The theory of Constructionism is about learning skills and concepts through making or creating. Much more than simply “hands-on” activities, constructionism is about getting students involved in their own education by stimulating a personal connection between the concepts in textbooks and their application in “real-life” scenarios. This theory helps students establish personal meaning and cultivate interest in the materials and people they are working with as well as the work itself.
According to Administrator Magazine, educators around the country are utilizing constructionism by pairing it with technology in a movement that has been coined the “maker movement.” As more elementary and middle schools are adopting curriculum that includes subjects such as coding, design projects and information literacy, teachers are finding unique ways to give students the means to apply these skills across the curriculum.
Educators of the maker movement have challenged students to utilize technology to create something they have learned from a textbook. Some students have created videos reflecting literary principles they learned in a reading class, others have used 3D printers to construct airplanes or rocket models, and still others have built websites for their homeroom classes.
Educators have found students are excited by the maker learning movement simply because it invites them to embrace their creative impulses. Some teachers give instructions that leave room for creative interpretation, thus allowing students to decide for themselves the purpose of their projects and the type of technology they will use. Others give specific guidelines or identify permissible tools students can use to create their artifact.
In having students “redesign” concepts they’ve learned in class, teachers are discovering their students retain and understand the material on a deeper level. Because maker learning forces students to become intimately knowledgeable with the course material, they realize they have not only acquired fluency with the subject, but technological skills as well.
One of the largest benefits of using maker learning in the classroom is that it gives students a sense of ownership in their learning. Studies cited in a Digital Promise article show students do their best work and gain the greatest educational advantage when they are given agency. They feel motivated to learn about what interests them and what matters to them. Introducing and rewarding self-motivated learning projects further help the students as they grow into adolescence where autonomous learning becomes a much larger part of their education.
Most teachers, despite the learning styles of their students, find requiring students to work in teams reinforces social skills and a camaraderie that is key in a child’s education. Maker learning is the idea that learning happens through construction, and students will benefit from learning that construction occurs in social contexts.
Courses in classroom design and course curriculum are part of the Doctor of Education, Curriculum & Instruction degree at the University of Louisiana Monroe. Teachers and education professionals enrolled in this online program conduct research and experiment with maker learning in a number of different contexts.