Jasper Videos and Constructivism

The Jasper Videos were designed to create an anchored instruction tool with the goal being “the development of the Jasper series emphasize the importance of helping students – all students – learn to become independent thinkers and learners rather than simply become able to perform basic computations and retrieve simple knowledge facts.” (Springer, 1992, p. 66) I believe this to be a very valid and important goal and the findings from the Biswas e. al. (2012) paper found initially that transfer of the problem solving skills was fragile and added the component of Adventure Player that “(Crews et al. 1997) show that it facilitates initial learning and leads to more flexible transfer.” (Biswas et al. 2012, p. 19) A paper by Gunbas (2014) shows a number of studies that confirmed that student understanding and ability to transfer the skills developed in a problem solving context was greater using a TELE.

When you consider contemporary videos such as Kahn Academy do not support these same goals in design as they are designed in a more flipped classroom style. Here a student would go and preview maybe before a teacher taught a skill or return for extra direct instruction on a specific skill they are struggling with. Fosnot (2005) describes a constructivist classroom as having four main principles that include: prior knowledge, focus on concept, challenge student’s ideas, and apply new ideas to similar situations. In a Kahn academy lesson they are all focused on concept acquisition. While the Jasper Videos require students to use concepts, the challenge their ideas to solve a unique problem that is anchored in a real-life scenario and then are followed up with a similar scenario to see if the ability to apply lessons learned from first video do transfer to the second video.

Biswas, G. Schwartz, D. Bransford, J. & The Teachable Agent Group at Vanderbilt (TAG-V) (2001). Technology support for complex problem solving: From SAD environments to AI. In K.D.

Forbus and P.J. Feltovich (Eds.)Smart Machines in Education: The Coming Revolution in Education Technology. AAAI/MIT Press, Menlo, Park, CA. [Retrieved October 22, 2012, from: http://www.vuse.vanderbilt.edu/~biswas/Research/ile/papers/sad01/sad01.html

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper Experiment: An Exploration of Issues in Learning and Instructional Design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/stable/30219998

Fosnot, C.T. (2005). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. (2nd Edition) Teachers College Press

Gunbas, N. (2015). Students’ mathematics word problem‐solving achievement in a computer‐based story. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 31(1), 78-95. doi:10.1111/jcal.12067


  1. Hey Sarah,

    I find it interesting that you say the Khan Academy videos are not great examples of a constructivism, and although I would agree with you based on your arguments, do you think they are also not great examples for anchored instruction? Just to play devil’s advocate, in general, I would think a flipped classroom would provide greater opportunities for authentic problem solving opportunities. I do not have experience teaching the flipped classroom method, unfortunately, but from what I have observed and read, the flipped classroom would give students the ability to learn a series of subskills ahead of instructional time, making the time in class more meaningfully applied to problem solving in collaboration with one another. The skills then become anchored within a context that the teacher would provide, rather than the teacher providing the direct instruction in the classroom. Perhaps this is dependent on the teacher though, as some flipped classrooms may not present themselves as theory would like them too. Just my two cents.



    1. Hmmm, thanks for the great questions Jocelynn and for making me think. I love the discussions when they challenge the ideas presented. If you are using them in the context you provide possibly, but they are still teaching a sequence of steps to solve a problem and therefore are a rote/memorization tool, rather than providing information, like the Jasper videos that students they use to solve problems. Having me teach how to do long division or watching a Kahn academy video whether before or after me is a great tool but I don’t see the problem solving component to the videos. I love the idea of a flipped classroom as well but have struggled with the realities of implementation. Students at the age I teach them, mostly, have not found the internal motivation to learning. They learn because they have to be there and therefore most would not seek out videos to prepare themselves for the next day of learning.
      In terms of anchored instruction, to be fair I have watched some Kahn academy videos but probably not enough to say with 100% certainty that they do not meet the criteria. Most have been focused on the memorization of a sequence of steps, contrary to Shulman’s ideas. It may all come down to how you use them, rather than the content.

      1. I think many videos, like most I have seen on Khan Academy, show you how to carry out an operation. However, without an understanding regarding how to apply it to a real-world situation, it has limited value. I think the valuable part of the Jasper Series was that the kids do not know what algorithms or operations are useful to solve the problems. The students need to generate this understanding and apply their thinking within a collaborative context. If a teacher assigns a video demonstrating a procedure, students will learn it in isolation and just apply it the related problem provided. One math consultant I had always used to say, “if you know what operation to use its not a problem, its practice.”

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