These are my notes from the 3rd annual Constructivist Celebration, hosted by Gary Stager at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC.

Gary Stager

  • 150 participants here today
  • See constructivistconsortium.org/books for constructivist teaching resources
  • Tags/hashtags = constructivist celebration, constructivist consortium, #ccdc09
  • Good ideas are incredibly fragile, bad ideas are timeless
  • Regardless of what we’re asking educators, the level of resistance is relatively constant over time (so why not ask a lot more of the rest?)
  • Computers are knowledge machines that allow you to go further than you could go on your own
  • Educational computing is about software, not hardware, because software ultimately determines what you can do
  • The only question we should be asking about computers in schools is “what are students doing with the computers?
    • Are the students programming the computer or is the computer programming them?
    • Who has agency in the learning process?
  • microworlds.com - design video games, not just consume them
  • Getting the computer to do something it doesn’t already do is an important life skill
  • Elements of an effective project
    • Purpose
    • Time
    • Personally meaningful
    • Complex, including serendipity
    • Connected
    • Discipline
    • Reflection
    • Shareable
    • Access and constructive materials
  • “Can you build an amusement park for kids?” is a more authentic, meaningful question/project than “Martin Luther King had a dream. What dream do you have?”
  • Questions worth asking
    • Is the problem solvable?
    • Is the project monumental or substantial?
    • Who does the project satisfy?
    • What can they do with that?
    • Less is more
  • A good prompt is worth 1,000 words – if these are in place, you can do lots more than you expected
    • A good prompt, challenge, problem or motivation
    • Appropriate materials
    • Sufficient time
    • Supportive culture (including expertise)
  • Maybe we should be adopting an artist’s aesthetic more often – is the work beautiful, thoughtful, personally meaningful, sophisticated, whimsical, shareable with a respect for the audience, enduring? does it move you? (we should ask more: “why should anyone have to sit through that crap?”)
  • Good project-based learning (PBL) has a fighting chance of being enduring
  • Technology matters
  • When students come back years later and say “Remember when we … ?”, they never finish the sentence with “used all of those vocabulary words in a sentence” or “studied so hard for the state assessment” – it’s invariably some enduring project that they remember

Melinda (Lindy) Kolk

  • Learning happens when children make things
  • If students can text message their friends to get the answers, we’re asking the wrong questions
  • Let’s focus on knowledge construction, not reproduction
    • More than one right answer
    • Collaborative
    • Student-centered
    • Requires high-level thinking

Peter Reynolds (author of The Dot and Ish)

  • Great teachers notice kids
  • Great teachers are not about managing data, they’re about loving kids
  • Great teachers have an idea first and notice it later
  • It’s not a tiger, but it’s ‘tigerish’ – the ‘ish’ concept tells the world ‘back off, I’m trying to figure this out, and right now this is the way I do it’ – gives us some room to play, experiment, LEARN
  • Expose kids to big ideas and encourage them to have big ideas
  • We often ask ‘what do you do?’ – we should ask ‘what’s your misssion?’ – adults often have trouble answering this – the sooner we ask that of kids, the better
  • The best children’s books are wisdom dipped in story – they move you somehow
  • There are so many kids out there that don’t get captured by the testing camera
  • Be brave about your own artwork and be nice about others’ artwork