Situating Constructionism

As I join in the last part of class, and listen to the class recordings, my thoughts about constructionism is kind of evolving. In reading Papert’s Mindstorms, I had tried very hard to understand the Math examples, seeing powerful ideas as some form of domain specific idea that can be represented in microworlds. In class discussions, we talk about not pre-defining the idea, but letting learners generate the ideas, like the Computer Clubhouse model. I was also struck by the issue of “power” in ideas, how they all exist in social structures consisting of power relationships. What are powerful ideas will be determined by politics, economic powers etc., especially when we talk about the educational system.

I have read the book chapter “Situating Constructionism” before, but reading the article now, with the context of our discussions, illuminates (literally!) my understanding. Papert and Harel (1991) say it would be “oxymoronic to convey the idea of constructionism through a definition since, after all, constructionism boils down to demanding that everything be understood by being constructed”. They further discuss that the idea of constructionism was in evolution, and there is a need to keep intellectual doors open. The important question or vision is: which approaches favors dreams and visions, setting off catalysts for good scientific and mathematical ideas?

They then go into the discussion of the epistemological dimension. How constructionism is concerned with “e;epistemological.e”, raising issues relevant to the nature of science and debates in psychology. Feminism is discussed – where people (in Africa) fight for the right not only to think what they please, but to think it in their own way.

The book “Constructionism” focuses on “noncanonical” epistemological thinking from ethnographic study of laboratories, intellectual movements inspired by feminist concerns, and trends within computer cultures. The paper we read last week on Brandy, even though published in 2012, is yet another example of “noncanonical” epistemological thinking.

The article is available on the web. Read it when you can!

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. From Constructionism (pp. 1–11). Ablex Publishing Corporation.


1 Response to “Situating Constructionism”

  1. 1 kyliepeppler February 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Verily, this is really interesting to hear how you’re able to piece the course and ideas together — as well as what resonates from the class discussion. It’s a great recap! The pointers that you make to the Papert & Harel article are good resources for the class as well. I think that this issue of “power” will be a strong undercurrent the rest of the semester as we engage in our capstone design projects as well.

    This raises a couple of questions for me that I would like to pose to the group: (1) If constructionism is best defined through the activity of design, how are we doing collectively in the class? Have the activities and discussions similarly illuminated others in the group? Should we do some additional readings (aside from the Bers reading we had planned) to further illuminate our understanding? Or is it evolving through our design work?

    (2) Which readings have you found to be the most illuminating? As we continue to iterate on the course and the readings, it’s useful to know which readings were found to be the most helpful in the course discussion.

    Thanks for your continued feedback on the course!

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