Constructionism: What is it?

Constructionism (Papert, 1993) is both a theory of learning and a strategy for education. It builds on the “Constructivist” theories of Jean Piaget, asserting that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but actively constructed in the mind of the learner. Learners don’t get ideas; they create ideas. Moreover, constructionism suggests that new ideas are most likely to be created when learners are actively engaged in building some type of external artifact that they can reflect upon and share with others. Papert (1991) differentiated between constructivism and constructionism:

“The word with the v expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher. The word with the n expresses the further idea that happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least sharable” (Papert, 1991, p.3).

Constructionism supports the constructivist viewpoint–that the learner is an active builder of knowledge. However, it emphasizes the particular constructions of external artifacts that are shared by learners. Although learners can construct and present knowledge or meanings without producing external products, the processes of construction are more evident when learners produce through social interaction with others and share representations of their understanding and thoughts.

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