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In constructivist learning environments… In a constructivist computer lab… Using MicroWorlds… On the MicroWorlds in Action site…
learners actively construct knowledge. most activities are project-based. learners exercise their problem-solving and critical thinking skills in a rich environment. extension activities for each project encourage exploration and extend new skills.
learning is student-centered and internally driven. learners work at their own pace on projects of their own choosing (as much as possible). learners can be creative in designing presentations, games, simulations, geometric designs, animations, more. learners may sample or explore project folders in any order, based on theme or programming emphasis.
learners engage in authentic tasks in meaningful, relevant (and sometimes real-world) contexts. computers are tools for meaningful learning, creating, and thinking… not for practicing already-learned skills. learners conceive of a project, determine the steps involved in making this idea a reality, and share their finished project with others. students may explore FAQs; programming vocabulary; interactive projects with notes, procedures, and extension activities.
new knowledge is constructed in the context of the learner's prior knowledge, experiences, and beliefs. when a new skill or concept is presented, each student has a chance to apply new knowledge in a personally meaningful way. the turtle gives students a context for new knowledge as they "teach the turtle new words" and watch the turtle follow instructions they have written. folder themes are based on familiar activities. Projects within each folder are sequenced, building on skills and concepts introduced earlier in the folder.
reality is often represented in more than one way. learners are encouraged to consider more than one way to solve a problem. One lesson can lead to many implementations. there are often numerous possible solutions to one programming or design challenge. extension activities for each project encourage the learner to experiment with different solutions to a problem.
learners learn about learning: creating not just new meanings but new systems of meaning. learners create new systems of meaning as they plan, develop, evaluate, and revise a project - a stepping stone to more complex work. learners learn how to communicate new knowledge to the computer using its existing knowledge base; how to debug errors; etc. extension activities for each project help the learner reflect on the learning experience and apply it in new contexts.
activities are often hands-on and always engage the mind. software becomes a canvas for creative exploration, through graphic design, programming, word processing, spread-sheets, meaningful Web work learners create a new world through commands issued to the computer. Also, the help menu models new terms and concepts through small interactive projects. learners can explore interactive projects with buttons and sliders, before and during the process of learning the skills involved in creating each project.
learners reflect thoughtfully on their experiences. learners reflect, discuss, and evaluate their projects and their choices. learners test and debug each small piece of the puzzle, revamping the project plan as needed. extension activities promote reflection on big ideas and details, providing a constructivist means of self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher assessment.
learning is a social activity; learners tend to construct knowledge through collaboration rather than competition. teams of learners may work together to develop projects. Learners turn to peers for testing and feedback and may be trained to help mentor peers. learners often turn to peers for ideas and support as they develop and debug a project. projects are well-suited for group or solo exploration. Extension activities facilitate peer assessment.
learning takes time. learners may develop and complete projects at their own pace. the rich multimedia environment inspires learners to tackle ambitious projects. all activities are self-paced; in-depth or cursory exploration is possible.
learning involves language. teachers ask open-ended questions stimulating learners to analyze, predict, and discuss the learning process with their peers. learners explore a new form of communication: conveying new meanings to a computer through a programming language. self-help is encouraged through FAQs, project notes, and sample procedures. Extension activities promote discussion and analysis.
assessment becomes part of the learning process. a learner, peers, and the teacher may be involved in assessing projects, with a focus on sharing and refining skills and concepts rather than on grades. a learner self-assesses a project frequently and incrementally by testing procedures and by sharing the project with others. extension activities encourage self-assessment (and sometimes external assessment) at different levels of complexity.
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