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What goes on in a constructivist computer lab?

The teacher establishes an environment of creative exploration and develops a structure for open-ended learning activities within the lab, keeping in mind the learners' ability to construct meanings. The students choose specific activities from within this structure and direct much of their own progress. Often a teacher helps by providing some scaffolding, perhaps by demonstrating a new skill or defining a broad problem to be solved.

"A constructivist teacher creates a context for learning in which students can become engaged in interesting activities that encourage and facilitate learning. The teacher does not simply stand by, however, and watch children explore and discover. Instead, the teacher may often guide students as they approach problems, may encourage them to work in groups to think about issues and questions, and support them with encouragement and advice as they tackle problems, adventures, and challenges that are rooted in real life situations that are both interesting to the students and satisfying in terms of the result of their work. Teachers thus facilitate cognitive growth and learning as do peers and other members of the child's community." (Chen)

A constructivist computer lab is student-centered; students are given a great deal of autonomy and are often encouraged to take the initiative in developing their own projects. Students come to realize that there are a variety of ways in which a problem can be tackled and solved. Students are often allowed to work at their own pace in planning, developing, evaluating, discussing, and revising their projects. The learning process is more important than the product, and assessment is a natural part of this process and involves the learner and peers as well as the teacher.

The summary table provides a few examples of what can take place in a constructivist computer lab and suggests ways in which MicroWorlds and this site can enhance the learning experience.

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