LOGO-L> Constructivism 
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 LOGO-L> Constructivism

...I'd like to see Nicholas Negroponte, who clearly takes THe Wall Street
Journal seriously, write in replying to that tosh...

Jeff

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Sun, 05 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Constructivism

I assume that more than a few of the subscribers to this discussion list
are constructivism "freaks" so they will be interested in this letter
that was published in today's Wall Street Journal.  I typed it into WORD
from a photocopy I made at the library.  I am not taking a position on
this subject.  I am just the messenger, so please don't shoot the
messenger.

But I am interested what you think about these ideas.    Dale

                EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY BALDERDASH  
        Wall Street Journal Letters to the Editor  March 17, 1997
                Paul R. Gross,  Falmouth, Mass.

  The defense of constructivism in the philosophy and practice of
teaching offered by Carol A. Keck(Letter to the Editor, March 4) is an
unwitting example of what has gone wrong with public education, at least
in science and mathematics, over the past 25 years.  In a characteristic
mixture of high dudgeon and higher certitude, Ms. Keck glosses
fashionable educational theory as though it wee demonstrated truth.  In
fact, it is a farrago of incoherent and counterfactual statements that
schoolteachers are trained to accept as principles.
  "Learning isn't necessarily an outcome of teaching," Ms. Keck asserts,
which is a good enough start.  We can all agree.  But what follows is
the non-sequitur that "teachers and school boards should establish goals
that place emphasis on quality of understanding rather than the delivery
of information."  This is meaningless on several grounds, including (1)
the absence of a definition for "quality of understanding," about which
serious philosophers have argued since at least David Hume, (2) the
implication that understanding is separable from information, and (3)
that learning can be, and often is, an obvious result of teaching.
  "Learning usually proceeds from concrete experiences to the abstract"
is Ms. Keck's excuse for "children's interactions with blocks and other
manipulatives (sic) that can make a classroom noisy, but can make it an
effective learning environment nevertheless."  Three facts are implied
to exist: none does.  It is not fact that "learning usually proceeds
from concrete experiences"  Some kinds of learning do; others don't.
The pain of sitting on a hot stove does usually suffice to teach the
foolishness of that position.  Independently of the reflex that abandons
it.  But few are the schoolchildren who discover Archimedes' Principle
(hence repeat the intellectual development of the great scientist of
antiquity) by playing with {*filter*} ducks in the bathtub.  All children
play: few come independently to a definition of buoyancy.  And, it has
yet to be shown that humans learn anything better in noise than in
quiet.
  Ms. Keck's other arguments, such as the desirability of "feedback from
teachers" and high expectations thereof, are banalities.  And finally,
the assertion that constructivism in classrooms is not widespread
depends upon a definition of constructivism, about which the weightiest
constructivist philosophers and sociologists disagree, and upon data,
which are not supplied.
  It is a fact that constructivism in its manifold versions, especially
social-constructivism, is fashionable and important in education.
Pushed to its extremes, as it often is in psychotherapy, sociology and
the history of science.  In the humanities generally, and in classroom
teaching, it results in the absurdity of expecting children to learn
physics by playing games.  Children cannot relive without study the
conceptual history of any field of knowledge.  The abstract elements of
that history must be taught by instructors who understand said
elements:  only in that context do experimentation and play contribute
to learning, that is, to the acquisition of knowledge.  In 40 years of
teaching biology, at all levels, I have never encountered a committee of
students who came up independently with Mendel's Laws or a proof of the
circulation of the {*filter*}.

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Sun, 05 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Constructivism

Quote:

>I am just the messenger, so please don't shoot the messenger.
>But I am interested what you think about these ideas.

>EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY BALDERDASH  

The guy has an axe to grind, but why?

To me, constructivism means that students become actively engaged in their
own learning. They observe, they analyze, they relate, they explain, they
synthesize, they experiment, they think. It is NOT where somebody sits and
talks at you and then you spit it back, thereby indicating you've learned
whatever it was that was talked about. A constructivist approach does not
say you can't use information in textbooks or from lecturers. It's more in
HOW you put it all together rather than WHERE you get the information.

Now Gross says that there are few students who discovered Archimedes
Principle by playing with ducks in the bathtub. I'd say that anyone who ever
played with ducks in the bathtub discovered Archimedes Principle. What they
DIDN'T discover was that there is some principle called Archimedes Principle
-- two very different things. What I wonder is how do you suppose Archimedes
discovered the principle in the first place? How could it have been any way
other than a constructivist approach to learning? I mean, could there really
have been some other way? A dream, perhaps? or some guy who preached at him?
I'd sooner think he discovered it the same way that countless others have
discovered the same thing -- by watching things float. What Archimedes did
was put it into words, and get credit for being the first to say it.

Tom

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Sun, 05 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Constructivism

Dale Reed said:-

Quote:
>I am just the messenger, so please don't shoot the
>messenger.

You're no fun.

Quote:
>But I am interested what you think about these ideas.        Dale

Just a few thoughts, Dale.
Constructivism gone wrong (sloppy constructivism) is and would be a disaster in
a school (but perhaps not a home) .......
This author I believe is not a risk taker (sadly) so sticks to the traditional
pathways ...  

Quote:
>            EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY BALDERDASH  
>  The defense of constructivism in the philosophy and practice of
>teaching offered by Carol A. Keck(Letter to the Editor, March 4) is an
>unwitting example of what has gone wrong with public education, at least
>in science and mathematics, over the past 25 years.  In a characteristic
>mixture of high dudgeon and higher certitude, ....

Higher certitude, eh? He promises us the world and then delivers .... peanuts!
It just seems to be a journalistic method of getting the reader to get past the
first paragraph.

Quote:
>the non-sequitur that "teachers and school boards should establish goals
>that place emphasis on quality of understanding rather than the delivery
>of information."  This is meaningless on several grounds, including (1)
>the absence of a definition for "quality of understanding," about which
>serious philosophers have argued since at least David Hume,

I think the concepts of "fluency", "play" and developing your own ideas without
being formally taught are essential ingredients of creativity and quality of
understanding -- perhaps not hard to define yet it is hard to measure formally.  
Most of us can tell when we are in the presence of one with quality
understanding -- they just make it seem so easy .... it is easy (for them).

Quote:
>All children
>play: few come independently to a definition of buoyancy.  

Minsky has a really nice piece in Society of Mind about how it is far , far
harder to teach a machine to build blocks than it is to teach it to do
differential calculus.
Conclusion:- what we regard as common sense is really very advanced -- we take
most of our intelligence very much for granted....

There is a social stigma against play (it's childish) after the junior years.
Yet all the deep thinkers become immersed in the ideas on their field and
endlessly play aroung with them. eg. Einstein with his thought experiments
about travelling along side a light beam.

Quote:
>In the humanities generally, and in classroom
>teaching, it results in the absurdity of expecting children to learn
>physics by playing games.  Children cannot relive without study the
>conceptual history of any field of knowledge.  The abstract elements of
>that history must be taught by instructors who understand said
>elements:  only in that context do experimentation and play contribute
>to learning, that is, to the acquisition of knowledge.  In 40 years of
>teaching biology, at all levels, I have never encountered a committee of
>students who came up independently with Mendel's Laws or a proof of the
>circulation of the {*filter*}.

I think he is equating constructivism with unguided discovery learning. It's a
question of shifting the balance between instruction and construction in the
direction of construction with well selected activities, because:-
a) instructionist dominated curriculum are boring
b) without the opportunity to play the ideas are not assimilated because we all
learn differently and idiosyncratically.

I like the Piagetian idea that Development is like the ocean and Learning is
just a few stones thrown into the ocean that makes the level rise a tiny bit.

-- Bill Kerr

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Sun, 05 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Constructivism

<snip>

Quote:
> But I am interested what you think about these ideas.    Dale

>                 EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY BALDERDASH
>         Wall Street Journal Letters to the Editor  March 18, 1997
>                 Paul R. Gross,  Falmouth, Mass.
> snip>  

Notice that I incorrectly put Monday's date on Tuesday's Gross letter.
Sorry, I found a couple more small errors down in the letter proper but
I guess they are not important enough to send it again.

I am not quite as innocent on this subject as I made out yesterday.  I
do have opinions.  But I have learned(constructivism in action!) that if
I just print the "news" that I receive far more interesting returns than
if I editorialize too much.  

In the past, on the Core Knowledge list for example, I have attempted to
defend constructivism.  No one came back and said "you big stupid" you
do not know what you are talking about, but that was what I was
thinking.

I am becoming convinced that if my early learning environments had been
more constructivist I would have been a better engineer.  I have a very
lazy mind, but I was able to successfully design for 40 years by using
formulas that I found in engineering references.  I did a lot of
development on other people's basic work with very little deriving from
basic principles myself.  That wasn't so bad as far as the company was
concerned for they had a few super "research" engineers that us second
tier "development" engineers fed off of.  The system works OK.  

But now that I am retired and have "infinite" time to start from basic
principles, I still spend my days on these discussion lists, reading the
Wall Street Journal and growing peas.  I still am not creating anything
from scratch.  At least not yet.  Grace Llewellyn says it takes a good
year for {*filter*}agers to de-school themselves and since I am almost 62 I
guess that I get a couple more years.  I am in a very very deep rut.

For instance, I have an entire library of LOGO books, I have many(free
and not so free) versions of LOGO, I glance over your postings, file
your programs and instructions in their proper folders, and once in
awhile I try the programs out and even get some of them to work.  But I
am not doing what I should be doing, I am not improving my thinking
skills by writing my own programs.

Yesterday my 3 year old grandsonny and I were having a wonderful time
"playing" with Microworlds 95 creating animated worlds with crawling
worms, running dogs, moving clouds and birds sitting in the sunlit
trees.  Maybe I will have to break those LOGO books out just to keep
ahead of him.

Quote:
> In 40 years of
> teaching biology, at all levels, I have never encountered a committee of
> students who came up independently with Mendel's Laws or a proof of the
> circulation of the {*filter*}.

Exactly!  Assuming that Gross was talking about his own students, my
question is:  Is Gross bragging or complaining?  I think my teachers in
the past had exactly Gross's opinions and that is why I did not turn out
to "be all that I could of been."  

For those of you have wondered what happened to the LOGO revolution I
keep remembering a comment a Minister of Education of Venezuela made a
few years ago when asked why their school system did not do a better job
of educating and he said something like, "But what would we do with
millions of educated citizens?"    

I guess that if someone asked me today which side of the contructivism
fence I am on I would say I am sitting on the fence.  I think that
memorizing the multiplication tables, the square root of 3, the names of
Henry VIII's wives, and the Jobberwocky are all good things to do but
also the children should be given the time and encouragement to "play"
with their own ideas.  Some of this play must be in close association
with Mother Nature(my grandsonny likes to walk through mud puddles and
pick worms out of grandpop's garbage-eating worm box while dreaming of
future fishing trips).  

But in the future I think Mother Nature will be become even more
interesting when we can all create models on the computer.  I wonder how
the turtle can be subjected to momentum, gravitational, frictional,
electrical and magnetic forces?  It appears to me that LOGO is a fine
tool for children and {*filter*}s to build upon what they have learned from
mud puddles and {*filter*} ducks in their bathtubs.  LOGO and its successors
can provide each of them the experience of thinking.  By successfully
solving problems they will create in themselves the confidence and the
self image of a thinker.  

Having the choice whether to think(develop our own models) or not is
what separates us from the animals. In the past the most prosperous
people did things that the animals could not do or do something better
than other humans could, but in the future our competitors will be the
robots and the computers themselves.  Future humans must learn how to
program(I am using the world in a more general sense for I realize that
some of you think of LOGO as a programming tool and some of you do not)
the computers or the computers will program the humans.

And as a selfish libertarian I really do appreciate that the turtle can
use its OWN coordinate system.   repeat 360[fd 1 rt 1], I love it!    
Dale

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Sun, 05 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Constructivism

Quote:

>Now Gross says that there are few students who discovered Archimedes
>Principle by playing with ducks in the bathtub. I'd say that anyone who ever
>played with ducks in the bathtub discovered Archimedes Principle. What they
>DIDN'T discover was that there is some principle called Archimedes Principle

I think this is a careless overstatement -- okay among friends, but not
something I'd want to have to defend in the WSJ.

Anyone who ever played with ducks in the bathtub discovered that objects
immersed in the water displace some of the water.  But they probably
didn't discover the exact relationship between the amount of water displaced
and the density of the object.

I think a defensible constructivist view is that Archimedes wouldn't have
discovered his Principle if he'd only been told about bathtubs and had
never taken a bath himself.  And, more to the point, a child today can
more easily understand Archimedes' Principle if s/he *first* plays with
objects in the water, and *then* hears the facts from a teacher.



Mon, 06 Sep 1999 03:00:00 GMT  
 
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