Back from Constructionism 2010

The Constructionism 2010 Conference was fantastic. First, Paris is amazing, I had the opportunity to see all of those famous landmarks, views and artwork that you dream about. Second, it was great to catch up with many friends and colleagues who made me happy to be a new member of this community.

This year, the organizers from American University Paris (AUP), John Clayson and many others integrated a more broad spectrum of presenters including dancers–who lead the entire conference in dance–and even a wonderful “lecture concert.” Many of, as they were referred to at the conference, “grandfathers and grandmothers of constructionism” were there to continue to enlighten and inspire the rest of us and the “new constructionists” gave equally engaging presentations about the projects they are currently working on. Claudia Urrea, Director of Learning for OLPC, presented on the many challenges of bringing constructionist learning to scale.

Some of the most interesting group discussion came when thinking about the growing constructionist community….. are people from all disciplines welcome at this conference? What does it really mean to be a constructionist? Is programming and technology a must?, etc. How can we increase our reach and community without sacrificing our strong foundation and principles?

The presentations and poster presentations were always great, and, for me, the ones with a great story stand out, for example, there was a great presentation about a teacher in Mexico who was working hard, without, sometimes, approval our support to use Logo in his classes. But he was very determined and has continued to advocate for Logo use by “making his students into allies.” He has made major changes in his school and for his students. Many other countries were also represented, including, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Israel, Greece, Australia, Thailand, USA, Brazil and others….

But I came with the hope to get some of my own curiosities about our work in Rwanda answered. I was wondering should we really expect from teachers? Are we pushing them too much? Not enough? I have had my concerns about moving too fast and, indeed, expecting too much from teachers in too short a time. Does it really make sense to teach a teacher Scratch in a week’s time for their first training? Thankfully, I had a fantastic conversation with Jose Valente of Brazil and Edith Ackermann and they both said that we need to be more humble in our approach and that laptop programs that have been in existence 3+ years in more developed countries STILL have teachers focused on the more basic uses of the laptop. This conversation has brought me back to Rwanda more focused on more effectively developing and working with teachers.

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