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Research Guides

Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Seymour Papert and Constructionism

Piaget’s Constructivism versus Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference and Why is it Important?

In her article, Edith Ackermann discusses between Constructivism (developed by Piaget) and Constructionism (developed by Papert). She argues that integrating both views helps educators to understand how people learn and grow cognitively. Piaget’s constructivism offers a window into what learnners are interested in, and able to achieve, at different stages of their development, while Papert’s constructionism, in contrast, focuses more on the art of learning, or ‘learning to learn’, and on the significance of making things in learning. Unlike Piaget, Papert stresses the importance of tools, media, and context in the construction of knowledge. 

Ackermann feels that both Piaget's and Papert's theories allow educators to gain insight in the three following areas: 

a. How can we rethink education?

b. How can we imagine new environments

c. How can we integrate new tools, media, and technologies at the service of the learner?

Additionally, these theorists remind us that "learning, especially today, is much less about acquiring information or submitting to other people’s ideas or values, than it is about putting one’s own words to the world, or finding one’s own voice, and exchanging our ideas with others."

Other sections of this Libguide have discussed Constructivism. Papert's Constructionism differs in the following ways. 

Papert, a Mathematics professor at MIT developed the theory of construtionism, which is largely based on contructivism’s view of learning as “building knowledge structures”through progressive internalization of actions." In contrast to constructivism, there is a greater focus on learning through making rather than overall cognitive potentials. Additionally, it emphasizes the shifts from universals to individual learners’ conversation with their own favorite representations. Papert feels that "projecting out our inner feelings and ideas is a key to learning." He argues that expressing ideas makes them tangible and shareable which, in turn, sharpens these ideas, and helps us communicate with others through our expressions. 

Similarities in Piaget and Papert:

  • Both constructivists who view learners as builders of their own cognitive tools, knowledge is constructed and reconstructed based on experience
  • Each gains existence and form through the construction of the other. Knowledge is not merely a commodity to be transmitted, encoded, retained, and re-applied, but a personal experience to be constructed.
  • Both were developmentalists: share an incremental view of knowledge construction.

Differences between Piaget and Papert:

  • In contrast to Piaget, Papert draws our attention to the fact that “diving into” situations rather than looking at them from a distance, that connectedness rather than separation, are powerful means of gaining understanding.
  • Piaget's “child,” often referred to as an epistemic subject, is a representative of the most common way of thinking at a given level of development. And the “common way of thinking” that Piaget captures in his descriptions is that of a young scientist whose purpose is to impose stability and order over an everchanging physical world.
  • Papert's “child,” on the other hand, is more relational and likes to get in tune with others and with situations. S/he resembles what Sherry Turkle describes as a “soft” master (Turkle, 1984). Like Piaget's Robinson, s/he enjoys discovering novelties, yet unlike him, s/he likes to remain in touch with situations (people and things) for the very sake of feeling at one with them.

Papert himself states that the simplest way of understanding Constuctionism is thinking of it as learning by making, and it demands that  that everything be understood by construction. He advocates for student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge, and feels that students learn through participation in project-based learning where they make connections between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching rather than using lectures or step-by-step guidance.