I'm presenting a paper on Moodle next week, and I was thinking about the type of questions I could be asked. In the paper I quote "one of Moodle's advantages is its strong grounding in social constructionism" (as is says on the on the front of moodle.org). I'm happy that I understand the concept of social constructioNism (as distinct from social constructiVism), but I'm actually not sure how I'd handle a question such as:
"Can you provide examples of social constructionism in Moodle that sets it apart from other e-learning systems?"
Maybe the forums, which have the distinction of allowing peer assessment? The workshop module, which also involve peer assessment?
I'd consider the concept map created as part of the in-development brainstorm activity module (http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=11523) to be a social artefact and so constitutes an example of social constructionism, but it's not part of Moodle proper.
I'd appreciate it if anyone could provide examples of social constructionism in Moodle.
Also, I was writing an assignment for the teacher training qualification I am working towards (or I never get a pay increase, now there is motivation), and I got a "correction" for referring to Social Constructivism, it was corrected to "Socio Constructivism". I have a feeling that both are recognised terms for the same idea, just one is a bit more academic/latin/we are very clever and the other (Social) is a word people actually understand and used. Not that I mind being corrected of course grrrrrrrr
- Social constructivism is about the internal process of constructing knowledge within a social environment and through social interactions.
- Social constructionism focuses on the learning power of constructing artifacts for (and with) others in a social environment.
For a slightly longer exposition, see Moodle Philosophy.
From "Situating Constructionism", Papert and Harel: (http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html)
Constructionism--the N word as opposed to the V word--shares constructivism's connotation of learning as "building knowledge structures" irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it's a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.
 Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this, I've only recently begun reading about social constructionism, although I'm looking forward to discovering more and putting it into practice in the forthcoming academic year.
Frankly, my own sense of the constructive - ism versus the construction - ism discussion, is that this is a particular moodle-like distinction. In fact, this discussion itself is part of the process of engaging in the social construction of knowledge. A key publication in setting out this idea of the social construction of knowledge is the book: Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality (1966). If you want to go to one of the sources of contemporary theorizing on this topic, that would be a good resource. I am not suggesting that it is an easy resource to read, but if you want a seminal work, that would be one.
A more 'quick and dirty' summary -- in the context of collaborative learning -- might be a paper by Arthur Warmoth. I am not suggesting this paper is the definitive source; but it is a source which seems to be substantive and authoritative.
Hope this is of some help.
In practice, though, you'll find that WebCT doesn't in fact have as wide a variety of tools as Moodle, makes it more difficult for teachers who want to run courses this way, and certainly doesn't encourage new teachers in this direction.
One major aim of Moodle is to bring this philosophy to the forefront, so that teachers are led towards providing these opportunities to students. Note that Moodle is still developing towards the kind of system of my dreams, and sometimes our other goals (such as modular programming frameworks, accessibility, customisability, interoperability, scalability etc) have slowed progress down in this area, but we are getting there.
I think the social constructionist philosophy is very important - it's too easy for teachers to use eLearning to add content and assess it and think that's somehow better because it's using technology; in practice, it might even be worse than the old fashioned "chalk and talk" because it might even remove the social context of the learning. I also appreciate how the diverse requirements of such a large and popular system can affect the development of the philosophical and pedagogical foundations. I look forward to playing what ever small part I can!
(Incidentally, now that I have the basic requirements of the Brainstorming module completed - changes to be added later today, or as soon as our line gives us better than 70% packet loss! - I'm starting work on the Data module).
Last year I opened a moodle course for becoming metal craftsmen, 15 years old. They got to know the concept of the Archer trice engine. A proof of concept for our school for this ELO.
reading the social construct debate
hoping to inspire your Irish Moot
reusing your Moot-portal for the coming Dutch/Belgian event ( http://lesnet.minkema.nl/moodletest/course/view.php?id=9)
I'd like to share some remarkable moments, which i see as social constructs:
* at first the pupils couldn't grasp the idea of a 'living' environment, with a teacher reviewing your assignments, really existing people (profiles, up-to-date websites). They thought it was all fake.
* Nobody (this group / this first time) tried the diary, only few joined the forums. In a way it was scary for them. Also these men want to get their scores. Clicking, entering answers in tests, OK. But you just don't start writing voluntarily. For these kids a very visual approach worked best.
* They all started using (the same) translating engine, and without any shame they posted the same reply. We didn't react at once, we were curious. My idea was to get a dictionary and translate roughly 100 words. It resulted in the group learning something totally different, but still usefull.
* The effect of Online learning, the break with regular school-hours, proved to be harder than expected. The moodle teacher needs a different approach too.
* The reusability of complete tests and individual questions (in general the great possibilities of the quiz-module) is the greatest moodle motivator for me personally. This gives me a powerfull tool (e.g. Wintoets link for dutch market) to get into social construct with my fellow teachers.