Interactive documentary and education: a field to explore (III)


In our previous posts of this series (Part IPart II) we tried to argue that although it is clear that the main scope of interactive documentary focuses on the field of audiovisual and cultural dissemination, we believe that there is another closely related field which soon will begin to emerge and explode giving us all their latent potential: the interactive nonfiction genres related to education, teaching and training. That’s why we started to produce projects in the Interactive Communication Studies at the University of Vic in that direction.

Constructivist and constructionist theories applied to the field of education seem very relevant to our proposal, as they are flexible enough to adapt to the knowledge and multidisciplinary emphasize in the use of information technology and communication as an essential component of learning.

Constructivism is a theory of learning and an approach to education that lays emphasis on the ways that people create meaning of the world through a series of individual constructs. Constructs are the different types of filters we choose to place over our realities to change our reality from chaos to order. Simply stated, it is a learning process which allows a student to experience an environment first-hand, thereby giving the student reliable, trust-worthy knowledge. The student is required to act upon the environment to both acquire and test new knowledge.

More particularly, Social constructivism or socioculturalism encourages the learner to arrive at his or her version of the truth, influenced by his or her background, culture or embedded worldview. Historical developments and symbol systems, such as language, logic, and mathematical systems, are inherited by the learner as a member of a particular culture and these are learned throughout the learner’s life. This also stresses the importance of the nature of the learner’s social interaction with knowledgeable members of the society. Without the social interaction with other more knowledgeable people, it is impossible to acquire social meaning of important symbol systems and learn how to utilize them. Young children develop their thinking abilities by interacting with other children, adults and the physical world. From the social constructivist viewpoint, it is thus important to take into account the background and culture of the learner throughout the learning process, as this background also helps to shape the knowledge and truth that the learner creates, discovers and attains in the learning process.

Social constructivism thus emphasizes the importance of the learner being actively involved in the learning process, unlike previous educational viewpoints where the responsibility rested with the instructor to teach and where the learner played a passive, receptive role.

The teacher acts as little as possible. Perhaps the teacher’s only function is to observe, although he/she might begin or shift or even direct a discussion. The students get it rolling, direct it, and focus it. They act as a team, cooperatively, to make it work. They all participate, but not in a competitive way. Rather, they all share in the responsibility and the goals, much as any members share in any team sport. Although the goals of any discussion will change depending upon what’s under discussion, some goals will always be the same: to illuminate the subject, to unravel its mysteries, to interpret and share and learn from other points of view, to piece together the puzzle using everyone’s contribution. Discussion skills are important. Everyone must be aware of how to get this discussion rolling and keep it rolling and interesting. Just as in any sport, a number of skills are necessary to work on and use at appropriate times. Everyone is expected to contribute by using these skills.

Case studies developed at the University of Vic (2009-2012)


The 4th year students of Audiovisual Communication Degree have to develop a Final Degree Project in order to obtain the title at the University of Vic (Spain). Students have a whole year – and four subjects related – to create interactive platforms, interactive documentaries, short films, interactive virtual tours, mobile applications, etc., in which the parts have merged into a single audiovisual and multimedia online project. The project listed below are a representative example of interactive documentaries produced at this university during the years 2009-2012.

The first project analised was MetamentalDOC (Post III of this series), an interactive documentary that looks at documentary film and independent documentary film. It is a project that contains a great deal of content of various types. The project came about as the result of an audiovisual documentary produced by the same team, and grew to the point where it became a larger work than its predecessor. MetamentalDOC multimedia is also a documentary based on a web and interactive medium. In this platform, the content has been expanded and the audiovisual project has become part of the multimedia, with the inclusion of some parts and, at the same time, the inclusion of audiovisual content.


“En un xip multicolor” [In a multi-color chip]

Summary: Audiovisual and online interactive documentary about Neil Harbisson, a sonocromatic cyborg


Produced: 2011, Vic (Spain)

Company/producer: Audiovisual Communication end of degree project. Specialization in multimedia. University of Vic.

Author(s): Roger Soldevila, Josep Parés, Isaac Martinez, Arnau Costa and Arnau Gifreu


Figure 1. Schematic view of the project



This project incorporates an audiovisual documentary, broken down by theme and videos that explain unfamiliar concepts about the figure of Neil Harbisson, a sonocromatic cyborg. In the interactive space, the user can experience the feeling of creating their own sound picture, with the possibility of sharing in social networks and post it on the online gallery. The idea is to create an interactive application and an interactive documentary. Both the application and the documentary are on Neil Harbisson disease condition known as achromatopsia or monochromatic (genetic disease, congenital non progressive that affects vision as a result of this are visible only black and white). The documentary addresses the theme of man and the use of technology to improve their living conditions and more specifically it uses the term cyborg, because the character in which the documentary is based on is considered as such. It is for this reason that one of the possible metaphors when designing the web interface is to create a system that allows the user to understand this idea of man and machine.

You can watch the teaser of the project here


Captures of the interface

 Figure 2. Home of the interactive doc

Figure 3. Audiovisual documentary

Figure 4. Playlist (each section has one)

Figure 5. Neil Harbison section

 Figure 6. Interactive game / Creating the sonor picture

Figure 7. Saving the sonor picture

Figure 8. Library of sonor pictures



In the case of “En un xip multicolor”, the theme and its interface have been attractive for different institutions and centers that treat vision problems. They were interested in participating in the project, and this has enabled the Foundation Cyborg – an international organization dedicated to helping humans become cyborgs – to be better known and expand their partnerships: in 2010, Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas created the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization to help humans become cyborgs. The foundation was created in response to the many letters and emails received from people interested in becoming a cyborg. The main objectives of the foundation are to extend the senses and human capacity by creating and applying cybernetic body extensions, promote the use of cybernetics in cultural events and defend the rights of cyborgs.


Interactive documentaries case studies

En un xip multicolor (2011), Spain (Catalan, Spanish, English). [Final Degree Project] Communication and Business Faculty. Audiovisual Communication. University of Vic.

Metamentaldoc Multimedia (2009), Spain (Spanish). [Final Degree Project] Communication and Business Faculty. Audiovisual Communication. University of Vic. http://www.

Societat 2.0  (2009), Spain (Catalan). [Final Degree Project] Communication and Business Faculty. Audiovisual Communication. University of Vic.


References for further reading on Constructivism

Dewey, John. “John Dewey between pragmatism and constructivism.” Fordham American philosophy. Fordham University Press,(2009).

John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, Herbert A. Simon, K. Anders Ericsson, and Robert Glaser, Radical Constructivism and Cognitive Psychology, Brookings Papers on Education Policy (1998), no. 1, 227-278.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). “The act of discovery”. Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21–32.

Clark, R. C. and Zuckerman, P. (1999). Multimedia Learning Systems: Design Principles. In Stolovitch, H. D. and Keeps, E. J. (Eds) Handbook of Human Performance Technology. (2nd Ed). (p.564-588). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

de Jong, T. (2005). The guided discovery principle in multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 215-229).. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dalgarno, B. (1996) Constructivist computer assisted learning: theory and technique, ASCILITE Conference, 2–4 December 1996, retrieved from

DeVries et al. (2002) Developing constructivist early childhood curriculum: practical principles and activities. Teachers College Press: New York.

Duffy, T.M. & Jonassen, D. (Eds.), (1992).Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Glasersfeld, E. (1989). Cognition, construction of knowledge, and teaching. Synthese, 80(1), 121-140.

Jonassen, D., Mayes, T., & McAleese, R. (1993). A manifesto for a constructivist approach to uses of technology in higher education. In T.M. Duffy, J. Lowyck, & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.), Designing environments for constructive learning (pp. 231–247). Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006) Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 41 (2) 75-86

Piaget, Jean. (1950). The Psychology of Intelligence. New York: Routledge.

Jean Piaget (1967). Logique et Connaissance scientifique, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade.

Wood, D. (1998) How Children Think and Learn. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Wertsch, J.V (1997) “Vygotsky and the formation of the mind” Cambridge.

Bonus tracks regarding Constructivism theories


A journey into Constructivism by Martin Dougiamas, 1998-11.

Cognitively Guided Instruction reviewed on the Promising Practices Network

Examining Learning From Multiple Perspectives by Michigan State University

Cognitive Flexibility Theory, a constructivist learning theory by Michigan State University

Sample Online Activity Objects Designed with Constructivist Approach (2007)

Liberal Exchange learning resources offering a constructivist approach to learning English as a second/foreign language (2009)

Definition of Constructivism by Martin Ryder (a footnote to the book chapter The Cyborg and the Noble Savage where Ryder discusses One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop from a constructivist educator’s point of view)


Previous posts published by the author at I-DOCS.ORG