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RE: making constructivism simple


Date: Sat May 18 2002 - 21:57:45 PDT

The piece is classically journalistic. "Never let facts stand in the way of a good story"

The article begins by telling us a 6 year old can build a [electric] motor and write [computer] programs to run it. Magic! The implication being that rest of the story wikll explain how such a miracle was accomplished. Journalism rarely delivers on these promises because so many journalists rarely have the time or the interest to understand the subjects of stories here today and gone tomorrow. Ms O'Brien won't disappoint us in this expectation.

What Ms O'Brein will accomplish in the rest of the article is to get the names right and REIFY the rest of the story. Let me explain reification by way of a Moliere play "The Imaginary Invalid" A doctoral candidate is asked to explain why opium puts people to sleep. He explains thAt opium contaijns a "dormative principle" which sounds useful except that all it says it that opium puts people to sleep because it contains something that puts people to sleep. It's a form of circular reasoning.

The dormative principle in this case includes constructivism and Seymour Papert. What or WHo they are remain a mystery. Papert is a renowned computer scientist. Logo is a computer language, first assembled with children in mind in 1967 by a tean led by Wallace Feurzeig NOT Papert.
 The six-year-old is NOT building a motor. The article informs us that the motor is incorporated into a yellow block manufactured by Lego. The child is plugging other specialized high-tech Legos onto the yellow block to make a little car. The programming is fairly simple and the demonstration was amazing back in the early 70's when I first encountered it. I can't help but think the technology has become easier since then.

The article tells us very little that is useful or informative about constructivism but does give us the names to contact to get the real skinny. (but not the addresses)

NONE of this does anything to invalidate constructivism it only fails to inform us of much while whetting our appetite. What's not there? Pretty much everything important.

Constructivism IS a good theory. There is some good evidence for it and a few good arguments against it. And there are always flaws whether in the evidence or the arguments. We never know enough until well after the fact.

The point you make Teresa, that "interpreting it into school systems is the
problem." is the crucial one. The translation of the ideal and rational into the real and functioning is indeed the trick.

As you say the evidence has been around a long time BUT clearly we have yet to master constructivism or to harness it sufficiently to bring its benefits to the college of art education.

I believe in it. Honestly. I know it can work with specific types of students but this class of student would do pretty well no matter what given the support encouragement and resources. There are, unfortunately, all too many students for whom support encouragement and resources won't be quite enough.

What seems too be missing is motivation to participate and a driving need in the student to learn something. Constructivism makes the process flow and at times is, in itself, sufficient to kickstart a few kids.

I've been thinking that, as long as education looks like education its going to have problems.

This is where the issue of "authenticity" becomes paramount. Street-kids in third-world and war-torn countries learn the intracies of converting the currencys because they have an authentic survival level need to do so. To be truly effective we educators have to offer skills that will allow the student to affect important things in THEIR world; to solve REAL problems for themselves. Too often school looks too much like OUR world.

Problematizing issues for student consumption is inadequate. It is a form of manipulation and they can recognize it. Good for some students but not for enough of them. It's part of my problem with VCAE.

But that is another story


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