Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Clayton H. Lewis

Second Advisor

Sarah Hug

Third Advisor

Joseph Polman

Fourth Advisor

Mark Gross

Fifth Advisor

Robert Whitman


This dissertation is a semi-longitudinal investigation of the design, application and evaluation of a novel abstraction of two learning theories - William Demmert, Culture-Based Education and Seymour Papert, Constructionism, to form “Cultural Constructionism.” This study was driven by an interest to explore the linkage between cultural history and computing history and how they interplay in mind, culture, history and activity, in an effort to understand why there are so few Indigenous students in computing. This study investigates the potential of a learning theory that responds to Indigenous culture to support learning activities that can increase interest in the computing sciences.

The theory was used to guide the design of a computing workshop and to test the application of the theory in an intervention. The workshop provided the opportunity to observe and investigate its effects upon ten Indigenous high school students, who participated during the summer of 2010.

The students’ responses from discussion sessions that formed part of the workshop and during interviews at the end of the workshop were recorded. The ten students were tracked between 2010 and 2015 to observe their choices for further education. During the passage of time, one student did choose computing as a subject of study.

In 2015 four of the students agreed to be interviewed, later one declined to allow his responses to be used in this research. These interviews contain the students’ reflections on the effects of workshop, and their views on the matters discussed during the workshop.

The results suggest that the Cultural Constructionism theory is useful in structuring educational activities in computing for Indigenous students. It shine a light on many challenges in the lives of Indigenous students, and suggest that the workshop had value for the participants in responding to these challenges beyond providing knowledge of computing.