Thursday, May 28, 2009

Constructing Knowledge with Technology

Constructionist learning theory is the belief that people contstruct their own knowledge by building artifacts. In a constructionist classroom, the teacher is a facilitator and motivator of learning by providing students with options to choose topics of interest to them, to work collaboratively, to construct authentic artifacts and to provide opportunity for rich feedback. Educators have long understood the value of hands-on learning experiences. Technological applications can provide students the opportunity to explore and discover while making connections and creating their own artifacts.

When teaching my third grade students about various graphs, I usually have them learn by constructing their own graph. So I thought, why not add some excitement to the project by using real life technology? First, I give each student a box of Valentine hearts candy. Students are asked to hypothesize how many hearts there are of each color. Once a hypothesis is made, students open their boxes to reveal if their hypothesis was correct. Students then create a spreadsheet document using Excel and enter their data. Students can then quickly convert their data to a variety of graphs, and see the results instantly. They can determine how accurate their hypothesis was. When given engaging, real world experiences, students increase their problem-solving ability, improve their research skills, and work collaboratively as they apply skills and knowledge (Orey, 2001). As sixth-grade teacher, Lynda Donovan (Laureate, 2009) said, “The future is technology. Our job is to prepare them for jobs that haven’t even been developed yet.”

Web resources, interactive gaming and simulations can be “incredibly engaging learning environments, resulting in increased motivation and retention of learning” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p.213). Students have more of a vested interest when they build projects that suit their own interest and abilities. A perfect example of the excitement generated while creating projects with technology, is the class wiki my third grade students are designing. In the initial stages of creating the wiki, students are working in cooperate teams to design and create a page for our wiki. Students are learning how to add text, graphics and edit. They are also experimenting with the wiki at home. They come into class asking if they can add their own page to the wiki.

Check our wiki out at


Laureate Education, Inc. (2009). Constructionist & Constructivist Learning theories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Ed., Inc.

Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.




  1. I like your hands-on graphing and data analysis lesson using candy hearts. The students can experiment with something they love, make a prediction and test it, create their own graphs and see the results of their experiments. This has to be a project they love!

  2. Your wiki was exceptional. It seems most of the students are really flying with it. When and where do they add to their wiki pages? Is there a computer lab where they go to work on adding to their pages? Also, I noticed some great illustations that some students decorated their pages with. What program did they use for those?

    I also enjoyed the quote you mentioned from Lynda Donovan. It is so very true that what we do in the classroom is preparing our students for future jobs. Adding technology to lessons that are problem-based where students must construct to show their understanding teaches students the skills they will need for jobs that have not even been developed yet.

  3. What a wonderful lesson. This is a great way to teach the meaning of hypothesis and use technology to make a graph. Maybe I could do something similar in science. Perhaps making a hypothesis on how many drops of water will fit on a penny?

  4. mpowering,

    I was able to explore the concept of wikis in our classroom with my laptop and LCD projector. We explored some examples of other elementary wikis. Then I showed the students how our wiki was organized. To actually edit our wiki, we have to be in the computer lab because their computers have a newer operating system than the computers in my classroom. These were some of the trouble shooting problems I encountered in the beginning. However, we have figured out most of the small snags along the way, and the experience has been well worth the trouble.

  5. mpowering,

    My students used Kid Pix software for their illustrations. Fortunately, our computer lab teacher was able to help me solve the problem of inserting grapics from Kid Pix into the wiki. She explained that we have to export the image in order for it to be saved as a JPG. Then we were able to scan the JPG image into the wiki. Another little learning curve. Most of my students really have the steps down now. For those that forget, I have my "experts" to assist them.