Thoughts on Pedagogy

Thoughts on Pedagogy

     This web site is a constructivist playground that invites people of all ages to learn and play. So much of what we learn is simply stored, not explored.  Play is a natural form of exploration, and playing with scientific concepts shows us how the sciences fit together. Searching for models, we learn about our own planet, appling what we are learning makes us see with new eyes.  This web site invites visitors to build their own worlds, and gives them some simply explained and relevant scientific concepts to work with,

     This model of learning really makes the learners think.  It helps with something at the heart of science: question generation.  The questions in turn lead to a need for knowledge, which can be satisfied by searching for information on the internet.   Once the knowledge has been found, it still has to be evaluated and selected for its usefulness in a particular context.  Technology supports creativity and critical thinking, and fills all of us who are building planets with enthusiasm and motivation.

     Technological advances are providing opportunities for people to learn in new ways. Although we develop our own methods of learning as we come to know ourselves, providing models for formal education is also necessary. This course is intended to be 'a course of the future' in the following ways:

The course is focused on solving a problem, rather than mastering a well defined body of knowledge.

The course encourages students to generate questions.
The course creates an urgent need for knowledge in all participants.
The course requires analysis of situations, questions, and possible solutions.
The course requires high level thinking skills and problem solving.
Students do not all learn the same things, but specialize and share information.

Learning occurs in a coherent social setting.

Students work together in groups, sharing information and decision making.
The course is 'open' to the wider community.
Guests are welcome at our meetings.

Students may get help from anyone with the assignments.        
Visiting professors bring their expertise to the course
Students contribute strengths and interests to the group project.

The course is interdisciplinary, integrating the natural and social sciences.

The course requires the integration of knowledge from many sources.
Play and creativity are integral to the course.
Students focus individually on learning in different curricular areas.
Students explain what they have learned to the group.

Technology is used extensively, but transparently

Students search for knowledge on the World Wide Web.
Students author web pages to present their written homework.
Students use word processors and a variety of graphics applications.
Technology is used extensively, but transparently.
Using e-mail is an important element of the course.

     This type of course is not intended to replace traditional courses, but rather to supplement them, to spur student curiosity, and to help students to integrate what they already know. After taking a problem-focused course, students look to traditional, structured courses to give coherence to what they have learned.

     Many students think of science as getting the right answers. However, science would have no answers to offer us if someone had not asked fruitful questions. This course stimulates question asking and evaluation. It encourages the integration of knowledge by providing a safe framework for speculation, creativity, and play

© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1998, 2004. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please e-mail me at if you use this material. I'd be interested to know how it works for you!