Constructivist theory (Piaget 1977; Bruner 1986; von Glasersfeld 1995) states that people learn by constructing their own understanding of phenomena. They build that understanding based upon past experiences and beliefs, integrated with current experiences. That is, according to constructivist theory, learning is an iterative process of updating existing understanding with new information acquired through activity. Educational activities informed by constructivist theory recognize that learners enter these activities with preexisting knowledge, and shape that knowledge through the experiences of those activities. Thus constructivist activities are characterized by wide open spaces to explore, room for learning through both success and failure, feedback that learners can use to adjust their own understanding and multiple possible outcomes. Constructivist activities often take the form of problems. that learners are motivated to solve in unique and active ways.
Situated learning (Lave and Wenger 1991; Lave and Chaiklin 1993; Wenger 1998) is a theory that describes the process of learning as highly social, embedded in the lives of learners, and can be complementary to constructivism. Much of the theory of situated learning centers on the notion of communities of practice: dynamic groups that are present throughout our lives in which we participate in various ways. Such groups exist in schools, workplaces, social organizations, and families. Each of these groups has a set of practices that members learn over time. While this training may sometimes be formalized (such as spending time with a group of friends and learning what they enjoy). In addition to set of skills and knowledge one might learn by participating in such a community, the cultural and social practices are also part of what is learned.
The synthesis of the constructivist and situated learning paradigms lead us to design activities that are inherently social, authentic and meaningful, connected to the real world, open-ended so they contain multiple pathways, intrinsically motivating, and filled with feedback.
Excerpt from: Klopfer E. Augmented Learning: Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games. The MIT Press, 2008. Kindle Edition (location 55 of 2961).