Technology is required for the knowledge construction when it allows students to complete activities that would be impossible without the use of technology in the classroom. For example, students might be asked to communicate via skype with students in another country on a project over the course of two weeks. The project is to measure the rainfall, during the peak monsoon season. Students interacting with through live video will enable learning to be live and informed, something that sending a physical letter would never achieve given the time period.
Many activities that require knowledge construction can also be done without technology. For example, students may be asked to find information about the beaks of a variety of bird species with different diets and develop categories of different types of beaks. If students use the Internet for this activity, they are constructing knowledge, but technology is not required: they would be able to achieve the same learning goals without technology by using printed books in a library.
So for us as educators we ask ourselves the question,
when is technology used best in the classroom?
The knowledge construction supported by technology must be about the learning objective of the activity: learning to use the technology is simply not enough. For example, students might learn about PowerPoint as they create a presentation for their geography topic. But to be considered knowledge construction using technology, it is essential that the use of PowerPoint helped them to deepen their interpretation, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation of historical ideas, not just to deepen their knowledge on how to use the tool.
Technology supports knowledge construction when:
- Students use technology directly for the knowledge-construction part of a learning activity. For example, students use a computer to analyse scientific information.
- Students use technology to indirectly support knowledge construction, by using technology to complete one step of an activity, and then using information from that step in the knowledge-construction part of the activity.
- As an example, students might search for terms related to current events on Twitter and then analyse people’s responses offline. The information they found on Twitter supported their analysis, so we say that technology use supported knowledge construction.
Top 3 Tips to support knowledge construction in the classroom:
- Skype in the Classroom: Using the MEC, find other classes around the world to connect with, based around your studied topic. Let the students lead what and how they want to acquire new knowledge. A quick video call has the potential to spark an idea to engrain new knowledge.
- OneNote, The Collaboration Guru: Setup a class notebook in where students can collaborate on their project work allowing students to construct knowledge from each others ideas.
- Mapping Magic: Students are able to use Maps in so many different ways. The Edge browser in Windows 10, enables students to use a digital ruler and measure the distance between locations. For example, you may need to ink out the route to a local park from your school. Use the digital ruler to measure distance and share it to OneNote so that parents can access the information anywhere, anytime on any device.
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