Video Games in Education (In A Nutshell)

This “one-pager” is slightly different than the ones that have come before. This one will include very few, if any, references to constructivist theorists in the final (longer) version. There will, however, be references to educational technologists and (especially) video game scholars. In addition, much of it will be supported with specific examples.

This is actually based on several slides from my presentation/workshop overview of video games in education, so it came together relatively quickly.

I’ll post the final (longer and well supported) version when it is ready. In the meantime, is there anything I’m missing or misrepresenting here?

Video games and computer simulations have been used in education since their appearance nearly three decades ago. I recent years, however, new and powerful ways of using video games and simulations in the classroom have become available, and pioneering educators are innovating new ways to incorporate these technologies.
Many of the video games in use in schools are merely edutainment, games meant first to entertain and second to educate. Often such games are the worst of both worlds – neither entertaining nor particularly educational. Edutainment games also often fall back on traditional educational strategies such as repetitive drill-and-skill activities that are only more engaging or motivating than a worksheet or quiz because of their multi-media and interactive nature.

Many web-based games are mere edutainment, but others are both entertaining and truly educational. Web-based games have the benefit of playing right in a web browser, meaning nothing needs to be installed on a school computer and little or no technical support is necessary. Such games are generally free. Many are engaging and content related. Web-based games tend to be ideal for younger students, but some games are beginning to appear for older students, particularly serious games for change. (See below for more on serious games and games for change.)

Of course, in addition to web-based games, educators can provide desktop games (or consol games) for students to play in the classroom (or at home). Although teachers may not have the resources to develop cutting edge video games and simulations, many existing commercial off the shelf (COTS) games meant primarily for entertainment can be repurposed for educational use. Many of the most popular and successful games are not violent or overly sexualized – and many address topics of educational value. Such games can serve as an engaging gateway to further learning.

A single COTS game, such as Civilization III, for instance, can provide students the opportunity to practice strategy, develop systems thinking concepts, learn social and studies concepts. Civilization III also has the educationally beneficial properties of complexity, flexibility, and replayability. More importantly, the game is very simulation-like and encourages student choice, experimentation, and learning through failure. Of course, individual students will learn different things playing such a game, and the teacher plays an important role in mediating student understanding. Also, such a game will not be engaging and motivating for all students. Not all games will appeal to all students, not even all gamers. Research has also shown that video games may not be an effective learning tool for non-gamers.

If a COTS game is not available that meets a particular educational need, teachers (or their students) can modify (or mod) existing games. Many existing games come with toolsets that allow modification of game environments and in some cases game rules. Explicitly educational games can thus be custom built for a particular purpose.
Increasingly, though, explicitly educational commercial games are becoming available. In contrast to earlier edutainment games, these games are meant to be educational first, and entertaining second. In many cases they have been successful in capturing the best of both worlds. They are both powerfully educational and genuinely entertaining.

Many such games are considered serious games, or games created for a purpose other than entertainment. These are games meant to educate, train, or inform. Examples exist in education, government, health, first response, science, and – of course – the military. A particular brand of serious game, games for change, includes games created with the goal of effecting positive social change. Another subset of serious games is games for health, which are being created by researchers, medical professionals, and game developers for health care applications. The developers aim to use game technologies to create new ways of improving the management, quality, and provision of healthcare worldwide.

If a COTS game or explicitly educational game does not exist to meet a particular educational need, and a COTS game cannot be modified to meet the need, a new game can be created from scratch. Ideally, students can design the new game, even if the game is never produced. In the same way that teaching a subject is one of the best ways to learn it, designing a game or simulation about a subject is another great way to gain a deeper understanding of a subject. Some school programs, and after school programs, already exist for the purpose of helping students create their own games. Although most game design tools are prohibitively technical for many teachers or students to use without significant technical learning, newer easier tools are consistently being developed and put to use. Regardless, students and teachers can use common tools such as spreadsheets to design the simulations that will drive the game, and they can illustrate screen shots or storyboard important game sequences. This still exercises the design skills necessary to create a game, and it requires an in-depth working knowledge of the subject being simulated in the game.

Though they are largely unavailable for educational use at the present time, massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) hold a great deal of potential to serve as constructivist learning environments. More research is required in this area to determine the potential applications, benefits, and problems related to the use of MMORPGs in education.

Social Change (In A Nutshell)

Again, I suppose this should be titled “Social Change in a Constructivist Learning Environment.” In any case, this post follows of the format of the “Nutshell” overviews that have preceded it. Like the others references to constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars will be offered throughout this piece. Actually I suspect that nearly every sentence in this post will eventually be a paragraph in the dissertation.

On a personal note, it’s amazing to look back on who I was when I started this PhD in 2003… the change has been gradual, but it’s hard to believe how far I was then from being someone who would write something like this particular post. I suppose my education at Walden, which was named after Thoreau’s book and where the university’s mission is to “effect positive social change”, has worn off on me.

Any thoughts to share on this subject? Please leave a comment. :)

A constructivist learning environment is not complete without explicit social goals.
Societal development is as much a part of the constuctivist philosophy as individual development. Constructivist thinkers have long focused on the cultural importance and implications of educators’ work. Modern educational technologists and video game scholars, too, are concerned with how educational technologies, including video games and simulations, can effect positive social change.

Many constructivists believe that the function of education is not only to enculturate students, but to be individually and culturally transformative. Not only is it important that the citizens of a democratic republic be well educated (in the traditional sense), but it is also important that they understand how they can each change (or create) their culture and society. Constructivist educators aim to nurture students who will be innovative and transform traditional ways of thinking. To do so, students must learn to resist (or at least critically evaluate) the dominant culture and dominant ways of thinking.

Constructivists have long placed tremendous value on both equity and diversity in education. They also look to education to provide students with windows into other ways of living, and thus help them develop a sense of empathy for other individuals and other cultures. Constructivists also hope to inculcate in each student a sense of service and a desire to contribute to a common good. Ultimately, constructivists are concerned with students developing what traditional educators might call character.

Contributing to society and effecting positive social change are not things that students engage in only after their education; in the constructivist way of thinking, schools are communities (or small societies) where students can contribute at any age. Too, a constructivist school will be intimately connected to (and contributing to) the surrounding community.

For any of this to be effective in the 21st century, though, schools must also prepare students to cope with the ever increasing rate of societal change.

Video games and simulations, particularly multiplayer games or massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), can be a social context for cultural learning. Furthermore, video games and simulations can be used both to help students learn how to pursue social change and to inspire them to effect positive social change – as the serious games and games for change movements have demonstrated. In MMORPGs (and other similar games) it is not unusual for young students to be contributing to a adult social group, sometimes even as a mentor to adults within the game. Simulations (and games with simulation like features) can both be made to exemplify cultural ideologies, and also made to help change prevailing ideologies.

The Role of The Teacher (In A Nutshell)

This is the overview of the second to last section in the heart of my dissertation. The version that appears in the dissertation will be well supported by citations of constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars. This will occur at each step of the way, so the video game section won’t be segregated at the end. I’ll post that version here when it’s ready. In the meantime, any comments are appreciated.

An active teacher plays an important role in a constructivist learning environment. The teacher must first and foremost be able to engage students. In fact, the teacher must plan and create an environment in which students are engaged and motivated, and in which student learning is context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated. Naturally, the teacher also plays an important role in supporting student reflection and metacognition. In sort, an effective constructivist learning environment cannot exist without the careful planning of a skilled educator. In a sense, the teacher becomes the producer and designer of the learning environment. Development of a learning community within such an environment also falls to the teacher.

A constructivist teacher needs to not only have knowledge of subject matter, but also of sound constructivist pedagogy and of the individuals whom they teach. Only then can a teacher serve as a coach (and diagnostician) to individual students. As a coach the teacher can offer positive support. Teachers are also needed for their guidance, particularly in facilitating deliberate and intentional learning – as opposed to the sort of incidental learning that takes place despite a lack of guidance. Teachers may need to help students through guided practice before students are able to succeed at new tasks alone. Teachers can also serve as leaders to students, constantly challenging them and expanding their horizons. Most importantly, teachers must be able to take advantage of teachable moments (and create environments in which such moments occur often).

Of course, teachers are also responsible for assessment of student learning. Constructivists, though, call for assessments to be authentic and embedded in student tasks, rather than the isolated and relatively context-free assessments usually associated with traditional education methods.

Ultimately, a constructivist teacher aims to help students become their own teachers capable of driving and monitoring their own progress.
Finally, though educating an individual student is important work, a teacher will ideally work with a higher calling in mind and the goal of implementing positive social change.

When it comes to selecting (or modifying or creating) video games and simulations for the classroom, the teacher must play these same roles. The games and simulations must fulfill the requirements of constructivist learning environments (or effectively supplement them). Teachers can serve as a coach to students before, during, and after play. Naturally, games can be an effective (and motivating) means of implementing embedded assessments. In offering support (and reviewing assessment results) teachers can help students develop their own powers of decision making, strategy, and metacogntion as they play through a game or simulation, thus helping students grow in their ability to regulate their own learning. Also, as the serious games and games for change movements suggest, video games and simulations can be powerful platforms for advocating positive social change.

However, in order for any of this to be possible, teachers need to develop their own literacy in video games and simulations, and this can only happen by learning to use the technologies and play the games themselves.

21st Century Skills (In A Nutshell)

Since it’s not evident in the title, I should point out that this post continues my series of “one-page” overviews that explain important properties of a constructivist learning environment (as part of the writing process for the literature review of my dissertation). Like the other overviews, this one will soon be fleshed out with detailed citations and references to constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars. In this case, though, the overview is already clearly structured according to the enGauge 21st Century Skills framework.

If you’ve got any insight or feedback to offer on the subject, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Though it may not be considered a fundamental property of a constructivist learning environment, any environment designed for 21st century students can also be designed to help them develop the skills that they will need to be successful in the 21st century.

The North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL) and the Metiri Group have defined a broad spectrum of 21st century skills, which they’ve organized into four categories: Digital Age Literacies, Inventive Thinking, Effective Communication, and High Productivity. Many of these concepts might be better called “timeless skills for success” and have been advocated by constructivists for at least a century now.
For instance, many of the Digital Age Literacies identified by NCREL and the Metiri Group were important long before the digital age, including basic, scientific, and economic literacy. Though the increasing rate of technological change continues to transform Technical literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, multicultural literacy, and global awareness, these literacies too have been important for generations. Now, though, video games scholars highlight ways in which games and simulations can be powerful new tools for helping students develop many of these literacies.

Video games are even more powerful tools for developing what NCREL and the Metiri group have called Inventive Thinking. Games and simulations allow students to develop adaptability and practice managing complexity. Learning to master a game can be an opportunity to develop the concepts of systems thinking. Good games also promote self-direction, reward curiosity, and require creativity – not to mention higher-order thinking and sound reasoning. More importantly, games require and reward risk taking, an important (and difficult to teach) skill for success in the 21st century.

Helping students to become effective communicators has long been a goal of constructivist educators. Here too video games can help students develop and practice their skills. Teaming and collaboration are key features in a constructivist learning environment that promotes socially negotiated meaning making and are also key features in many good games, including massively multiplayer online role-playing games. As the games for change movement demonstrates, video games can also be an effective way for students to develop a sense of personal, social, and civic responsibility – or to learn ethics.

As with any educators, high productivity has always been a goal of constructivist educators. In fact, many would argue that their methods would be more effective at producing highly productive students and citizens. Ideally, a constructivist learning environment, including a video game or simulation, will help students develop skills of prioritizing, planning, and managing for results. Just as constructivists hope that students will learn in an authentic context, they hope that students will learn to effectively use real-world tools and be able to produce relevant, high-quality products. Perhaps more importantly, constructivists hope that students will learn to do so in innovative ways, and that their experience in their learning environment will transfer into innovative problem solving in the real world.

Reflection and Metacognition (In A Nutshell)

I was surprised to discover that my notes for this section were much more limited, and consequently this overview is a bit shorter than the others, and in places more specific. Again, the specific supporting citations will reappear later in the longer version, which of course I’ll post here when I’m done with it. Meanwhile, let me know if I’m missing (or misrepresenting) anything.

A fifth fundamental property of constructivist learning environments is that they support reflection and metacognition.

To constructivists, reflection is a powerful mechanism for meaning-making, particularly as students sort out relationships between the actions they take, the consequences of their actions, and other variables affecting their experiences. Metacognition, the practice of thinking about one’s own thinking (including decision making and strategies), is also a powerful tool for students to promote their own cognitive development.

It’s no surprise, then, that constructivists call for learning environments which embrace reflective thinking, as opposed to prescriptive thinking – environments that support (or require) reflection on experience and reflection on action rather than mimicry of the teacher’s thinking. Many theorists suggest that good learning environments encourage the sort of automatic reflection that occurs as students encounter new experiences, measure them against their past, and make a decision about how to act. Still, these theorists also suggest that educators support students in practicing conscious and explicit reflection as well. This may be one of the most important roles a teacher can play in a constructivist learning environment. Ideally, a learning environment will include formal processes for such reflection and such support from the teacher.

As with other elements of constructivist learning environments, it is best if the processes of reflection and metacognition also hold some real-world relevance for students – or even for society. For instance, some theorists have suggested that reflection is an ideal way to learn ethics.

A video game or simulation can offer many opportunities for reflection, both in game and out of them game. A good game can provide the sort of automatic reflection constructivists are interested in, and (particularly with the support of a teacher) game playing is an opportunity to reflect on experience and actions taken. Such a period of reflection can be as important (and take up as much time) as the game playing itself. Students also engage in a manner of automatic metacognition as they work to sort out the rules of a game. Some games also include meta-rules that allow students to change the rules of the game. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORGPs), in particular, offer opportunities for groups of students to reflect on the consequences of their in-game actions – perhaps using formal processes such as after action reviews.

Socially-Negotiated Learning (In A Nutshell)

Most of the time I was writing it, I didn’t feel quite as good about this one, but I think it came together well. This is the third in the triad of key elements I started investigating when I started this PhD program three and a half years ago (Context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated learning). I still feel good about the three categories, and about the additional elements I’ve added… particularly “motivation and engagement” up front, and “reflection and metacognition” at the end (which comes next).

In any case, like the other “one-pagers” I’ve posted, each paragraph (or each sentence in many cases) will be supported by references to seminal constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars. The final paragraph won’t be necessary when this is incorporated throughout the section.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of the overview. :)

A constructivist learning environment does not leave a student in isolation, but rather facilitates socially negotiated learning.

Early constructivists believed that all learning is experience. Those that followed soon came to the conclusion that all experience is social, and that thus all learning is social. In fact, some social constructivists maintain that meaning is not so much made within an individual mind, but socially negotiated and shared between individuals.

Constructivists are often primarily concerned with students’ individual cognitive development, and this too is a social process. The culture (or cultures) within which learning takes place affects student development, making the culture of the learning environment an important aspect for educators to consider. The social processes of education can also effect individual student development.

Communication, particularly the development and use of language, is a critical element of learning – and of a constructivist learning environment. Dialog, which implies a social relationship, is the foundation of all meaning-making, even if it is merely internal dialogue.

In order to support dialog and social negotiation of meaning, one aim of a constructivist learning environment is to promote cooperation and collaboration between students, as opposed to isolating students and placing barriers between them, common effect (if not common goals) of traditional learning environments. Facilitating cooperation and collaboration has the additional benefit of helping students to improve their social skills and teamwork.

Another benefit of cooperation and collaboration between students is that individual students can complete tasks with the help of others that they would not be able to perform independently. Student’s intelligence can actually be distributed among others in the learning environment, a situation that constructivists consider common in real-world scenarios. For this reason, constructivist learning environments often encourage the development of learning communities or communities of practice.
Within such a community each student can play an important role. In this way, role-playing as an educational strategy can also be a way students can develop socially as well as individually.

Constructivists maintain that the skills that students develop when roll playing in a learning community will transfer to real-world contexts more successfully than those skills developed in isolation with traditional teaching techniques. Ideally, constructivists hope not only for a transfer of skills, but that the learning that occurs in schools will itself have relevance to the student and to the greater society as well.

Many video game scholars maintain that video game playing is a often a deeply social experience and that well designed games can provide a learning environment that facilitates socially negotiated learning. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) in particular, are inherently social and require dialog, cooperation, and collaboration between players. Learning communities and communities of practice are commonplace in MMORPGs and though it may not be common among casual players, the games are designed to promote role-playing within the environment.

Inquiry-Driven Learning (In A Nutshell)

Writing these “one-pagers” is proving a valuable process for me. I’ve got my dissertation well outlined at his point. Unfortunately, the smallest units of the outline are meant to be about 2 pages long, but will probably wind up about 5 pages long – because I have about 20 pages of notes for each section. So each “essay” within the lit review is still a bit overwhelming. It’s difficult to narrow down which citations I’ll actually use and what I’ll actually say.

So, I’m skimming all of the notes and quotes I’ve collected for each section (in this case about 17 pages worth), and jotting down (in my outliner) the main themes or points I can take away from it all (in this case about a dozen points). Then, I am composing the “one-pager” that simply expresses each of these points in a logical manner as concisely as I can – and without citations of any kind. Then (and I’ve only done this in once case so far), I’m going back and selecting only the citations or quotes I need to support what I’ve said in the one pager. In the one case I’ve completed this last step, the resulting section was six pages long.

In any case, I’m finding the writing of the one-pagers motivating, so here is another one… this time on Inquiry-Driven Learning. Again, each paragraph will be supported with references to seminal constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars.

Another fundamental property of constructivist learning environments is that they facilitate inquiry-driven learning.

According to constructivist pedagogy, meaning is made, knowledge is created, and learning happens when the learner is an active and critical participant in the process. Ideally, students are empowered to some degree to determine the direction of their own learning.

The heart of inquiry-driven learning is the opportunity for students to ask questions and seek answers (in an authentic or real-world context). This is sometimes called or associated with discovery learning because as students explore the learning context for an answer to their questions, they experience moments of discovery, which can be a powerful motivating factor for students. This process of posing questions and seeking answers naturally encourages students to make new connections in their mind, the essence of building schema in the constructivist philosophy. It also involves a good deal of sophisticated problem solving on the part of the student.

While educators can encourage inquiry and support student discovery, constructivists hope that students come to learn the importance of self-regulation (or discipline and diligence) in pursuit of their goals.

Because different individual students will ask unique questions, inquiry-driven learning is necessarily individualized. The learning environment (and the educators) need to be adaptive, allowing for differentiated experiences for each learner.

Similarly, constructivists encourage diversity in both the delivery of the curriculum and in the curriculum itself. In terms of delivery, the learning environment should take advantage of multiple learning modalities and the students’ multiple intelligences (by building on their strengths and addressing their weaknesses). Also, while student interests serve as gateways to new learning, students will develop islands of expertise that may be unique. Though many constructivists advocate helping students develop certain commonly important concepts, they tend to resist a hegemony of the curriculum.

Ultimately, allowing student inquiry to drive student learning, constructivists build in a measure of relevance into the learning experience. Ideally, the experience can also tap into student interests, desires, and cares. If important information is embedded into the learning environment such that it is available on-demand and just-in-time to support student inquiry, then this information too will have greater relevance to the students.

Open ended video games, such as massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), have the potential to offer simulated environments in which students can be empowered to ask questions, explore the world, experience moments of discovery, develop self-discipline, and undergo an individually differentiated learning experience that they care about.

Context-Embedded Learning (In A Nutshell)

This is yet another “one page” overview of a topic that will appear in my literature review. The final version will be fleshed out with supporting citations. Each paragraph will be supported by references to seminal constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars. At this point my challenge is whittling down 20 pages of quotes into about five pages of concise text. I’ll post the longer version when I’ve finished it, but for now I plan to continue drafting these overviews… it’s giving me a sense of momentum. :)

As always, any feedback is appreciated.

Perhaps the most fundamental property of a constructivist learning environment is that it offers a context for student learning.

Context-embedded learning has been a cornerstone of the constructivist movement since the early 1900’s. Now, nearly a century later, video games and simulations can offer new contexts for student learning that would not have been available to students in the past.

While traditional teaching and learning tends to be a passive experience for the student who receives knowledge from the teacher, constructivist pedagogy emphases learning by doing, learning from experience, and problem solving. In order to learn by doing, a student must not simply read from a textbook or listen to a lecture. Rather, the student must engage authentic (or real-world) problems in their authentic context. Ideally, the student will be challenged without being frustrated, and thus remain in a state of flow, an ideal state of learning (or performance).

In order to support student’s early efforts, the learning context can be a microworld, or simplified version, of the real-world context in which similar skills might be used – and to which students’ new skills will eventually be expected to transfer. Microworlds model only the elements of the experience that are important to a student’s developmental level, while limiting other distractions.

Learning that happens within a microworld (or other authentic context) is what constructivists consider situated learning, and allows students to develop a situated understanding of the skills they are developing and problems they are solving.

Similarly, many microworlds (and other authentic contexts) offer opportunities for students to developed a distributed understanding of skills and problems. Unlike in traditional testing situations, students do not need to memorize all of the answers to their problems and information required in the learning context. They can call upon tools and other individuals within the context to aid them in their efforts.

As students develop situated and distributed understanding within a learning context, they are essentially exploring an identity within that context – a way of acting and thinking that is specific to the context and problems at hand. Constructivist educators purposefully and explicitly support the development of educationally beneficial identities by their students. Some modern constructivists strive to help students develop professional identities that may be useful in their adult future, particularly professional identities that emphasize sophisticated or innovative ways of thinking, doing, and problem solving.

One particularly powerful strategy for supporting this sort of identity development is to facilitate true role-playing experiences for students, in which each student takes on a specific role within a cognitively immersive environment. Story telling, especially in conjunction with student role-playing, can also be a powerful tool.

Many learning contexts include a goal or problem that may engage and motivate students thus inherently creating a sense of relevance. However, it is best if the learning is also relevant or significant in students’ lives outside of the learning context. Only if the learning problem or learning context is in someway connected to things the student cares about and is familiar with will the learning experience be most effective.

Video games, particularly massively multiplayer online role-playing games, have the potential to offer students such a context for learning.

Motivation and Engagement (In a Nutshell)

Note: The “one page” overviews I’m writing for each section of my dissertation seem to be just the right size for blog posts, so here is the one on motivation and engagement. I’ll post a link to the full version as soon as I’ve had another day to work on it. Meanwhile, how’d I do? Anything critical missing?

One of the fundamental properties of an effective constructivist learning environment is that it engages and motivates students.

Engaging and motivating students has been a primary concern of the constructivist movement since long before computers and video games. Now, though, modern complex video games offer a new multi-modal medium for engaging students and a wide variety of new strategies for motivating their participation.

For more than a century, traditional classroom lessons – including lectures, reading, and written assignments – have often failed to effectively or reliably engage and motivate students. In recent decades, video games (and other interactive media) may have exacerbated this problem, as students, particularly gamers, are now coming to school with higher expectations of engagement and interaction.

However, there is little doubt that modern video games are deeply motivating and engaging to many of the same students that struggle to pay attention in school – despite the fact that games continuously and consistently challenge students, often to the brink of frustration. It has been clear for some time that these games are fun not in spite of being hard, but precisely because they are hard. Massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), in particular, often require players to perform repetitive tasks that seem suspiciously like work, and yet these games are among the most compellingly immersive experiences available.

Traditionally, constructivists have found a great deal of value in children’s play, and consider it an important element of education. Constructivists, of course, look at play not so much as something that students do, but rather as a state of mind. These perspectives are shared by modern video game scholars.

Despite advocating for the value of fun and play in education, the constructivist perspective does not recommend an environment free of structure. In contrast, the hope is to harness the strategies of motivation and engagement responsible for the incidental learning that takes place in many good games and put these strategies to use for the purposes of intentional learning in formal educational environments.

Video game scholars caution, though, that not all games (or specific strategies for motivating and engaging students) will appeal to all students, even those that consider themselves gamers. Also, it is not surprising that video games are not a terribly effective instructional medium for students that consider themselves non-gamers. Of course, many of the strategies for motivating and engaging students are not necessarily unique to the video game format, and can be implemented in more traditional educational contexts.

Constructivism (In A Nutshell)

Note: I originally wrote this in preparation for writing part of my dissertation – and I linked to it in yesterday’s post. I realized it also made a good post in it’s own right, so I’m sharing it here now. Please feel free to comment. Did I forget anything or misrepresent anything – or nail anything right on the head? :)

In contrast to the empirical behaviorist view that knowledge about an objective reality can be simply and reliably passed on from teacher to student, the kernel of constructivist philosophy is the belief that all knowledge must be actively and subjectively constructed in the mind of each individual. This core belief is associated with several corollary beliefs that have become hallmarks of constructivist pedagogy.

The most important of these corollaries is captured by the adage of learning by doing. Constructivist philosophy holds that the learner should take an active rather than passive roll in the learning process, and that the tasks required of the learner should have an authentic context and purpose. It is under these conditions that the transfer of learning from the educational experience to the “real-world” is believed to be most successful.

In addition, learning is often considered by constructivists to be a social process, involving the negotiation of meaning between individuals and the distribution of knowledge over social networks. It is commonly accepted that individual learners can complete more sophisticated tasks with the aid of mentors or peers than they can on their own.

It is also commonly accepted by constructivists that individual learners will have different interests as well as different strengths and weakness, including a varying degree of aptitude not only in mathematical and linguistic intelligence but also in multiple other kinds of intelligences.

Criticisms of constructivism often focus on the lack of structure provided to students, however many constructivist educators insist on a structured environment in which students’ knowledge construction can be facilitated. Such an environment is one in which students are challenged without being frustrated and in which they are focused on intentional (rather than incidental) learning.

At a minimum, a constructivist learning environment will motivate and engage learners. Most importantly, it will also provide a context for learning, opportunities for inquiry or discovery, and a framework for collaborative learning. The value of all of these elements is increased if the environment also facilitates reflection and metacognition on the part of the learner. Such an environment can also be useful for the development not only of traditional school skills but also difficult-to-teach “soft” skills and “21st century skills”, such as digital-age literacies, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high-productivity. Within such a learning environment, the role of the teacher in providing support to students is especially critical. Each of these elements of a constructivist learning environment will be discussed in greater detail in the following sections. Each section will explore traditional constructivist perspectives, the contributions of educational technologists, and the more recent literature on video games and education.