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Learning WITH Technology

Examples of Constructivist-Oriented Computer-Supported Instructional Contexts




Web-Based Examples

Note: Most of the descriptions were obtained directly from the Websites.



This type of context provides opportunities for learners to create something.


The ThinkQuest Internet Challenge is an international program for students ages 12 through 19.  This challenge encourages students to use the Internet to create information-rich Web-based educational tools and materials. Students form teams with their colleagues from around the world and are mentored by teachers or other adult coaches. In the running for scholarships and awards totaling more than $1 million, student participants learn collaboration, leadership and critical thinking skills that help raise their level of education and technological expertise.



A WebQuest presents students with a challenging task, scenario, or problem to solve.  The best topics include issues that are under dispute or that offer multiple perspectives. Current events, controversial social and environmental topics work well.  Students begin by learning some common background knowledge, then divide into groups.  Each student or pair of students has a particular role, task, or perspective to master. They effectively become experts on one aspect of a topic. Students must synthesize their learning by completing a summarizing act such as e-mailing congressional representatives or presenting their interpretation to the world.



These context types allow learners to make decisions in the development and/or subsequent operation of a real or simulated environment or situation.  Simulations often try to replicate real-world environments. 


Lego Mindstorms

“We are going to start you out on one of the more routine missions that we do with our unmanned Robotic Cargo Vehicles (RCV's.) This will help you get familiarized with our standard operating procedures and let you test your skills before we get to the heavier stuff. However, make no mistake, this will be a little tricky to pull off - so pay attention!

We have a crew of geologists studying glacial movement in the Arctic. These men and women are highly mobile, taking scientific readings on the ground and checking for shifts in the ice flow across a diverse and often hostile terrain. To keep safe - and alive - they have to travel light and maintain a fast pace.

We try to fly in supplies to them on a weekly basis, but the weather has often grounded the planes and held up the team's ability to move. We want to start using our new RCV's fitted for cold weather travel to deliver supplies and equipment to our crews during bad conditions.  You mission is to use your RIS 2.0 set to design, build, and program a simulation of an Arctic RCV supply mission. Follow the directions in the Mission Brief and Checklist and you will get a sense of the challenges we're facing out there.”



ThinkerTools is a Newtonian force and motion simulation environment for the Macintosh. The ThinkerTools curriculum scaffolds scientific inquiry using both simulated and "real-world" experiments.


Situation Exploration, Case-Based, Story

Situation explorations and cases don’t allow the learners to control parameters of the environment, but they can freely explore within a simulated or real environment or situation.  These types of contexts are often "problem solving" in nature. 

Story contexts present stories (fiction or non-fiction), and story elements such as characters, plot, setting, and conflict might be used as “anchors” or themes to help facilitate specific, discrete outcomes.  Non-fiction story elements, such as collected and tabulated data, reflect elements of cases that are often used to help facilitate the learning of specific outcomes as well.


Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series

The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury consists of 12 videodisc-based story adventures (plus video based analogs, extensions and teaching tips) that focus on mathematical problem finding and problem solving. Each adventure is designed from the perspective of the standards recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). In particular, each adventure provides multiple opportunities for problem solving, reasoning, communication and making connections to other areas such as science, social studies, literature and history (NCTM, 1989; 1991).


 The JASON Project

The JASON Project offers students and teachers in grades 4 through 9 a comprehensive, multimedia approach to enhance teaching and learning in science, technology, math, geography, and associated  disciplines. The project delivers its educational content through a print curriculum, videos, fully interactive Internet programming, and live satellite "telepresence" broadcasts in which students become part of real global explorations.  


ID Case Event: Chronicles of Rocketboy 

This “case event” represents an imaginary case study in which a newly-educated instructional designer takes a job at a California company that provides computer-based special effects for film companies.  The ID problems to be solved, as well viable solutions, are embedded within the case itself.  This case was designed to help instruct (and assess) instructional design skills.


BioQuest Cases

Resources for using complex, open-ended problems are presented as narrative cases to initiate student-centered investigation in biology are provided for classroom use.


Research Problems

In this context type, research problems (problems associated with a specific content domain) are presented to the learners, and they must use computer-based resources to help solve the problems.

View Charter School Science Program

(type “Introducing Project Based Learning Clear View” into the search engine)  

Clear View Charter School was originally featured in the George Lucas Educational Foundation's 1997 documentary film, Learn & Live. The original 23-minute video story follows teacher Jim Dieckmann's 4th/5th grade class as they research insects, create multimedia reports, and prepare questions to pose to entomologists at San Diego State University. Then, through a two-way fiber-optic connection to the University, students and scientists look at insect body parts together using an electron microscope. The interaction with experts helps Albert and Charles deepen their understanding of the scientific process.


Reference Exploration

This context type allows the learner to freely explore and access reference-type information.

NASA On-Line Resources

Although the entire Internet could fall into the reference exploration category, the NASA on-line resources represent a good example of a more specific body of knowledge that is accessible via the web.  At this site, learners can explore images, sounds, movies, and other information related to the exploration and study of space.



This type of context usually engages learners in competition, cooperation, puzzles, or strategies, often for the sake of entertainment.  Other contexts may employ this context to because of the motivational advantages of games.

SimCity Classic On-Line

SimCity is a simulation program in which the user designs a city and then turns it loose to see if its population grows, thrives, and ultimately survives the many different challenges introduced (like natural disasters, disease etc.).  Although this could be classified as a simulation, the link above will allow you to play an on-line version of SimCity on which you compete against other users to try and keep a city “alive.”



This type of context encourages learners to construct and communicate fiction and nonfiction stories.  This context types is presented separately from “creation” contexts simply because the act of storytelling falls somewhere in-between creation and communication.

This Web site enables users to create a free account and post a story.


The word “blog” represents the abbreviated form of “Web log.”  A Web log is a Web site designed to communicate information in diary fashion by presenting text and picture posts according to the day they were posted. allows users to create free accounts and develop easily-updatable “blogs” within minutes!



“Big-Picture” Concept Mapping

This context type encourages the learners to create conceptual “Big Pictures” that represent the scope of particular content domains. 


 Inspiration is a software tool designed to help learners construct concept maps or “mind maps” depicting their understanding of a particular issue or topic.  This Inspiration site presents background information on the benefits of concept mapping, and it portrays a good sampling of different types and applications of concept maps creating with the Inspiration software.




Discussion contexts are simply environments in which a moderator presents or facilitates the articulation of topics to be discussed by the learners. 


Kidlink is a non-profit grassroots organization working to help children through the secondary school level be involved in a global dialog.  The work is supported by 83 public mailing lists for conferencing, a private network for Real-Time Interactions (like chats), an online art exhibition site, and volunteers living throughout the world. Most of our volunteers are teachers and parents. Since the start on May 25, 1990, over 175,000 kids from 137 countries on all continents have participated. Their primary means of communication is electronic mail (email), but Real-Time Interactions (like "chats"), various types of web-based dialogs, ordinary mail, fax, video conferencing, and ham radio are also being used.


Knowledge Forum

Knowledge Forum 3.0 allows users to create a knowledge-building community. Each community creates their own database in which they can store notes, connect ideas, and "rise-above" previous thinking. The note-taking, searching, and organizational features of this sophisticated tool allow any type of community to build knowledge.  If your goals are building your community knowledge then Knowledge Forum is the application for you. Users start with an empty database to which they submit ideas, share information, reorganize the knowledge, and ultimately "rise-above" to new understandings. Knowledge Forum makes information accessible with multiple vantage points and multiple entry points. Even the collection and display of the community's work can be organized in flexible visual displays. Your work is not limited to your individual organization; if desired, you can become part of a larger community and work in concert on related problems.

This type of tool could probably be used within any of the different context types presented in this table, but it is being included in the “Discussion” section because its principle feature is to promote the sharing of ideas between learners.


Download this chart here:


PT3 Program - NAU College of Education
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This page last modified on August 09, 2002.

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