Minimalism, constructivism and use of Moodle or any other e-learning tool

Ben-Ari (1999) reports an experiment where 10 members of a University department were asked to verbalise their understandings as they completed tasks in Word. The aim was to explore their conceptual understanding of Word and its link with their use of Word. Ben-Ari (1999) writes

Considering the high quality of the subjects, the most surprising result was the low level of use of this very sophisticated software tool.

Another surprising result was

the degree of anthropomorphic volition attributed to the software….”You see that’s what I mean, it behaves strangely

Given the widespread recognition of the limited use of institutional e-learning information systems (e.g. Moodle), I wonder what a similar experiment focused on teacher and student conceptual understanding would reveal?

I’m willing to bet there might be some significant similarities. Especially given my finding last year that branding the LMS can hurt “learning”.

I wonder if this offers some explanation about why a tool like Moodle – designed from a socio-constructivist perspective – is rarely used that way?

I wonder what, if anything, could be fruitfully done to confirm and fix this?

I wonder if there’s any correlation between this and the nature of the type of training provided to teachers and learners? Most of what training I’ve seen seems to rely on what Ben-Ari labels as minimalism

a method for designing manuals for software documentation and for using these manuals in training users of the software. A minimalist manual is short, stresses active learning and considers errors to be opportunities for learning rather than mistakes to be corrected….its insistence that conceptual material not be included in training, or at least that it be deferred until the student is more experienced.


Ben-Ari, M. (1999). Bricolage Forever! In Eleventh Workshop on the Psychology of Programming Interest Group (pp. 53–57). Leeds, UK. Retrieved from benari.pdf

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