Constructivist learning for special needed children

Project is funded by FCT/MCTES, the Portuguese Science Foundation. Grant no. POCI/CED/62497/2004. Project started in Jun/2005. Finished in Aug/2008.

Research team

Project summary

Constructivist theories argue that children are much more motivated for learning when they can explore the world that surrounds them in a natural way (Papert, 1980; Papert, 1993; Papert, 1996). As opposed to the traditional learning environments of our society, the constructivist approach provides tools which allow children to build their own knowledge. Children become explorers of knowledge rather than being just receivers (or consumers) of knowledge.

Researchers interested in this topic have been developing various technologies specifically designed for constructivist learning environments. Among them, the Logo programming language invented by Seymour Papert plays an important role as it has bootstrapped a number of interesting research projects. One of them involves the assembly and utilization of a non-commercial version of a programmable brick, the so-called GogoBoard, which has many features similar to the LEGO Mindstorms family of products.

The GogoBoard is a a small and low-cost electronic device that can have sensors and actuators attached to it. Its main design goal is to provide an economical solution so that students in schools around the world can develop projects following the educational theories advocated by Papert (Sipitakiat et. al. 2002; Sipitakiat et. al. 2004).

Is is our strong believe that the constructivist theory and its associated technologies also have an important role for helping special needed people (Condado et. al., 2003). For example, children are able to learn various concepts by giving instructions to a virtual turtle in the Logo programming environment. Likewise, special needed people, especially those with severe physical disabilities, can identify themselves with the turtle to learn and gain a better sense of orientation in the physical world. It is important to mention that according to specialists in the area of cerebral palsy, many children may not have a normal intellectual development precisely due to the lack of exploration caused by their own physical limitations.

In this project we will investigate ways to improve the quality of life of special needed people using a constructivist approach and its associated technologies. Specifically, we will address the following topics.

  1. Investigate how devices such as the GogoBoard can be used to create useful artifacts for helping special needed people.
  2. Investigate the benefits of a constructivist learning environment for special needed children.
  3. Investigate better models of integration for special needed children in the educational system and in society.


Project Publications




Technical reports



Other web pages

Additional information about the work conducted with EasyVoice, Virtual Logo Keyboard, and Sudoku Access, can be found on the following web pages.

Last updated by Fernando Lobo, 29/Sep/2008.