Learning Sciences 452
Spring 2017
Tuesday, 1:30-4:30 PM, Annenberg 347

Professor: Uri Wilensky
Address: Annenberg 337

Course Description

Constructionism is the name given by Seymour Papert to that sub-species of constructivist thought that focuses on the special advantages for learning derived from the external construction of an artifact alongside the internal construction of a mental model. Constructionist thinking has been deeply influential on the learning science and educational research, especially in the areas of learning technologies and mathematics and science education reform.

Constructionist thought has its origins in the developmental psychology of Piaget and the early Vygotsky. It has been greatly influenced by the works of subsequent cognitive psychologists and artificial intelligence researchers such as Newell, Simon, McCullough & Minsky. It has also been shaped by the literature on alternative epistemologies, feminism and deconstruction such as that of Keller, Turkle, Illich & Latour. Its strong connection to computer programming as a constructive activity has been deeply explored first by Papert and more recently by DiSessa, Noss & Hoyles. Its advocacy for a reexamination of curricular content in the context of computation and a reorganization of content around "powerful ideas" has had a significant influence on the educational research community. Often this influence has resulted in heated reactions to constructionist ideas.

In this course, we will closely read Constructionist sources as well as sources that had significant impact on Constructionist thought. In cases, where Constructionist thought met a significant counter reaction, we will read some of the counter-constructionist literature. The main thrust of the course is the reading but, to fully appreciate many of these papers, we will become conversant with the software described. It would be somewhat paradoxical to try to construct a sense of Constructionism from readings alone. Papert has said: "You can't think about thinking without thinking about thinking of something". In that spirit, we will need to get our hands (and heads) dirty constructing something.

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