Home > Constructionist Multimedia > Educational Philosphy

I have seen these ideas applied in many different educational contexts and they create powerful learning processes,  as well as the excitement and motivation that comes from working with the knowledge area and the multimedia. Some of the theoretical underpinnings of the process are explored below.  Note that there is no one model for this but a myriad of approaches to suit different learning contexts.

Constructionist multimedia is a term used to describe an approach to education based on constructivist and constructionist educational philosophies and the belief that the real world is a multimedia experience, and the belief that students are better able to represent their knowledge, express themselves and understand the world around them, through an interactive multimedia environment.  Taking this notion of building a multimedia representation of something in a shared knowledge space is the essence of the model.

The central ideas to this strategy, that children learn best by doing, and that children need to be active builders of their own knowledge rather than passive receivers of it, come from the work of Bruner and the cognitive psychologists. The strategy has evolved during years of work in a range of educational settings, many of them with second language learners, and in cross cultural settings.  It is important to understand that often students are involved in the reorganisation of information that has been gathered from a range of sources.  This stimulates learning as Bruner (1962) noted "learning was facilitated by rearranging information and adding new information to it.  He argued that often just reorganising existing information can lead to new learning".

It is helpful to understand the power of the constructionist multimedia approach especially in relation to curriculum integration, concept mapping, schema theory and scaffolding learning. As an example, ideas such as schema theory where the activation of links and nodes in memory is developed for effective encoding and retention by the learner, extends the learning as students add elements from different subject domains.  From this viewpoint, the greater this spread of activation, the easier it is to anchor new concepts to those existing in memory(Anderson, 1980).[1]

This is facilitated in powerful ways by the construction of a shared online knowledge space. Students benefit from a greater feeling of ownership of the knowledge and engagement with it as well as being cast into the roles of editors and knowledge brokers of the content in their shared system. This "editor" role is an important element of the process and the way it facilitates collaboration, publishing and sharing of information and the deliberate strategy to put the students in the role of content editors and creators, as compared to being just passive consumers of online material. This is a powerful way to reinforce learning and build all the knowledge linkages that go with it.  Working through these knowledge linkages also helps to put learning in context and make learning more effective by anchoring the ideas with multiple representations from multiple knowledge domains.

The learning model  is underpinned by constructionism as a base philosophy.  This involves students expressing their knowledge representations through actually creating something. In so doing they expand their knowledge as referred to by Seymour Papert (Papert 1991)

"We understand constructionism as including , but going beyond, what Piaget would call "constructivism".  The word with the "v" expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher.  The word with the "n" expresses the further ideas that this happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least shareable",   Leading to the  conclusion that better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct.


I have found that using multimedia and multimedia concept maps involving hypertext links and hypermedia links adds a totally new dimension to learning environments and in my experience makes concept maps more meaningful for students.  Theoretically, ...multi sensory media activate a wider range of perceptual and conceptual processes which in turn enhance teaching and learning [2] and I saw this in practice on many occasions.

Multimedia is better able to represent knowledge maps and concept maps than pieces of paper and text can but more importantly the process of doing this is a very powerful learning process.  even starting with the notes and bits of paper and then collecting that together and drawing a collective (or individual) mind map expands knowledge. Ambron& hooper wrote in 1991 that " clearly, these new modes of expression and understanding will not be absorbed immediately into conventional use, although they offer modes of representation that are possibly more similar to the workings of the human mind than are the spatial arrays afforded by pages and pages of paper.[3]

The way this applies to the integrated media environment of the Internet is important in this understanding of how building shared knowledge spaces in a multimedia, hyperlinked world actually facilitate learning.

This educational strategy also draws on the work of cognitive psychologists, who Schuell (Scheull 1993 )argues  , have had a significant influence on learning theory.  The following points have been central to the development of this educational strategy;

• learning is an active, constructive, goal-oriented process that is dependent upon the mental activities of the learner

• the existence of metacognitive or higher level learning processes such as regulation of learning activities and strategies for enhancing learning

• the explicit recognition that learning is influenced by prior knowledge

• knowledge is represented by complex structures and the concern is how the learner extracts meaning

• concern for analysing learning tasks and performance in terms of the cognitive processes that are involved

• cognitive psychologists argue for the importance of multiple representations in the understanding of a concept

The Internet provides access to information in an unprecedented manner but the nature of this access and the learning that flows from it are interesting to consider. Many people have the view of Internet as the umbilical cord to the developing student that will provide them with information and equate this to learning, Google syndrome.  This strategy or learning model is proposing that in order to facilitate real learning there needs to be other factors considered and that this is naturally facilitated by constructionist multimedia.


Bruner, Jerome (1962),  On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand, Harvard University Press.

Papert,  Seymour(1991) ; in , Australian Educational Computing Vol 5 No 1 ACCE 1991

Schuell (1993) Cognitive Conceptions of Learning , Review of Ed Research 56 4, 411 - 436)


[1] Anderson, J. R. (1980). Cognitive Psychology and its Implications .San Francisco, CA: Freeman.

[2]Barrett 1992  Sociomedia  Cambridge  The MIT Press

[3]Ambron & Hooper, Interactive multimedia p13