The Construction Zone
The Construction Zone is as much a philosophy of education as it is a physical location in The Academy.
Although classes are held in the Zone, it is not a traditional ‘classroom’. All of the resources of the Zone are available to anyone, and everyone, at anytime when the resources are available. Students may come and work on projects for other courses. Teachers may come, learn and create using the specialized media available. Technical support is available through the students and/or staff. Even if the door is closed…it is ‘open’. If it is physically closed, it is to keep the noise ‘in’ – not to keep people ‘out’. Will this traffic disturb the ‘class’ in progress? No. Classes held in the Zone are typically less teacher-centric. However, at times when teacher instruction is underway, the students and staff will have come to understand the nature of the Zone and will conduct their business appropriately.
The Construction Zone is a technologically rich environment that is based in the theories of social constructionism and intentional learning. Activities in the Zone focus on the highest level of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy – that of creating. Students are intentionally engaged in constructing artifacts resulting from research into their own curriculum-based questions. This artifact may take many forms – multimedia presentation, artwork, drama, fashion, video, essay, website, blog, wiki, etc.
In classes that are held in the Zone, we help one another develop a ‘driving question’ to guide inquiry. A ‘driving question’ must be high-level, substantive, curriculum-based, sustain inquiry over a period of time, and be meaningful and relevant to the student. This may be an individual question or a group question. A metacognitively charged research process follows as the students proceed through the project. Throughout, students engage in reflective discussions with their peers.
The Construction Zone happens in real time and space in the classroom but, for classes, we also make everything explicit and available in project blogs or wikis. Conversation among the learners (including staff) is facilitated either by the built-in blog and wiki features and/or with Diigo.
This methodology is deeply rooted in many aspects of Lev Vygotsky’s social-constructivist paradigm – including engaging students in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – the zone between what the learner can do alone and what he/she can do with assistance. It also draws heavily on the more current theories of expertise, instructional intelligence, metacognition, intentional learning and constructionism. Attuned instructional techniques are embedded within this constructivist methodology as required.