Knowledge Spaces for Online Discovery Learning

Knowledge Spaces for Online Discovery Learning

Roger W. McHaney (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-320-1.ch005


Constructivist learning environments have been enhanced with emerging digital infrastructures, particularly those based on Internet and Web 2.0 technologies. In this chapter, the impact of these technologies on a constructivist-rooted pedagogy known as discovery learning is discussed in detail. Specifically, the use of knowledge spaces for online discovery learning is explored within the context of case-based learning, incidental learning, learning by exploring/conversing, learning by reflection, and simulation-based learning. This chapter first provides a theoretical rationale for enhancing these approaches and then describes several low cost and free tools that can be used in each of the five areas. Technology implementation and practitioner-oriented examples are provided for each with a particular emphasis on Web 2.0 applications in higher education venues.
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Constructivism Concepts

The conceptual foundations of constructivism were influenced heavily by elements many theorists believed were missing from other learning theories. For instance, prior to constructivism, behaviorism, rooted in work by Pavlov, Skinner, and others suggested learning could be measured by behavioral change. Behaviorists viewed learning as a concept which could not be measured directly. Therefore, they believed a surrogate, instantiated as behavioral change, had to be measured instead. They posited that behavioral change was shaped by (1) the environment, (2) how close in time two events occur, and (3) reinforcement (either positive or negative). Behaviorists suggested that if a process influences behavior in a meaningful, long term way, then it was reasonable to assume learning had occurred.

The concept of behaviorism spawned a number of pedagogies. For instance, the idea of testing and giving grades is a form of behavioral reinforcement. Exam scores are viewed as measurable surrogates for learning. Instructivism (or direct instruction) is a common representation of behaviorism in education (Kim & Axelrod, 2005). Instructivist learning theory suggests knowledge exists outside the learner and is taught to the student by a teacher. Instructivism and other forms of behaviorism are generally teacher-centered. The student passively receives information from an authority.

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