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A Constructivist View of Teaching (AKA: If I can do it, anyone can!)

A constructivist view of education has come into its own in recent years. Educators are now quick to acknowledge that all students come to the table with valuable experiences and knowledge that can enhance learning outcomes. We get that students are not receptacles into which we dump information, but rather learning is best when an inclusive environment of give and take is fostered. Some of us even apply constructivist theory in class assignments and projects, giving the students the opportunity to form teams to create meaningful and reflect on learning experiences that capitalize on their strengths and abilities.

But what about a constructivist approach to teaching? Constructivist theory is all about helping students learn by embracing their existing skills and abilities, having them utilize those in their learning, and then giving them an opportunity to reflect and grow from the experience. Constructivist teaching is typically facilitating the process, but we teachers can also learn within this environment.

I know, we professors sometimes think that we are the answer holders, but truthfully, the more I teach (especially teaching with technology), the more I realize I am drawn to a constructivist teaching approach. Not even by design, really, but by necessity. I have limited knowledge about technology, but I have really bad luck with it (in fact my husband says I should be a beta tester as my magnetic field or something messes up the technology I touch). I have found that I can create meaningful and valued learning experiences for my students and me when I just do it; just jump into a topic in which I am not an expert.

I teach in the field of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences. Our graduates go out into the world to improve the lives of youth and families. To do so, they need 21st-century technology abilities—for creating videos, using social media, translating research, etc. Our programs include many non-traditional students including adults who have not recently been in an academic setting and who lack the technical skills that are expected of digital natives who have lived their entire lives surrounded by technology. I see it as crucial that all students learn these skills and in turn, I learn as well. It was sure intimidating when I made my first assignment where students had to create online materials (think youtube video), but together we did it. [see more about that here]

I did not have technical skills to teach my students technology and to this day, I am amazed at how much we all learned through that assignment and though the implementation of constructivist theory of learning and teaching. There are supports here for us; I had our instructional designer, Dede Nelson, and DELTA to help. Truthfully, if I can teach with and about technology, anyone can. Teaching with technology can contribute to becoming great teachers. Sometimes it is appropriate to just do it—just try something new.