Syllabus

Course Overview

This course examines the philosophical and theoretical foundations of constructionism as a paradigm for formulating and evaluating new theories for learning and approaches to education.

One of the goals of this course is to help new learning researchers situate their work within the constructionist framework through readings and projects that will focus on the rich interplay between the process of knowledge construction and the development and co-evolution of ideas, learners, tools, and contexts.

For the first half of the term, we will focus on theoretical foundations. In the second half of the term, we not only will continue to build on this foundation but also will apply it to a critical analysis of exemplary past and present projects in the Epistemology and Learning groups at the MIT Media Lab.

Readings

All students are expected to do the readings, and to participate in discussions of the readings in class. Readings that are not available on-line will be provided at least a week in advance.

Active Participation

I strongly recommend that you discuss the readings outside of class in preparation for class discussions. The class discussions are very important since they give us an opportunity to present different perspectives and interpretations of the readings and in the process come to a shared understanding of the central questions and issues. You are encouraged to share the questions or issues that you found particularly provocative in the reading with the rest of the class through the course mailing list.

Short Papers

As indicated on the course schedule, each student will write a short paper (2-3 pages) on each reading. See the course schedule for details.

Final Project

In small groups (or individually), students should select a part of the body of constructionist learning research. The goal of the project is to give a thoughtful overview of what is known that would be accessible to a much broader audience.

You should in particular highlight the contributions -- in methodology, activity, and/or tools -- that this body of research has made to our understanding of the power of powerful ideas, how we learn, and the factors that influence the learning process. You should also discuss any contributions to designing education strategies and activities. The analysis should make use of the themes and issues discussed in the course; it should include a critical analysis of how contexts (communities and cultures), choice of tools, activities, and support materials enable learners to develop an ownership of and gain fluency in using powerful ideas. Examples include the constructionist research on learning mathematics, science, or engineering.

Final Paper and Web Site

Your findings should be reported in a 20 page paper and a Web site.

Final Class Presentation

Each group write prepare a final paper and Web site and make an in-class presentation about it in the last week of class.

Grading

The grade will be based on your class participation, class presentation, and papers.