Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Under Construction...Building Meaningful Learning!

     All of the different technologies presented by the learning resources this week had one thing in common:  they all engaged students in creating something authentic to share with others.  Whether the activity is labeled Learn By Design, Project-Based, or Problem-Based, technology can be used to enhance student creation and construction of knowledge.  One of the most practical technologies used in conjunction with constructivism was the spreadsheet created to compare possible saving and investment plans for a family inheritance (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenosk, 2007).  Students were to hypothesize which investment plan would make the most money in the long run and they were able to use technology to test their hypotheses.  The generating and testing of hypotheses in this activity directly relates to constructionism in that students create their own ideas because they are engaged in creating something interactive and useful (Orey, 2001)

     Another fantastic example of constructionism taking place in the classroom is that of gaming simulations.  Hundreds of simulations exist for a myriad of subject areas and create very fun and interactive learning experiences.  These types of simulations allow students to construct their own understanding and ideas about a particular topic while being immersed in an interactive learning environment.  The example used in this week’s learning resource dealt with a World War II game that asked students to make complex decisions as a nation’s leader during the war (Pitler et al, 2007).  This type of strategy asks students to use prior knowledge to construct new ideas and hypotheses about what decisions to make in the game and what possible consequences could occur given certain decisions.

     I also use a simulation game in Economics where students must invest virtual money in the stock market and make investment decisions (  This project is fun, challenging, requires critical thinking, collaboration, and engages students in a real-world task, all very important aspects of constructionism learning theory.  At the end of the project, students write a reflection and share with classmates the results of their investments.  This is a good example of a technology rich, project-based learning activity that correlates with constructionism in that students develop skills and knowledge in an engaging fashion while creating their own ideas about how a real-world institution like the stock market actually works.

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom 
     instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Two additional points beyond my "academic" blog post:

1)  I love webquests and used them often in American and World History.  I did not write about them because I did not want to write too much and bore people (again, they are awesome and are absolutely constructivist)

2)  I know we all have a lot on our plates, BUT is anyone interested in playing a Walden EDUC 6771 virtual stock exchange game just for fun.  Let me know and I will set it up (I will post to classroom also)


  1. Scott,
    Do your students do majority of the work on the simulation inside the classroom or do they have an opportunity to “trade” outside the perimeters of class? Do you find that using a simulation such as this touches upon the objectives that you have built the lesson around or do some of the students just play and walk away with a sense of fun? I find that when I implement lessons similar to the ones that your post described, students have a tendency to miss the larger picture for the myriad of details that they become immersed in.

    1. Sandra-
      Students do have the chance to trade outside of the classroom but the game is set up so that it follows the trading hours of the New York Stock Exchange, so active trading is really done at 3:30pm. All other transactions after hours roll over to the next trading day. When I first started the project 4 years ago, students did not like it much because it was all paper based and they had to research so much in newspapers and magazines. Now that we have internet stock simulations, it leaves students more time to decide how to spend their virtual money and focus on the paramaters of the project, which includes weekly updates each Monday and a final analysis. Yes, students love the game because it is engaging and also a competition but I make sure they do not lose sight of the true learning goals.

  2. Scott,
    Aha! I remember the stock market game in high school. I failed miserably, and it made me wary of the stock market! I do agree that simulations are beneficial for our students, even if they are virtually created simulations. Everyone has to start somewhere safe, and what a better place than school! I will admit, I remember little of my Social Studies classes in high school apart from lectures and boring notes. There was one teacher that made the experience amazing - my government teacher decided to run for a public office, so we all got the experience of learning the steps he went through, learned how to work the polls, and it was our year to vote for the first time, so he encouraged us to practice our right, not to vote for him, but to vote because we're Americans. It's an experience I have never forgotten.

    1. Ah yes, I remember the same kinds of teachers in Social Studies growing up as well. I tended to listen more to them because I enjoyed the subject, but looking back I understand why so many other classmates did not pay attention as much. I think it sounds like an awesome experience you had with your government teacher, talk about some real experiential learning. Thomas Carlyle (Investopedia, 2012) called Economics the dismal science and I try very hard to make Economics as exciting and engaging as possible. Letting students learn about Economics in their own unique way, such as the stock market project and a budgeting project, can help them understand the context in which they will ever use the "dismal science" in their lifetime.


      Investopedia ULC. (2012, March 23). Dismal science. Retrieved from