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Constructivism and Web 2.

0 Technologies

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies: A Match Made in Cyberspace Lauren Pinto Boise State University

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

Abstract This paper presents information which looks at the definition and beginnings of constructivism through the perspectives of four important thinkers: Jean Jacque Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, G. Stanley Hall, and John Dewey. It also explains how the design and intention of a piece of educational technology are reflections of the specific learning theory that was used to make it. Then, it transitions into how technological devices and their uses tie into the important to ideas presented in constructivism. Finally, this paper explains the importance of web 2.0 and how web 2.0 is a specific, revolutionary example of technology which supports constructivist ideas. Keywords: Constructivism, Web 2.0, Educational Technology Introduction There are many learning theories which are used to explain how people learn, and among those theories lies constructivism. Under constructivism, learners are active participants in their education; they are encouraged to experience, play, experiment, socialize, collaborate, and otherwise come to know the content they are studying. Teachers act as a guide to help students know, rather than the expert, the know-it-all who transfers their expertise. Constructivism emphasizes the student, rather than the teacher, and attempts to use resources to help them achieve that purpose. Constructivism is not a new idea founded in the works of progressive teachers. Rather, it is a history-rich theory that knowingly dates back to the Age of Enlightenment, although it is possible that its ideas existed well before then. In order to create a constructivist learning environment within todays eras, teachers and schools can have their students use web 2.0 technologies which emphasize the things which the theory finds important. The Progression of Constructivism: A Look at Three Early Thinkers Constructivism is often a difficult term to define as its definitions are as broad as the people who attempt to define it. However, its most basic definition is that learning occurs within the unique contexts in which a learner has experiences and interactions. In order go get a more indepth understanding of what constructivism means and implies, it is best to look at its origins through the people who are responsible for its beginnings. Jean-Jacque Rousseau was a French Enlightenment philosopher whose primary oeuvre discussed politics, philosophy, and education. During the time in which Rousseau lived, he felt that civilizations were contributing to the downfall of humanity through their greed and corruption, thus he called for a return to nature. By returning to nature, a person (specifically a child) could learn in their pure, instinctual environment (Null, 2004, pp. 183). Within this environment, a child would have the freedom to explore and learn things which they found particularly interesting; this in turn made knowledge and learning derivatives of experience which comes from the learners unique perspective, interpretation, and interaction (Null, 2004, pp. 183). This early notion was purely theoretical, as Rousseau provided no guidance on how to apply it to education, however, it laid the groundwork for later thinkers, such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Pestalozzi was an eighteenth-century Swiss educator and a follower of Rousseaus writings. Being a follower of Rousseau, Pestalozzi adopted Rousseaus romantic view of education (Null, 2004, pp. 184) and felt that educators should never impart knowledge unless it could be learned or

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

experienced through daily interactions or experiences. As part of his viewpoint, Pestalozzi sought out to create a school that would seek out and prepare poor, underprivileged children for careers as teachers. The methodology Pestalozzi used within his school was the object-teaching method which held that students learn best when teachers interest them in lessons through the use of objects and other concrete devices that encourage them to focus on the lesson at hand (Null, 2004, pp. 184). By using this object-teaching method, Pestalozzi was putting the ownership of education on the student through interaction and experience which allowed learners to create meaningful associations. Within Pestalozzis model, teachers are not people who espouse information upon passive students, but ones who help students make connections. The groundwork done here by Pestalozzi quickly became part of teaching methodologies, and continues to permeate schools today through the use of manipulative and other hands-on devices. Moreover, Pestalozzis early ideas provide a basis for future thinkers who also emphasized activity and context. G. Stanley Hall, an American, is one of those such thinkers. Much like Rousseau and Pestalozzi, he, too, emphasized nature's role in education. Hall developed an approach to education that emphasized child development, scientific investigation, and the correlation of curriculum with the developmental stages of children (Null, 2004, pp. 185). A learners innate qualities and how they progress, coupled with the unique circumstances which surround a student, should weigh heavily on how information is taught and presented. Individualizing education through the way information is taught and coinciding it with scientific stages allows students to create their own complete and idiosyncratic understanding of the world in which they are participants; true learning would take place since it would be tailored to the learner. Halls views synthesize the educational process to be one which is individual and engaging to the learner. Constructivism is not a new school of thought, but one which is grounded in famous, influential thinkers who date back to the age of Enlightenment. These people show that constructivism has its foundation in the connection among the learners circumstances, prior knowledge, and new information. Moreover, these thinkers show that within constructivism, learning is not a prescriptive, top-down process, with the instructor as the head who passes information down to students. Rather, they present learning as a dynamic process wherein students take an active, engaged role. By understanding the point of views of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Hall, it is easy to see that constructivism is a powerful, meaningful, student-centered model which is founded historical perspectives. John Dewey: An Education Revolutionary Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and G. Stanley Hall may be some of the early constructivist pioneers, but John Dewey is the constructivist revolutionary, social learning theory (which is based in constructivism) through the ideas Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Hall. Dewey was born in 1859, and during his early life struggled with the conflict between science and religion. This conflict, which many of his time struggled with, gave him a basis for philosophy which would go on to impact his views on education. When he was 60, Dewey began teaching at the University of Michigan, and here with George Meade, he began to feel that the discipline should be less speculative and more involved with the practical aspects of daily life (Diggins, 1989, pp. 78). This idea of practicality and pragmatism permeated Deweys views, and

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

much like Rousseau and Hall, he felt that man was not distinct from nature but part of the evolutionary process (Diggins, 1989, pp. 79). Essentially, Dewey felt that man was a participant in life, a key link in the way the world continues rather than a passive observer; the mind interacts with nature, creating a reality for the individual (Diggins, 1989, pp. 79). These notions which Dewey held true went on to impact his views of the educational process. The first notion, that people interacted with the world, brought about the idea of hands on learning which was much like Pestalozzis object teaching method. Dewey felt that learning by doing rather than drill and practice would lead the student to...development, formulation,...and especially growth (Diggins, 1989, pp. 80). Action was a key part of learning which made the learner into a new person who has grown as a result of the active process. In addition to interacting with the world, Dewey contended that information was also obtained through the interactions with each other; social habits were passed on to the young not only in classrooms and schools but also on the playground (Diggins, 1989, pp. 80). Because people were part of an interactive process with the world, Dewey contented that learning needed to be founded the the issues which were relevant to the learner, starting with pragmatic inquiry into their immediate problems, which would thus guarantee that the learner was engaged, and that the learning process would be more authentic (Diggins, 1989, pp. 80) The perceptions which Dewey felt about learning are constructivist in nature; he felt that learning needs to be unique, social, and relevant to the learner in order for true knowledge acquisition to take place. It is no surprise that ideas have come to be the central principles for constructivist teachers, and whats more is that these ideas have also come to be seen in educational technology which has begun to be employed within classrooms. Learning Technologies and Educational Technology: A Brief Overview Educational technology, as adopted by Semple (2000) from Dyrli and Kinnaman (1995), is the seamless digital integration of text, graphics, animation, audio, images, and motion video in a way that provides individual users with high levels of control and interaction (pp. 22). The way in which these resources are used within classrooms are not only a reflection of the progression of the learning theories but also of the designers underlying beliefs about education. In order to understand constructivist technologies which support learning, it is necessary to first understand the technologies which are used by other theories. The early use of educational technology has its roots in behaviorism. This theory, which states that learning is based on observable actions, comes from B. F. Skinner. Within this theory, there is no concern on what occurs within the mind of the learner but the concern lies with what the visible outcomes. The technologies which were created under this theory are predominately drill and practice or tutorial in nature. Also, these technologies focus on regular and positive feedback. Moreover, these programs or tutorials are designed to be linear; [s]impler tasks are practised [sic] and mastered before more complex ones (Semple, 2000, pp. 22). The most common feature of behaviorist technologies is that the control lies within the designer who follows a linear and hierarchical design model for learning. Semple (2000) notes that these types of programs have been justified to strengthen associations and rote learning as well as reinforce knowledge and skill acquisition (pp. 22).

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

A rival of behaviorist technologies are those that are founded in cognitivism. This theory is about how learning occurs through mental and symbolic construction within the learners mind. The theory also holds that learning is an active process involving many brain processes. Educational technologies associated with this theory are programs which are designed to allow students to express or organize their thinking, such as word processing programs or graphic organizer software (Semple, 2000, pp. 24). The users of these programs are required to be thinking deeply about content as the technology is being used. The control lies within how the user manipulates the design of the program, as opposed to how the program has been designed. From cognitivism comes constructivism, and it appears that the constructivist learning theory is best associated with the current educational technologies. As mentioned before, constructivism is a proponent of active, collaborative, and experienced learning environments, so technologies which are constructivist would be those which bolster the investigation, simulation, or manipulation of concepts while allowing the user to collaborate and connect to others. Given this understanding of constructivism, software or programs that allow for collaboration and connections would be considered constructivist. Multimedia tools would also be a constructivist technology since it caters to creative, open-endedness which constructivism maintains. Yet, there is one technology which proves itself to be powerfully constructivist by supporting many of the theorys key tenets; that technology is web 2.0 applications. Web 2.0 brings together many of idea constructivist ideals put forth by Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Hall, and Dewey, and when used correctly, brings about and support a constructivist learning environment. Web 2.0: A Definition and Application The world wide web was not always a constructivist environment. During its early inception, the web (called web 1.0) was a reflection of behaviorist notions where information was given from the top-down from so-called experts, and though it was easily accessible, information was unable to be modified, responded to, or otherwise social (Enonbun, 2010, pp. 20). Through the creation of web programs and applications that allowed for a democratization of the internet [sic] (Enonbun, 2010, pp. 20), users had the ability to change how the information was used and presented, resulting in an Internet which was collaborative and social; this change is referred to as web 2.0. Web 2.0 programs and applications represent a constructivist ideology in that they are a place to share, create, communicate, and collaborate while being user-centered, user-generated, and user-controlled (Gooding, 2008, pp. 45). There are a plethora of web 2.0 technologies which can be used in constructivist settings, the most popular being wikis, blogs, podcasts, social networking sites, and virtual worlds. Wikis are web pages wherein anyone can create, contribute, or change content. They are used for creating collaborative sites and the most well-known example of a wiki is Wikipedia. Blogs are a type of website used for commentary and reflection purposes; Wordpress is a site which allows users to create and update their blogs. Postcasts are audio or video files which can be downloaded and played back via mp3 players, computers, cell phones, or other similar devices; examples of pod-

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

casts include The Adam Corolla Show and The Kevin and Bean Show (a Los Angeles-based radio morning program). Social networking sites are websites which create a network of people with a common interest. The idea of social network sites is to create or find a community of like-minded people. Examples of social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The last form of web 2.0 tools are virtual worlds. These are simulated environments that allows users to interact with people. The most popular example of this is Second Life. Each of the tools listed above can have an application used in the classroom. Wikis can be used in project development, blogs can be a place for reflective journaling, podcasts can give students access to course content 24/7, social networks can create a learning community not bound by physical space, and virtual worlds can be places to create and test hypotheses within a virtual space (Harris & Rae, 2009, pp. 139-141). The preceding is just a short list of the uses for web 2.0 tools, and as more tools become available, more options abound. What makes the aforementioned applications constructivist is the common themes they share with the learning theory: activity, context, and collaboration. From Rousseau to Dewey, the constructivist thinkers have been proponents of those ideas, and in looking at web 2.0, it is easy to see that they align with constructivist ideologies through the use of their ability to create, share, and be social. Why Web 2.0 Technology? Aside from the fact that web 2.0 applications support for constructivist education, technology shows itself to be a powerful avenue for teachers and students alike. Why is this the case? For one, constructivist educators have strived to make content relevant to their students, and as technology permeates the lives of people today, using technology accomplishes that goal by using what students have experience with outside of the classroom. Moreover, todays learners are a connected bunch who update their status on Facebook, watch videos on YouTube, and share documents via GoogleDocs. They are accustomed to being connected to information sources and social networks all the time and in many forms (Harris & Rae, 2009, pp. 137). Strommen & Lincoln (1992) write, In barely 20 years, electronic technology has drastically penetrated into every area of society, and every aspect of our social and cultural lives (pp. 466). This penetration has affected the upcoming generation causing children to grow up connected, being raised in a world of instant access to knowledge, a world where vivid images embody and supplant information solely presented through text (Strommen & Lincoln, 1992, pp. 467). In essence, the world has changed to include devices which interact and provide a two-way method of information delivery as opposed the the one-way method which was used for years prior. Despite the constructivist changes to technology, the school system remains unchanged, locked in the past with knowledge being presented...in a linear, didactic manner (Strommen & Lincoln, 1992, pp. 467). This happens both in the actual process of teaching and in teacher education programs, so there is a disparity among children, how they learn, and how they are being

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

taught. Instead, children need to learn in a situation that engage[s] [them] with the immediacy they are used to in their everyday lives, and [bend] it to a new pedagogical purpose (Strommen & Lincoln, 1992, pp. 469). However, throwing they newest, feature-ridden technology at schools, teachers, and students is not the answer. Instead, the answer is to find technology that supports the skills that children need to acquire in order to be successful in the world: being able to share, collaborate, and find an understanding as it pertains to them; this can all be done through the utilization of web 2.0 tools. Conclusion Human beings, especially children, are curious, social creatures by nature. Keeping this in mind, it seems that the constructivist learning theory would best support the ability to learn and acquire new knowledge since it has a basis with eighteenth-century thinkers who felt that experience was necessary to education. In order to enhance that experience, web 2.0 tools can be used since they foster collaboration, creation, and context; these applications can be used in schools to give students a deeper understanding of what it means to be a learner. Granted web 2.0 wont reform the educational system over night, nor will is solve all of their problems, but it can be a step in the right direction to create a new generation of learners who possess the skills to make them productive citizens and who have the higher-order thinking skills necessary to problem-solve the issues of the future.

Constructivism and Web 2.0 Technologies

References Diggins, J. P. (1989). Philosopher in the schoolroom. Wilson Quarterly, 13(4), 76-83. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40257948 Enonbun, O. (2010). Constructivism and web 2.0 in the emerging learning era: A global perspective. Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability, 6(4), 17-27. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/898988477?accountid=9649 Gooding, J. (2008). Web 2.0: A vehicle for transforming education. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 4(2), 44-53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222732478?accountid=9649 Harris, A. L., & Rea, A. (2009). Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies: A growing impact on IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 137-144. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/200117009?accountid=9649 Null, J. W. (2004). Is constructivism traditional? Historical and practical perspectives on a popular advocacy. The Educational Forum, 68(2), 180-180+. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220659041?accountid=9649 Semple, A. (2000). Learning theories and their influence on the development and use of educational technologies. Australian Science Teachers' Journal, 46(3), 21-28. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/194492485?accountid=9649 Strommen, E. F., & Lincoln, B. (1992). Constructivism, technology, and the future of classroom learning. Education and Urban Society, 24(4), 466-476. Retrieved from http:// alicechristie.com/classes/530/constructivism.pdf