The Constructivist educator should be excited by current trends in education and technology. Constructivists emphasize such traits as active learning, discovery, construction (setting goals, self-assessment, research, creativity, etc.), situated learning, cooperation/collaboration, choice, automony, reflection, and complexity (Alessi, 2001, pp.32-35). The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator, guide, and co-learner as much as is possible. Learning is driven by students, and it is immersive, flexible, and responsive to student needs and goals. Constructivists value creativity, through writing, designing applications, and making works of art.
In 2007, the International Society for Technology in Education released its National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•S) and Performance Indicators for Students. This document provides educators with a blueprint for designing educational and technological experiences to equip students to thrive in the modern, connected world. ISTE emphasized these categories of skills:
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication and collaboration
- Research and information fluency
- Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
- Digital citizenship
- Technology operations and concepts
Clearly, these objectives are in harmony with constructivist principles. Given the increase in the numbers of educators who are subscribing to the constructivist school of thought, it is reasonable to assume that these objectives can and will be embraced with increasing fervor, and we are seeing that. Students are publishing their writing, collaborating with students around the globe, adding to the global body of knowledge, being given opportunities to explore and direct their own learning, and much more.
Unfortunately, however, a lingering education climate that focuses on basic skills in but a few subject areas and standardized tests all too often leads us as educators to neglect to foster our students’ creativity and relegate it to secondary status. Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally renowned expert on creativity and education, shared his thoughts on the need for a greater emphasis on creativity in the 2006 TED Talk below. The video is almost 20 minutes long, but it is well worth the time. Robinson is an engaging, thought-provoking, and funny speaker, and the time will pass quickly.
The reality is that technology will continue to develop and take on many of the basic tasks that we humans have traditionally undertaken. Daniel Pink (2005) wrote of this in his book, A Whole New Mind, and described the forces of automation, abundance, and Asia (outsourcing) as necessitating a new emphasis on “right-brained” skills, and creativity could be interpreted as the over-arching theme.
The tools of the Internet as we know it today continue to evolve in ways that are very reflective of these kinds of Constructivist ideals, as well. Web 2.0, by its very nature, is about creativity, collaboration, communication, and access to information in many forms at any time. In particular, the opportunities for creativity and innovation that today’s Internet provides are increasingly diverse and exciting. Web 2.0 continues to offer new opportunities for students to explore and express their creativity. Students can create works of art, add artistic touches to photographs, edit and produce videos, create music, share and even publish written works, create dramatic multimedia productions, and more. The following are but a very small sample of the types of sites that are available for nurturing our students’ creative abilities. Many more tools can be found at Amy Hopkins’s wiki from her presentation at the TCEA 2009 conference.
- Imagination Cubed –easily create and share drawings with mutliple tools, including stamps.
- TheBroth–collaborative drawing/painting site.
- Google Sketchup–tool for creating 3-dimensional drawings.
- Queeky–create and share drawings with lots of great drawing tools.
- Comic Sketch–create comics, comic books.
- Photosynth–create panoramic images.
- Animoto–create animated slideshows incorporating images, text, and music.
- Skitch–edit photos, annotate, add drawings (Mac only).
- Blingeasy–add lots of special effects to images, such as glitter, animations, backgrounds, etc.
- Storyblender–add voice and animations to images.
- Jumpcut–easy to use and powerful online video editor.
- Jaycut–edit and share videos online.
- Animasher–create custom animations.
- BubblePLY–add speech baloons to videos.
- JamStudio–create music by selecting ryhthm, instruments, and style.
- Noteflight–write music in standard notation and hear it played back.
- Tikatok–wonderful tool for publishing student writing; includes images, writing prompts.
- Bookr–create and share virtual books with virtual, “turning” pages.
- Blurb–write, illustrate, even sell your own books online.
- Alice–3-D programming environment allows students to create animated movies and games.
- Scratch–allows students to create animated stories, games, music, and art.
- Kerpoof–uses drag-and-drop interface to create animated stories, pictures.
Presentation (I added this category because this medium is becoming increasingly visually and artistically complex.):
- 280slides –create presentations, add PowerPoint slides, search/add media inside workspace.
- Prezi –create stunning presentation with zoom effects.
- Sliderocket –Flash-based presentation tools with beautiful special effects.
There can be made a compelling case that we have not only neglected, but actually squashed our students’ creative juices from their bodies. Hopefully, the tide is turning, however, and these types of Internet tools, which students are already discovering on their own, will begin to play a more prominent role in our classrooms.
Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Pink, D. (2005). A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. New York: Riverhead Books.