Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Ed-Tech Policy Letter to the Editor

Mulling ‘Social Constructivism’ and Computer-Based Learning

November 11, 2014 1 min read

To the Editor:

For educators and neuroscientists alike, the conventional wisdom seems to be that learning is all about social constructivism. We are very social beings, and we construct our knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes from our actual lived experiences. As we add our new experiences to all of our past experiences, we can say that we are evolving; I am different today because of the experiences that I had yesterday.

But it’s not just that yesterday’s experiences are added to the top of all previous experiences. The constructivist integrates them into the whole person; a new ingredient has been stirred into the stew, and the whole is changed. Thinking itself is wandering around in our own very personal construction, perhaps making adjustments here and there.

Many speak of the potential of computers to deliver “personalized learning.” I assume the thinking goes that, if the computer knows what you have constructed of yourself, then it can offer some screen-delivered experiences specifically for you.

These futurists imagine that you have been at the computer all along and that it has stored the “big data” on your entire sequence of mouse clicks. Hence, it can deduce your—or the student’s—individual strengths, needs, motivations, and goals from which to select the next computer-delivered lesson.

I understand why some people hope that technology will deliver on the challenge of personalized learning. But if learning is even remotely like social constructivism, I remain a doubter.

To paraphrase Wounded by School author Kirsten Olson, if you want to know what your students are learning, and you tell them that and meet them every morning with your heart ready to break, your students will eventually come to you in ways you can’t imagine.

George Stranahan

Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Manaus Fund

Senior Adviser, Valley Settlement Project

Carbondale, Colo.

A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as Mulling ‘Social Constructivism’ And Computer-Based Learning

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Ed-Tech Policy Dawn of an Education-Friendly FCC? Chairman Ajit Pai Moving On
The FCC chairman plans to step down from his role at the end of President Donald Trump's term on Jan. 20.
3 min read
Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for an FCC meeting to vote on net neutrality.
Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for an FCC meeting to vote on net neutrality. 
Associated Press
Ed-Tech Policy Many Students Still Lack Home Internet. Here's How Big the Problem Is.
Only 11 percent of school district leaders and principals said all their students have the home internet access they need to fully participate in virtual instruction.
3 min read
Ed-Tech Policy Districts: Here's How to Get Some Help With the E-Rate
Ed tech officials: Confused about the E-Rate? The State Educational Technology Directors Association is on the case.
1 min read
Ed-Tech Policy Districts Get Second Shot at E-Rate Funds to Bolster Campus Connectivity
School districts now have until Oct. 16 to get their applications in for this new round of funding, thanks to a recent FCC order.
2 min read