The field of English language teaching has also evolved and is increasingly influenced by constructivist learning principles. The constructivist perspective holds that learners are not passive recipients of teacher-imparted knowledge. Rather, learners actively engage in creating meaning for themselves from information around them. The information they use includes everything presented to them in class, from the concrete skills-based to the most abstract. Students in a constructivist classroom, where communicative learning is taken for granted, are expected to be active participants. Constructivism provides another way to look at the student-centered learning many ESL teachers have long espoused, putting even more intellectual control into the hands of learners.
The teacher has a large and very important role to play in this perspective of the teaching-learning process. The mass of language data available to students is overwhelming and needs to be filtered and systematized so that learners actually will be able to make sense of it. The teacher sets tasks for learners that help them gain access to and use the tools they need to create meaning, as well as that help learners judge what they have created. The constructivist learning environment promotes reflection and interaction, and computer tools can and should be part of it.
For an overview of constructivism and extensive web links, look at http://www.coe.uh.edu/~ichen/ebook/ET-IT/cognitiv.htm . Schank and Cleary (1995) are two of the many current proponents of this theory, drawing heavily on work by Vygotsky (1986) and Piaget (1976).
The purpose of this special issue of TESOL Journal was to offer ideas about and insights into the many ways different computer tools, from simple software to complex authoring systems, from email to multimedia Internet content, can be put to use in building interactive, communicative, creative -- constructivist -- learning environments. Articles include:
ELI, Oregon State University
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Piaget, J. (1976). To understand is to invent: The future of education.
G-A Roberts (Trans.) Où va l'éducation?, 1948. New
York: Penguin Books. Currently available online at
Schank, R.C. & Cleary, C. (1995). Engines for education. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. A. Kozulin (Trans. and Ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Original work published 1934.
TESOL Conference 2003 CALL Interest Section Academic Session,
Creating Meaning with Computers