Constructionism 2018 Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Constructionism 2018 Conference held its fifth meeting in Vilnius, the capitol of Lithuania on August 21st through August 25th at the historic Vilnius University.

Constructionism is a learning theory developed by Seymour Papert which focuses on having learners construct physical or digital artifacts individually or collaboratively as a way of constructing meaning. Closely tied to the work of Jean Piaget, Constructionism borrows the idea of learners constructing their own individual and internal meaning from the world around them, and ties in the production of physical or digital artifacts to externalize that understanding or meaning.

Presenters at the conference demonstrated constructionist pedagogies and interventions using Micro:bit, Arduino, programming languages (Logo, Scratch, R, NetLogo and more), sewable and programmable circuitry, and many more artifacts. Interventions took place in a wide variety of contexts spanning ages, durations, and formal/informal learning environments.

The Principle and Co-Principle Investigators for the Group-based Cloud Computing for STEM Education project organized a presentation for a 2 hour workshop hosted on Friday, August 23rd. The title of this workshop was Group-based Simulation and Modelling: Technology Supports for Social ConstructionismMax Sherard, a doctoral student from the University of Texas at Austin, presented the workshop on behalf of the PI and Co-PIs. 

The presentation demonstrated four GbCC models which support the digital creation of artifacts to engage students in understanding of complex phenomena:

  1. Modified Wolf-Sheep Predation Model: Participants learned about tri-trophic cascades in Yellowstone National Park, and discussed the accuracy and abstraction of two models developed for students to learn about the relationship between wolves, elk, and aspen tree growth in population stability.
  2. Segregation: Participants explored modifying a segregation model built to represent two demographics to incorporate a third demographic, and brainstormed additions to the model to increase the sophistication of the simulation.
  3. Disease: The Hub-net Classic model, Disease, was used to demonstrate other architectures to GbCC which increase participation and engagement of potentially younger audiences.
  4. Geogebra x GbCC Integration: Participants were able to see the collaboration between GbCC and Geogebra capabilities, and explore the mathematics behind triangles in a collaborative matter.

22 Participants attended the workshop and represented many nations, institutions, and forms of education. Participants closed the workshop by learning about the ability convert any NetLogo model - from the library or a personally created model - to the GbCC platform, opening up the model to collaborative participation. When NetLogo models are converted to the GbCC platform, student artifacts can be created collaboratively and exist in dialogue with each other, achieving the social dimension of constructionist learning.