Why Constructivism and Technological Tools Just Go Together

David Jonassen Introduced

David Jonassen is instrumental in theorizing how constructivism applies to learning, particularly in the area of instructional design. His model for designing constructivist learning environments (CLE) includes:

  1. A case, problem, project or question that drives the learning - these should be ill defined and ill structured
  2. Related cases, problems, projects or questions that the learner can refer to in their investigations. These help scaffold learning and 'enhance cognitive flexibility'.
  3. Information resources to help "construct mental models and formulate hypotheses"
  4. Cognitive learning tools to scaffold the learning required to successfully complete the task. These help represent, organize, and automate specific components of the task. These include information gathering tools, performance support tools and can be static or dynamic eg. databases, spreadsheets, semantic networks, expert systems, or hypermedia constructions.
  5. Shared information and knowledge creation tools to help learners "collaboratively construct socially shared knowledge".
  6. Accommodations for social and contextual supports as identified.

Jonassen identifies the key learning activities of exploration, articulation and reflection. These are supported by the instructional strategies of modelling, coaching and scaffolding. He summarizes the need for varying assessment techniques and that clear communication about the requirements of the task is conducted.

Check out the following article that outlines this model in greater depth.
Designing Constructivist Learning Environments by David Jonassen

An image of this model is presented here:


Technological Tools for Classroom Teachers

M-moodle.gifMoodle as an online constructivist learning tool

Moodle is an online learning management system which is founded on constructivist and constructionist learning theories.
The image of a box of lego comes to mind when thinking about Moodle as a learning tool. The box contains certain elements which, when used a certain way, can create a certain item which can be used in a certain way. But given the same box of lego bricks, each individual may construct their lego creation in unique ways and end up with a project that can be used in a variety of ways. So it is with Moodle.

Learn more about the philosophy and pedagogy underlying Moodle:
Philosophy -
Pedagogy -
An example Moodle site further explaining the fundamentals of a Moodle site - Understanding Moodle Site

external image logo2modify.pngScratch it's about learning to program
Scratch is a program that has been developed by the Kindergarten Lab at MIT to teach students the basics about programming. The goal was to take the complex syntax lines out of coding and allow students to put together "lego" pieces to construct a program (ie. video, game, animate objects ,etc.). While efforts are ongoing to redesign Scratch into an online experience to allow for real time collaboration, existing Scratchers are encouraged to post their work online for comments and suggestions. Scratch has been used in classrooms as young as kindergarten and labs inside colleges.

Check it out:

Scratch from Karen Brennan on Vimeo.

Inspiration_Software_Picture.jpgInspiration visual learning tool
Inspiration is a visual learning tool that students K-12 can use to help develop and organize their ideas. As well, it helps students understand and retain information. Some of the things students can create using Inspiration webs, idea maps, concept maps, graphic organizers, and process flows. This is not online, but rather software schools can invest in for their students.

globe.pngLiterature Trips
Google Lit Trips connect books to locations in the contexts and settings found in the stories. They provide a three dimensional view for students to place them inside the story. Real world connects to fictional world in a unique experience for learners. These are free and available at

Webquest_picture.jpgWebQuests as Online Search for Answers
WebQuests are focused on the learner gaining most or all the information they need for an inquiry-based lesson from the web. Their aim is to not only engage learners in the pursuit of knowledge, but also give purpose to Internet use. A good resource site that can be used to create or find a WebQuest is available at

external image headerjpg.jpgPopLit - Engaging in Literacy with YouTube Clips
PopLit was a website designed by an Julie Johnson, a teacher from Ontario, Canada, for her students. She is extremely interested in game based learning, and combines the use of YouTube clips and literacy to have students respond to questions she poses about selected clips. The responses are collected and collated using GoogleDocs (via a form). Innovative way of having students engage in literacy activities.

Online_Learning_Pic.jpgMore about Online Learning and Constructivism
One last link to a valuable resource when looking at Constructivism and digital/electronic learning.
Instructional Design and Learning Theory by Brenda Mergel

Jonassen, David. (1998) In C.M Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional theories and models, 2nd Ed. Designing Constructivist Learning Environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence, Erlbaum.