References and Further Reading 1.
It is easy enough to formulate simple catchy versions of the idea of constructionism; for example, thinking of it as "learning-by-making. My little play on the words construct and constructionism already hints at two of these multiple facets--one seemingly "serious" and one seemingly "playful.
Constructionism--the N word as opposed to the V word--shares constructivism's connotation of learning as "building knowledge structures" irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it's a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.
And this in turn implies a ramified research program which is the real subject of this introduction and of the volume itself.
But in saying all this I must be careful not to transgress the basic tenet shared by the V and the N forms: If one eschews pipeline models of transmitting knowledge in talking among ourselves as well as in theorizing about classrooms, then one must expect that I will not be able to tell you my idea of constructionism.
Doing so is bound to trivialize it. Instead, I must confine myself to engage you in experiences including What goes into an introduction for a dissertation ones liable to encourage your own personal construction of something in some sense like it.
Only in this way will there be something rich enough in your mind to be worth talking about. But if I am being really serious about this, I have to ask and this will quickly lead us into really deep psychological and epistemological waters what reasons I have to suppose that you will be willing to do this and that if you did construct your own constructionism that it would have any resemblance to mine?
I find an interesting toe-hold for the problem in which I called the playful facet--the element of tease inherent in the idea that it would be particularly oxymoronic to convey the idea of constructionism through a definition since, after all, constructionism boils down to demanding that everything be understood by being constructed.
The joke is relevant to the problem, for the more we share the less improbable it is that our self-constructed constructions should converge. And I have learned to take as a sign of relevantly common intellectual culture and preferences the penchant for playing with self-referentially recursive situations: Experience shows that people who relate to that kind of thing often play in similar ways.
And in some domains those who play alike think alike. Those who like to play with images of structures emerging from their own chaos, lifting themselves by their own bootstraps, are very likely predisposed to constructionism.
They are not the only ones who are so predisposed. In Chapter 9 of this volume, Sherry Turkel and I analyze the epistemological underpinnings of a number of contemporary cultural movements.
We show how trends as different as feminist thought and the ethnography of science join with trends in the computer culture to favor forms of knowledge based on working with concrete materials rather than abstract propositions, and this too predisposes them to prefer learning in a constructionist rather than in an instructionist mode.
In Chapter 2, I make a similar connection with political trends. It does not follow from this that you and I would be precluded from constructing an understanding about constructionism in case you happened not to be in any of the "predisposed groups" I have mentioned.
I am not prepared to be "reductionist" quite to that extent about arguing my own theory, and in the following pages I shall probe several other routes to get into resonance on these issues: More like the tinkerer, the bricoleur, we can come to agreement about theories of learning at least for the present and perhaps in principle only by groping in our disorderly bags of tricks and tools for the wherewithal to build understandings.
In some cases there may be no way to do it one-on-one but a mutual understanding could still be socially mediated: But what if we didn't find a route to any understanding at all? This would be tragic if we were locked into a classroom or other power ridden situation where one of us has to grade the other; but in the best phases of life, including real science and mathematics, it turns out much more often than is admitted in schools to be right to say: I might appear in the previous paragraph to be talking about accepting or rejecting constructionism as a matter of "taste and preference" rather than a matter of "scientific truth.
When one looks at how people think and learn one sees clear differences. Although it is conceivable that science may one day show that there is a "best way," no such conclusion seems to be on the horizon.
Moreover, even if there were, individuals might prefer to think in their own way rather than in the "best way.
The weak claim is that it suits some people better than other modes of learning currently being used. The strong claim is that it is better for everyone than the prevalent "instructionist" modes practiced in schools.
A variant of the strong claim is that this is the only framework that has been proposed that allows the full range of intellectual styles and preferences to each find a point of equilibrium. But these are not the questions to guide research in the next few years for they presuppose that the concept of constructionism has reached a certain level of maturity and stability.
The slogan vivent les differences might become inappropriate at that stage. But when the concept itself is in evolution it is appropriate to keep intellectual doors open and this is where we are now. To give a sense of the methodology of this early "pre-paradigmatic" stage I shall tell some stories about incidents that fed the early evolution of the idea.
More than 20 years ago, I was working on a project at the Muzzey Junior High School in Lexington, MA, which had been persuaded by Wally Feuerzeig to allow a seventh grade to "do Logo" instead of math for that year.
This was a brave decision for a principal who could not have known that the students would actually advance their math achievement score, even though they didn't do anything that resembled normal school math that year!
But the story I really want to tell is not about test scores. For a while, I dropped in periodically to watch students working on soap sculptures and mused about ways in which this was not like a math class.
In the math class students are generally given little problems which they solve or don't solve pretty well on the fly. In this particular art class they were all carving soap, but what each students carved came from wherever fancy is bred and the project was not done and dropped but continued for many weeks.
It allowed time to think, to dream, to gaze, to get a new idea and try it and drop it or persist, time to talk, to see other people's work and their reaction to yours--not unlike mathematics as it is for the mathematician, but quite unlike math as it is in junior high school.Dissertation and Scholarly Research: Recipes for Success: Edition [Marilyn K Simon Ph.D., Jim Goes Ph.D.] on alphabetnyc.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.
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