Applying Technology to Restructuring and Learning
Over the years, educators have come to realize that understanding how people acquire knowledge is central to helping students learn. During the Regional Educational Laboratory contract for FY19962000, SEDLs Applying Technology to Restructuring and Learning project developed models of learner-centered classrooms supported by appropriate technologies, particularly in schools with highly diverse student populations. The project was founded on six principles from constructivist learning theory, which concludes that knowledge or meaning isnt fixed, but rather constructed by individuals through their own experiences. Research suggests that learning environments based on constructivist theories are effective and strategic ways to educate children for cross-disciplinary thinking required in todays world.
Field-based research and development
Based on these six principles, SEDL developed, field-tested, and revised a professional development program, Active Learning with Technology, with more than 150 classroom teachers and 10 technology coordinators in six sites across the region. SEDL conducted research to develop models of constructivist learning environments and found that:
- No single model of a constructivist learning environment emerged.
Instead, researchers saw many configurations. Such differences
most likely reflected the unique prior knowledge and experience
each teacher brought to the project.
- Students were more active, autonomous, and highly engaged with
the content under study. Much of the time, students worked collaboratively
with peers to solve a problem, present findings, or complete a
project. Often, but not always, such tasks were accomplished with
the use of technology. The teacher, while an integral part of
the classroom, acted more as a producer rather than a director,
setting up the learning situation and then allowing students to
use the means necessary to arrive at a certain end.
- Professional development opportunities had a major impact on
teachers practice. The research showed that the more hours
teachers had participated in SEDLs project-specific professional
development, the more they used constructivist practices and technology.
By participating in professional development experiences that
promoted constructivist learning environments for teachers and
receiving time for reflection, teachers were able to confront
their theories in use and change their practice.
- While the presence of technology made teachers aware of the
need to change instructional practice, technology by itself did
not result in practice changes. Change appeared to occur with
teachers increased confidence/comfort using technology in
- An optimum number of computers seemed to be required to support
the creation of constructivist learning environments. One computer
was not enough. But there was minimal change in classrooms with
a 1:1 ratio of computers to students, such as a computer lab.
In classrooms with approximately 20 students and four computers,
more implementation of constructivist practices was observed.
A scarcity of resources required a reorganization of the classroom
to accommodate the use of the technology, leading to a shift in
- Those campuses led by principals who both understood and supported
the use of technology and constructivist practices saw the greatest
change in classroom practice.
- The greater the number of teachers using appropriate technologies within a school, the more change in teaching practice that took place. With 25 teachers on a campus using technology, awareness and interest throughout the rest of the school and school district increased. Teachers at the site with no critical mass on campuses made the least change in practice.
SEDLs Active Learning with Technology program
The resulting program consists of a 16 module portfolio, follow-up coaching and assistance, and resources to support teachers in learning how to restructure their classrooms around the six constructivist principles. Resources in the portfolio include: Constructing Knowledge: A Review of the Literature; Connecting Student Learning and Technology, a practitioner's guide to the literature review; TAP into Learning, six newsletters that describe one or more of the six principles and feature classroom activities that reflect these principles; a database of teacher and student resources; and six videos that portray constructivist learning environments enhanced by technology.