A Constructionist Approach to Computational Thinking

The following is Module 4 from CodeToLearn course in Computational Thinking

So why are we bringing constructionism and Seymour Papert into a course, or discussion, on computational thinking in education?

It is simple, actually. Seymour Papert, as a mathematician, and as a student and colleague of Jean Piaget’s, really was the first person to think deeply about computation, thinking and children ‘being in charge’ and constructing their own meaning.

He articulated that children should construct artefacts—make things. In this way, they are designing, making plans, building, making errors (bugs), finding problems, seeing patterns, solving problems, breaking large projects into smaller pieces (mind-sized bites, Seymour called them), going step by step to create—all the while discussing this with peers because the constructions are happening in a social context. This is the essence of constructionism.

This is the essence of computational thinking. These are skills, and mindsets, that are useful across all aspects of life.

It’s not just about learning to code, but is clearly about coding to learn—as we shall see more deeply in the next module.

Learning Goals

You will:

  • Develop an understanding of constructionism and how it is different form constructivism
  • Recognize that making isn’t necessarily constructionist
  • Learn about a useful pedagogical framework that integrates computational thinking and constructionism
  • Further develop your own framework for integrating computational thinking and coding into your classrooms

Watch: Sylvia Martinez on Constructionism


Sylvia Martinez is the co-author of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

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