Let your students create!
The constructivist/constructionist theory explains how important it is for the learner to explore and create for themselves (Laureate, 2011). Project based learning derives itself from this theory and explains that “Because [it] is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying” (Nichol, 2011).
When coming up with a project for your students, it is important to create a situation where they will be forced into a point of dis-equilibration. When students are in a place where they do not know all of the answers they are forced to work through a situation or problem in order to solve it. The answers are not given to them. Students learn when they have to solve something on their own.
Students need to be able to work through a problem successfully as well as sometimes, unsuccessfully.
Creating and testing hypotheses is a great way for students to work through problems and different concepts.
“When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).
Technology tools help enhance the testing of hypotheses. Students are able to manipulate figures and work with the content in ways that would take too long to work through on paper. Microsoft Excel is a convenient tool that many students have access to at school and at home. There are also many online spreadsheet tools such as Google Docs (Spreadsheets) and wikiCalc (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).
Online gaming systems, oddly enough, provide simulations where students “use background knowledge, make decisions and see the outcome of their hypotheses, often in virtual situations that would be impossible or financially unreasonable in real life” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).
As many people would consider Farmville on Facebook a waste of time, it may have a place in the classroom. Players are able to make decisions about what would work best for their farm, try it out and see the consequences. Where SimCity and the Sims are seen as programs that waste too much time, and maybe they do, they could also have a place in the classroom. Students are able to try all kinds of different situations without any harm to their real lives. They are constantly testing hypotheses without even knowing or trying.
Presentation tools such as SlideRocket and Prezi are great ways for students to document what they have researched or what they are working on. Both sites allow the user to easily upload or embed presentations into websites. They also have a link that can easily be shared.
No matter the content area, there is a technology tool out there that can enhance your curriculum.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Nichol, M. (2011) What Works in Education. Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience. Retrieved fromhttp://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.