Constructivism & Technology/Authentic Learning
CHAPTER 3: Authentic Learning & Instruction
According to author Marilyn M. Lombardi (2007), authentic learning is not a new concept. In fact, authentic learning is an old concept that has been around long since the time when apprentice-mentor relationships were the leading method of job or trade training. In the next few sections of this chapter, we will define authentic learning and “real-world” learning and investigate examples of each, discuss why authentic learning is a key concept in Constructivist theory, and discuss the relationship between authentic learning and technology.
What Is Authentic Learning? / What Is "Real-World" Learning?
Author Sean Cavanaugh (2004) defines “real-world” learning as “experiential” learning. According to the Encarta Dictionary (n.d.), “experiential” learning is learning “derived from or relating to experience as opposed to other methods of acquiring knowledge” (Encarta Dictionary online, n.d.). “Real-world” learning experiences include service learning, apprenticeship, cooperative learning, job-shadowing, and internship experiences (Cavanaugh, 2004). As mentioned above, Lombardi (2007) reports that in earlier times, “real-world” learning experiences, such as apprenticeships, were one of the most popular means of knowledge acquisition, but things changed during the 19th century when the number of individuals interested in learning increased significantly. During this time, “real-world” learning experiences, such as apprenticeships, became nearly impossible to implement due to the complexity and steep expense associated with meeting the “real-world” experience demands of so many students. Moreover, the hazards associated with supervising amateurs on the job made “real-world” learning even more complicated to manage and implement. After examining this issue from a variety of different angles, experts from the educational realm concluded that the usefulness and importance of “real-world” learning should not be inhibited by these impracticalities, and that students could achieve an equivalent level of authenticity in situated authentic learning experiences (Lombardi, 2007).
Authentic learning is defined as learning that is seamlessly integrated or implanted into meaningful, “real-life” situations (Jonassen, Howland, Marra, & Crismond, 2008), and Dr. Imran A. Zualkernan (2004), insists that authentic learning situations are a safe and situated “surrogate” for “real-world” learning experiences (Zualkernan, 2004, p. 3). In authentic learning, learners are presented with realistic problems or projects that have realistic purposes and given the opportunity to investigate and converse about these problems and projects in manners that are applicable to them and their lives (Carlson, 2002; Mims, 2003). Jonassen et al. (2008) contend that this type of learning exists in stark contrast to traditional classroom learning where, often for the sake of time, ideas and concepts are frequently extracted from their original, real-world contexts and presented to the learners as isolated facts to be memorized. These authors (Jonassen et al., 2008) suggest that this extraction devalues learning because it destroys the relative prompts that make the ideas and concepts significant to the students and their lives. Experts (Herrington & Kervin, 2007) also contend that assessment should be authentic, or embedded directly into authentic, realistic learning experiences, instead of being administered as an independent quiz or test in an isolated context. Examples of authentic assessment include learning/reflection journals, traditional or electronic portfolios, and rubric-guided performance assessment task (Herrington & Kervin, 2007).
According to Audrey C. Rule (2006), in recent years, many education professionals have made an effort to investigate and define authentic learning and the fundamental principles upon which it is based. She has read much of their work in her own investigations of authentic learning and concludes that there are four broad principles that characterize authentic learning, regardless of discipline. These four principles state that authentic learning experiences should 1) focus on practical, lifelike problems that imitate the trade of experts in the field with communication of results to individuals outside the classroom, 2) be inquiry-based with an emphasis on metacognitive skills, 3) encourage learners to participate in active conversations in a social learning environment, and 4) allow learners make choices and guide their own learning in meaningful, task-oriented work (Rule, 2006).
Authentic learning manifests itself in many forms and fashions, and it occurs across age groups and disciplines. Examples of authentic learning include problem-based, project-based, inquiry-based, role-playing/simulation based, case study-based, and critical incident-based learning experiences (Lombardi, 2007; Zualkernan, 2004). For example, nursing students experience authentic learning when they read case studies and create care plans for hypothetical patients. In correlation with these ideas, Lombardi (2007) reports about a simulation/role-playing activity where graduate business students participate in an online simulation that allows them to interact with one another and pretend to be decision makers in a global company.
Rationale for Using Authentic Learning in the Constructivist Classroom
As we have discussed in previous chapters, one of the major beliefs of Constructivist theory is that learning is an active and social procedure in which learners use their prior knowledge as a basis for constructing new knowledge (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004). According to Peter C. Honebein (1996), integrating learning into realistic and meaningful contexts is one of the major objectives of Constructivist instructional designers. Therefore, in correspondence with these ideas, authentic learning is a key concept in Constructivist theory because authentic learning methods/environments help accomplish the monumental task of connecting new knowledge to existing knowledge by encouraging students to make direct connections between their new learning and the real world in which they live (Carlson, 2002; Mims, 2003). According to Zaulkernan (2004), “authentic learning experiences… are situations that allow a learner to create their own personal knowledge in a particular task environment,” (Zaulkernan, 2004, p. 3).
Authentic Learning and Technology
According to Jan Herrington and Lisa Kervin (2007), when it comes to technology, teachers often have good intentions but are frequently pressured into using technology within the classroom for a variety of misguided reasons. These reasons range from stressful administrative demands to the sheer convenience of having a multitude of new and exciting technological tools readily available. Herrington and Kervin also argue that technology is often misused in the classroom when teachers depend upon technology only to deliver information to the students or when teachers focus instruction solely on teaching students to use the technologies in and of themselves. However, these authors contend that technology can be a very powerful “cognitive tool” when used in the right capacity and that rather than being used as a vehicle to transport information to the students, technology can and should be used to aid students in examining and understanding their learning in authentic learning environments (Herrington & Kervin, 2007. p. 220). For example, Herrington and Kervin (2007) report about an elementary ELL teacher who had her ELL students practice using English to plan a trip to Australia. In this lesson, the students used online “discussion forums and chat spaces” to communicate in English with Australian students around their same age (Herrington & Kervin, 2007, p. 223-224).
The North Dakota Teaching with Technology (TWT) Initiative (2003) further supports these notions by adding that technology enhances authentic learning by giving learners access to reliable, first-hand information for investigation and analysis, by allowing learners to network with their peers as well as specialists in a given field, and by providing learners with a way to communicate their learning to a larger real-world audience outside the classroom. For example, Herrington and Kervin (2007) report about a tenth grade geography teacher who had his students use the Internet and other computer-based resources along with a physical field experience to investigate some solutions to several of the environmental problems, such as an increase of rats and mosquitoes, associated with the Sydney Olympic Park that was built for the 2000 Olympics. At the close of this unit, the students presented their findings to a group of recreational officials who were working to solve these problems (Herrington & Kervin, 2007).
Lombardi (2007) agrees with these ideas, and she contends that today’s technological resources can make authentic learning more practical and easier to implement than ever before. Lombardi acknowledges that it can often be tough to put authentic learning methods into practice because many authentic learning experiences are too costly, hazardous, and/or complex to actually implement in the classroom. However, she maintains that technology and technological tools can be used to bridge the gap between the possible and the impossible when it comes to authentic learning. For example, in actuality, it is impossible for instructors to have students physically summon up tornadoes by manipulating air masses and adjusting the weather conditions, however, it is possible for them to use technology to allow students to participate in an Internet-based simulation that allows them to manage these factors in order to create a virtual tornado (see http://www.nationalgeographic.com/forcesofnature/interactive/index.html?section=t).
Throughout this chapter, we have discovered that authentic learning is an effective instructional strategy that can be used with multiple age groups, from elementary learners to graduate-level learners, and in a variety of disciplines, from the business world and the medical field to social studies, music, and foreign language instruction. We have also discovered that technology can enhance the authenticity of learning experiences by making the experiences more accessible to today’s students.
Authentic Learning - Authentic learning is defined as learning that is seamlessly integrated or implanted into meaningful, “real-life” situations (Jonassen, Howland, Marra, & Crismond, 2008).
"Real-World" Learning - “Real-world” learning is defined as “experiential” learning (Cavanaugh, 2004). “Experiential” learning is learning “derived from or relating to experience as opposed to other methods of acquiring knowledge” (Encarta Dictionary online, n.d.).
Authentic Assessment - Authentic assessment is defined as assessment that is embedded directly into authentic, realistic learning experiences, instead of being administered as an independent quiz or test in an isolated context (Herrington & Kervin, 2007).
Carlson, A. (2002). Authentic learning: What does it really mean?. Western Washington University. Retrieved from http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/showcase2001/authentic_learning.htm
Cavanagh, S. (2004, April 28). Survey: Teachers support real-world learning. Education Week, 23(33), 17-17. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Workshop: Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub4.html
Experiential Learning. (n. d.). In Encarta Dictionary Online. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/dictioaryhome.aspx.
Herrington, J., & Kervin, L. (2007, September). Authentic learning supported by technology: Ten suggestions and cases of integration in classrooms. Educational Media International, 44(3), 219-236. Retrieved February 24, 2009, doi:10.1080/09523980701491666
Honebein, P. C. (1996). Seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments. Constructivist Learning Environments.
Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Marra, R.M., & Crismond, D. (2008). Meaningful learning with technology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc
Lombardi, M. M. (2007, May). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf
Mims, C. (2003, Winter). Authentic learning: A practical introduction and guide for implementation. Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal, 6(1). Retrieved from http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/win2003/authentic_learning/
National Geographic Society (2009). Forces of Nature. Retrieved February 25, 2009 from, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/forcesofnature/interactive/index.html?section=t
North Dakota Teaching with Technology (TWT) Initiative. (2003). Authentic learning. Retrieved from http://www.ndtwt.org/Blackboard/P2SST2/authenticlearning.htm
Rule, A.C. (2006, August). Editorial: The components of authentic learning. Journal of Authentic Learning, 3(1), 1-10. Retrieved from Directory of Open Access Journals database.
Zaulkernan, I.A. (2004, May). Towards a framework for developing authentic constructivist learning environments in semantically rich domains. Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from http://www.knowledgeplatform.com/Content/Pdfs/constructivist_semantically_rich_domains.pdf
1. Authentic learning is:
a. learning that is seamlessly integrated or implanted into meaningful, “real-life” situations.
b. learning that involves worksheets and rote memorization of facts.
2. Which of the following is not a Principle of Authentic Learning?
a. Inquiry based with an emphasis on metacognitive skills.
b. Give learners no choices and provide no meaningful work.
c. Focus on practical, lifelike problems that imitate the trade of experts in the field with communication of results to
individuals outside the classroom.
d. Encourage learners to participate in active conversations in a social learning environment.
3. Authentic learning is a key component to constructivist theory because:
a. learning is only focused on acquiring new knowledge.
b. learning connects new knowledge to existing knowledge by encouraging students to make connections.
c. learning is passive and it encourages students to make connections.
4. How does technology enhance authentic learning?
a. Provide learners with a way to communicate their learning to a larger real-world audience.
b. Gives learners access to reliable, first hand information for investigation and analysis.
c. Allows learners to network with their peers as well as specialists in a given field.
d. All of the above.
5. How can technology in an authentic learning classroom be misused, and how should it be used?
6. Give an example of authentic learning in a classroom situation.