Software for Constructivist Language Arts Classrooms

Wren, P. (Spring 2003). Semantic Networking in Constructivist Classrooms: Aligning Software Acquisition with Epistemological Assumptions. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 68(3), 15-30.

Wren (2003) supports the use of Inspiration 6.0, used for concept mapping, as software that effectively facilitates the constructivist approach in the language arts classroom. Though the article mentioned several minor limitations with the software, overall the philosophical basis for using the software is sound. The software facilitates everything from instructivist-style assignments to project-based learning in many disciplines, while encouraging higher order thought for visual and tactile learners. Teachers have options for designing assignments while students have freedom to explore the concept mapping templates available or design their own as they develop cognitively through the process of connecting and organizing content.

While clearly supporting this particular software for the purposes above, Wren began by listing many comparable programs that are likely as valid for constructivist language arts classrooms. She concludes with the proposal that all of them need more research to support case study claims that students actually benefit from using such software in this approach. She refutes the minor criticism that linear learners could be inhibited and that the templates are somewhat limited. A more significant issue is that there is no way to observe errors in content connection until the project is finished. Wren suggests that teachers assess the drafts and have students revise–something the program allows.

The list of software options, and especially the deeper discussion of Inspiration 6.0, are valuable because as a trained teacher of English, I am always seeking valuable new software to incorporate. The fact that it is sound philosophically lends itself to encouraging me to place trust in the software. As I train Language Arts Education majors in my newest position, I am able to share with them this valuable resource (and others that are more current). I am also able to continue to contemplate and perhaps study the issues suggested in Wren’s conclusion.

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