XP on OLPC - a contrarian view

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Sat May 17 11:46:05 EDT 2008

Martin Langhoff wrote:
> On Sat, May 17, 2008 at 4:08 PM, Albert Cahalan <acahalan at gmail.com> wrote:
>> You don't need computers for constructionism. If pushing educational
>> theories of questionable value is your thing,
> Can we stop beating constructionism for no reason, and without any facts?
> First, a bit of debunking of the concept: constructionism is the
> strategy used in all those courses at university that are called
> "seminars". 

Indeed, most courses in a business school are a mix of instructionism
and constructionism. We typically have a lecture session followed by a
group project for a case study or some such group activity. The
professor acts as a lecturer in the first part and a facilitator in the
second part. This combination has been used for many years.

In my 14 years of teaching, the "instruction only" approach gets pretty
boring very quickly. You hit a wall when their eyes glaze over and their
behinds hurt from sitting for too long. Similarly, whenever I've given
them a topic and asked them to break into groups without any prelude of
a lecture, it gets hard to get the critical mass for coherent activity.
A combination of both works really well.

I am expressing this as anecdotal observation but there is good
statistical research on this.


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

> It is well recognised as a valuable teaching strategy. And
> in general terms, if you've ever figured something out with a friend,
> rather than being taught (as I figured out my first C=64 with my best
> friend at age 9), you've engaged in social constructionism. When kids
> "figure out" the vcr, and show someone else how to do it, that's also
> SC.
> Formal research is widespread into this, and seems to consistently
> show that it works, as can be seen in the work of Martin Dougiamas
> (he's the guy I'm most familiar with, definitely not the only one):
> http://scholar.google.co.nz/scholar?q=dougiamas+constructionism
> In any case, the discussion these days seems to be "how early can
> social constructionism be useful?", and as far as I can see, it is not
> hard to show that fairly young kids respond amazingly well to sc
> approaches. The hole in the wall experiments are part of a long trail
> of work in that direction.
>> I'd rather give the gift of software freedom. Unlike your theories,
> This project has people with different focus from yours Albert. We
> need them all. _You_ care mainly about the sw freedom, others care
> mainly about education. But the overall goal needs both as they are
> complementary.
> cheers,
> m

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