asked to reflect upon their journey. This is one such reflection:
No doubt creating this video was powerful for this student, but I would suspect that learning from this project will continue with comments, discussions, questions, and reflection that follow.
Create, Share, Learn!
¹Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories. Baltimore, MD: Author.
²Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.