You may or may not be aware that Constructing Modern Knowledge founder Gary Stager was the principal investigator on Dr. Seymour Papert’s last institutional research project. Gary and Papert, along with colleagues David Cavallo and John Stetson, created the Constructionist Learning Laboratory, a multi-age, interdisciplinary, project-based, alternative school inside Maine’s troubled prison for teens. The project ran from August 1999 – June 2002.

Gary liked to joke that the CLL was like Gilligan’s Island. Visitors came and went with great frequency, yet the student “castaways” remained. In fact, the project attracted so much attention and so many visitors that Papert arrived one morning with a spectacularly brilliant one-page document that we could hand to guests to better inform their visit. Papert titled the document, The Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Laboratory.

Countless educators from across the globe have been inspired by this succinct gem and the Columbia University Teachers College FabLearn Fellows have translated it into countless languages. Below, you will find a colorful PDF poster of these principals you may print, share, discuss, or hang in your learning environment.

These principles of modern knowledge construction and constructionist learning perfectly encapsulate the mission and methodology of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute.

Here are the principles in fifteen languages. Each one features the first big idea of learning by doing):

  • Bulgarian – Първата голяма идея е учене чрез действие. Учим по-добре, когато ученето е част от правенето на нещо, наистина интересно за нас. Учим най-добре, когато използваме наученото, за да направим нещо, което наистина искаме. (7 more)
  • Catalan – La primera gran idea és aprendre fent. Tots aprenem millor quan l’aprenentatge és una part del fer alguna cosa que ens sembla realment interessant. Aprenem de la millor manera quan fem servir el que aprenem per fer alguna cosa que realment desitgem. (7 more…)
  • French – Le premier principe est l’apprentissage par la pratiqueOn apprend tous mieux quand l’apprentissage entre dans le cadre d’une activité qu’on trouve vraiment intéressant. On apprend le mieux quand on met en pratique ce que l’on a appris sur quelque chose qu’on désire vraiment. (7 more…)

“Felix, Aaron, and Oskar do their very best to understand Papert’s ideas. Sometimes they understood because it is what they do everyday in the makerspace.” Read more

  • Galician –  A primeira gran idea é aprender facendo. Todos aprendemos mellor cando a aprendizaxe é parte de facer algo que nos parece realmente interesante. Aprendemos da mellor maneira cando usamos o que aprendemos para facer algo que realmente desexamos. (MORE)
  • German (this was translated by students, please read this post for more details!) – Die erste große Idee ist Learning by Doing. Wir lernen alle besser, wenn das Lernen Teil einer Tätigkeit ist, die wir wirklich interessant finden. Wir lernen am allerbesten, wenn wir etwas lernen selber zu machen was wir wirklich wollen. (7 more…)
  • Greek –Οι οκτώ μεγάλες ιδέες της κονστραξιονιστικής μάθησης (μάθησης διαμέσου ‘μαστορέματος’)
    Η πρώτη μεγάλη ιδέα είναι «να μαθαίνουμε μέσα από τη δραστηριότητα και την εμπλοκή». Όλοι μαθαίνουμε καλύτερα όταν κάνουμε κάτι που μας ενδιαφέρει πραγματικά. Μαθαίνουμε ακόμα πιο καλά όταν χρησιμοποιούμε τη γνώση μας για να φτιάξουμε κάτι που πραγματικά θέλουμε. (7 more)
  • Italian – Imparare facendo : Quando imparare fa parte di un’esperienza attiva ed interessante, impariamo meglio. Impariamo ancora meglio quando possiamo usare quello che abbiamo appreso per creare qualcosa che ci appassiona. (7 more…)
  •  Korean – #1번째 빅 아이디어는 경험을 통해 학습하는 것(learning by doing)입니다정말 재미있는 것을 하면서 배울 때 어느 누구라도 더 잘 배울 수 있습니다. 우리가 정말로 원하는 것을 만들기 위해 우리가 알고 있는 것을 사용할 때, 우리는 가장 잘 배울 수 있습니다. (MORE)
  • Kirundi – Iciyumviro cambere nyamukuru ni kwigira mubikorwaKenshi na kenshi twiga neza mugihe twiga ivyo twumva dukunze. Kukaba nkako, twiga neza cane mugihe turiko dukoresha ivyo twize mugukora ikintu dushaka kugerako. (7 more...)
  • Kinyarwanda – Igitekerezo cya mbere cy’iremezo ni Kwiga unakora. Twese twiga neza iyo bijyanye no gukora ikintu kidushimisha. Twiga neza cyane iyo twize dushaka gukora ikintu dushaka. (7more…)
  • Polish – Pierwszą wielką ideą jest uczenie się przez tworzenie. Uczymy się lepiej, gdy uczenie się jest elementem uprawiania (przeżywania) czegoś, co nas prawdziwie interesuje. Uczymy się najskuteczniej, gdy możemy wykorzystać to, czego się nauczyliśmy, do zaspokojenia jakichś aktualnych potrzeb lub pragnień. (Plus a fun diagram!) (See it all!)
  • Portuguese – A primeira grande ideia é aprender fazendo. Todos aprendemos melhor quando aprender é parte de algo que achamos realmente interessante fazer. Nós aprendemos melhor quando usamos o que aprendemos para fazer algo que realmente queremos. (7 more…)
  • Spanish – La primera gran idea es aprender haciendo. Todos aprendemos mejor cuando el aprendizaje es parte de hacer algo que nos parece realmente interesante. Aprendemos de la mejor manera cuando usamos lo que aprendemos para hacer algo que realmente deseamos. (7 more…)
  • Swahili – Wazo la kwanza ni kujifunza kwa kutenda. Sisi wote huwa tunajifunza vizuri wakati kujifunza ni sehemu ya kufanya kitu kinacho tuvutia. Twajifunza vizuri Zaidi tunapo tumia kile tulicho jifunza ili tufanye kile tunachokitaka (7 more…)
  • Turkish – İlk büyük fikir, yaparak öğrenmedir.  Öğrenme, çok ilginç bulduğumuz bir şeyi yapmanın bir parçası haline geldiğinde daha iyi öğreniriz. En iyi öğrenme ise öğrendiklerimizi gerçekten arzuladığımız bir şeyi üretmek için kullandığımızda gerçekleştir. (7 more…)

And in English… 

The Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab
By Dr. Seymour Papert

The first big idea is learning by doing. We all learn better when learning is part of doing something we find really interesting. We learn best of all when we use what we learn to make something we really want.

The second big idea is technology as building material. If you can use technology to make things you can make a lot more interesting things. And you can learn a lot more by making them. This is especially true of digital technology: computers of all sorts including the computer-controlled Lego in our Lab.

The third big idea is hard fun. We learn best and we work best if we enjoy what we are doing. But fun and enjoying doesn’t mean “easy.” The best fun is hard fun. Our sports heroes work very hard at getting better at their sports. The most successful carpenter enjoys doing carpentry. The successful businessman enjoys working hard at making deals.

The fourth big idea is learning to learn. Many students get the idea that “the only way to learn is by being taught.” This is what makes them fail in school and in life. Nobody can teach you everything you need to know. You have to take charge of your own learning.

The fifth big idea is taking time – the proper time for the job. Many students at school get used to being told every five minutes or every hour: do this, then do that, now do the next thing. If someone isn’t telling them what to do they get bored. Life is not like that. To do anything important you have to learn to manage time for yourself. This is the hardest lesson for many of our students.

The sixth big idea is the biggest of all: you can’t get it right without getting it wrong. Nothing important works the first time. The only way to get it right is to look carefully at what happened when it went wrong. To succeed you need the freedom to goof on the way.

The seventh big idea is do unto ourselves what we do unto our students. We are learning all the time. We have a lot of experience of other similar projects but each one is different. We do not have a pre-conceived idea of exactly how this will work out. We enjoy what we are doing but we expect it to be hard. We expect to take the time we need to get this right. Every difficulty we run into is an opportunity to learn. The best lesson we can give our students is to let them see us struggle to learn.

The eighth big idea is we are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing. So learning about computers is essential for our students’ futures BUT the most important purpose is using them NOW to learn about everything else.

The story of the Constructivist Learning Laboratory is documented in Gary Stager’s doctoral dissertation, “An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center.” The University of Melbourne. 2006.