The Practice of Learning

“Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water.” -Loris Malaguzzi

Tag: Reggio Emilia

Reframing My Thoughts: Are Frameworks and Philosophies Merely “Slow to React”?

Before I venture further into my inquiry, specifically the “maker movement” and the MakEY Project, I would like to take a moment to reframe and reconsider my thinking thus far.  I took a moment to step back, read, and leave room for learning. I discovered that perhaps I needed to look at why, rather than how, digital technology is being addressed by both the BC Early Learning Frameworks and the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Learning.

The first article that altered my focus came in the form of an occasional paper on digital media and learning by Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, and Robison (2006), entitled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. I drew an immediate connection from the following excerpt to the frameworks and philosophy I had examined prior:

“Schools as institutions have been slow to react to the emergence of this new participatory culture […] programs must devote more attention to fostering what we call the new media literacies:” -Jenkins et al., 2009

Jenkins et al. (2006) presented two new terms in their report: Participatory Culture and New Media Literacies. Jenkins explains participatory culture and his concerns about education in the following video:

Jenkins et al. (2006) pointed to a growing body of research that suggested that the various forms of participatory culture undertaken by young people outside of school have the potential to generate: “opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a[n…] empowered conception of citizenship” (Jenkins et al., 2006). They also highlighted the fact that many scholars believed that children and youth developed such skills regardless of pedagogical interventions. However, Jenkins et al. believed that three concerns denoted the nescesity for curriculums focused on helping students develop the skills needed to fully participate in, and contribute to, online communities. The three concerns were:

  • The Participation Gap — the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.
  • The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.
  • The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.

Consequently, a central focus of their work aimed to draw attention away from considerations regarding technological access towards opportunities in teaching and learning associated with participating in a digital realm (Jenkins et al, 2006). Unlike the BC Early Learning Curriculums, the primary recommendation by Jenkins et al. (2006) was that an effective pedagogical strategy be developed specifically for media education. However, while reading the report presented by Jenkins et al. (2006), I couldn’t help but notice how many of the New Media Literacies naturally flow into the expectations for deep learning explicated in BC’s New Curriculum (2019) and are instinctively touched on in an approach such as Reggio Emilia.

The three Core Competencies of BC’s New Curriclum are “Thinking (creative,critical), Communication, and Personal and Social”. According the Curriculum Orientation Guide, the Core Competencies are groupings of abilities that learners should develop in order to take part in deep learning. The Competencies should be evident and used when learners are engrossed in “doing” in any area of learning (BC’s New Curriculum, 2019). Consequently, if digital technology is considered an area of learning then learners should be interacting with it in accordance with the Core Competencies and engaging in deep learning.

Similarly, the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Learning aims to engage children in rich learning experiences. Reggio invites children to engage in an area of learning holistically: by offering many different modes, presenting an assortment of tools and mediums, incorporating various locations and perspectives, by avoiding timelines, and by actively listening. However, unlike BC’s New Curriculum, Reggio Emilia centres follow an emergent curriculum. Though there may be a shared “intent” amongst several centres, “hypotheses” (focus of learning) are generally constructed by a community of learners based on observations of the needs, skills, values, interests, and challenges of a specific group of children. Below is the Reggio inspired curriculum pathway we follow at our centres:

In my previous post, I voiced the opinion that digital technology often rests on the periphery of the deep learning that takes place within the Reggio Emilia approach. However, as Apler (2011) suggests in her work, Developmentally appropriate New Media Literacies: Supporting cultural competencies and social skills in early childhood education, several of the New Media Literacies described by Jenkins et al. are already “reflected in the interplay between digital and non-digital media within Reggio Emilia-inspired teaching and learning” (Alper, 2011). In addition, if digital literacy happened to be a core component of an “intent” or “hypothesis” within a Reggio program, it would be approached with an aim to generate digital fluency.

Again, similarly, if BC educators regard digital literacy as pivotal knowledge for their learners than their learners should be thinking creatively and critically with and about it, they should be connecting, engaging, and collaborating with their peers through and with it, and they should be considering their personal well-being and the well beings of others with and in connection with it. However, as I highlighted in my post BC’s Stance on Digital Technology in Early Years Education digital technology is not explicitly outlined as an area of learning in either BC’s Early Learning Framework or in BC’s New Curriculum (K-5).

Therefore, perhaps BC’s Curricula and the Reggio Emilia approach are not so dissimilar with regard to their position on digital technology. Possibly, institutions within both locations are simply “slow to react to the emergence of this new participatory culture” (Jenkins et al., 2006). It seems clear that neither BC, nor Reggio Emilia, Italy consider digital literacy imperative for their young learners.

However, BC educator, Alison Galloway, also recognized the similarities between BC and Reggio Emilia, Italy, specifically with regard to BC’s movement towards a more child-centred approach to learning (Galloway, 2015). Drawing inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach, BC’s education plan, and the “maker movement”, Galloway (2015) created a learning environment capable of generating rich teaching and learning experiences connected to digital technology.

In addition, in her MEd Project entitled Bringing a Reggio Emilia inspired approach up the grades- Links to 21st century learning skills and the maker movement, Galloway (2015) critically examined many of the same aspects of education as Jenkins et al. (2006). Galloway advocated for education that focuses on competency and values students’ voice and choice (Galloway, 2015), while Jenkins et al. promoted education that treats young people as citizens deserving of the skills necessary to become valued as such (Jenkins et al., 2006). Galloway wrote:

“If, as educators, we want children to be inventive and resourceful, we need to provide opportunities for open-ended learning that challenges students to come up with their own questions and solutions.” – Galloway, 2015

Still, Galloway’s (2015) research did not specifically focus on digital literacy, rather it outlined the potential value for teaching and learning generated within a Reggio Emilia inspired “Makerspace”.

It is my intent, however, to highlight the fact that the literature I have encountered with regard to the “maker movement” explicitly highlights the value of the approach in contributing to digital fluency or “critical literacy”.

Until next time,

EJ

References

Alper, M. (2013). Developmentally appropriate new media literacies: Supporting cultural competencies and social skills in early childhood education. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(2), 175-196. doi:10.1177/1468798411430101

Jenkins, H (2006). Confronting the challenges of Participatory Culture: Media education for the 21st century. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: Chicago, IL. Retrieved from  http://www.oapen.org/download/?type=document&docid=1004003

Galloway, A. (2015). A reggio emilia inspired maker space. Retrieved from http://reggioinspiredmakerspace.weebly.com/reggio-emilia-background.html

Galloway, A. (2015). Bringing a reggio emilia inspired approach into higher grades- Links to 21st century learning skills and the maker movement. MEd Projects (Curriculum and Instruction): University of Victoria, BC.

Ministry of Education (2015). BC’s new curriculum. Victoria, BC. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca

Ministry of Education (2019). British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria, B.C. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework

Projectors as Digital Tool and Medium in Practice

Besides it’s use in pedagogical narration, digital technology most often appears in my learning environments in the form of computer projectors. We also regulary use non-digital light projectors. Both types of projectors have constitently been photographed as present in Reggio Emilia schools.

Photo retrieved from https://wordpress.wiu.edu/ilaecte/2016/10/16/let-there-be-light/

Over the last several weeks, we have been collecting digital photographs from our families via email, which are representative of our children’s lives outside of our classroom. Our intention is to have the children’s “home” photographs projected onto our walls and on our projector screen (which hangs from the ceiling in the middle of our room).

We are beginning to develop a hypothesis connected to empathy and hope that our wall projections will spark converstations, thoughts, considerations of self and the other.  The art, construction, converstations, play etc. that takes place in our class will be recorded using our phones’ photo, video, and voice applications. We also have hard-copy family photos and pedagogical narrations interspersed in our classroom and continue to use pencil and paper to record our observations.

As we continue down our current path of inquiry myself and my co-educator explore different ways to point the children’s focus inwards towards discovery of self and outwards towards the relationship between self and others.  Though much of our investigation so far has included conventional mediums such as mirrors, tape measures, markers, pencil crayons, pencils, charcoal, paper, scissors, converstations, clay, sticks, blocks, literature etc. we are invariably searching for new methods and materials to connect in.

In hunting for digital mediums to draw into our inquiry, I came across a post by a fellow classmate that included the article by Cowan (2016), Digital Languages: Multimodal meaning-making in Reggio-inspired early years education. Her article outlined some digital languages in practice and happened to include an exploration of body and movement entitled: Exploring the body in digital and non-digital combinations. The arts space (atelier) used for the inquiry provided opportunity for numerous forms of expression, as it set out digital tools that inlcuded an iPad (set up with motion capture software), webcam, digital microscopes, and a computer projector, alongside non-digital materials such as wooden figures, mirrors, magnifiers, clay, wire, paper, and paints.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Art spaces (ateliers) that include a host of mediums, materials, and disciplines are common practice in Reggio Emilia inspired environments, as they allow for multiple modes of thought and expression. However, I have drawn connections to my own inquiry with the body exploration presented by Cowan (2016) and hope to bring some of the digital ponderings into our classroom. One specific experience described educators projecting digital images onto an art easel that had been set up with paper and paint. I hope to transplant the latter into our class, by offering the children an opportunity to ‘paint’ on their digital self-portraits.

I feel priviledged to be able work in an Early Learning environment that fosters the inclusion of unconventional materials and refrains from following learning schedules or timelines. At the same time, I am also aware that the approach that allows for such beautiful fluidity in teaching and learning also tends to keep digital technology on the periphery of its philosophy. Digital tools and mediums are as essential to the Reggio Emilia philosophy as any other tool or mediam. Yet, digital technology plays a much bigger role in our worlds than does a paint brush, a wooden block, or a piece of paper or clay (though each depend on natural resources as digital technology does). At present, nearly every person on the planet keeps some sort of mobile device on there person at all times, but not everyone carries with them a pen or a piece of paper.

My current practice, and the practices presented in Cowan’s article, remain focused on how to incoporate and use digital technology, rather than how to generate a deep and critical understanding of its production and purpose in our lives. It requires an outstanding amount of natural resources to produce one ‘smart’ phone. Still, despite the recent calls for environmental action and nature focused outdoor education, digital technology appears to play a perfunctory role in teaching and learning.

Consequently, I will continue on my hunt for a holistic approach to digital technology in ECE. In my next post I will present the MakEY Project, a Europe-wide project the considers how ‘makerspaces’ can contribute to the development of children’s digital literacy.

Once again, happy Sunday. Thank you for reading,

EJ

References

Cowan, K. (2017, March 19). Digital Languages: Multimodal meaning-making in Reggio-inspired early years education. Retrieved from http://digilitey.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/STSM-Stockholm-Final-Report-Kate-Cowan.pdf

Transformative in Teaching and Learning: An Introduction to Technology in the Reggio Emilia Approach

Though British Columbia has not developed a unified perspective on digital technology within early childhood education, the Early Learning educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy have long since agreed that technology can be transformative in their teaching-learning environments.

If you are not familiar with the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood Education it refers to a philosophy of education that epitomizes the pedagogical practices exhibited in the Early Learning centres of the town of Reggio Emilia, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. The single philosophy of education that exists in Reggio Emilia today stems from years of collaborative effort, community involvement, and protests for political change (Edwards et al, 2011).

After first school in Reggio Emilia opened its doors in 1946, parents and educators, including Emilia Romagna native Loris Malaguzzi, spent the next twenty years fighting for greater, more abundant early childhood education (Edwards et al, 2011). In the midst of completing his educational degree, Malaguzzi offered his services to the women involved in the construction of the first Reggio school (Edwards et al, 2011) and went on to play a significant role in the evolution of the schools. He drew inspiration from thinkers such as Lev Vygotsky, John Dewey, David Hawkins, and Erik Erikson, and provided insight and leadership as the new schools developed their own philosophies (Fraser, 2012, p. 5; Gandini, 2008). By 1971 there were government-sponsored preschools and infant-toddler centres throughout Reggio Emilia (Edwards et al, 2011).

Malaguzzi, parents, and educators collaborated to develop a common image of the child that recognized children as producers rather than consumers of resources,  as well as creative, engaged citizens capable of critical thoughts and actions (Pelo, 2008). Reggio Emilia’s view of the child resulted in a multifaceted, malleable, and collaborative method of teaching.  Observation and documentation become essential in the Reggio approach as they facilitate its core components: emergent curriculum, a high-level of collaboration, and unique, intentional environments.

In Reggio, teachers follow the lead of children, and their families, in order to develop emergent, project-based teaching and learning.  Within the emergent curriculums of the Reggio approach, the outside interests of children and the emergence of new technologies are incorporated rather than looked past or avoided.  As Malaguzzi suggested:

“schools should be continually seeking more and better materials, wider spaces, and suitable structures so as to never fall behind” – Malaguzzi, Spirit of Studio 19

In addition to the above elements, Reggio Emilia educators believe that children have the right to express themselves through whatever modes they choose. In Reggio, multimodality is referred to as children’s 100 languages. Therefore, digital technology is viewed as another medium with which children can express themselves (both literally and figuratively).

A recent post on the Italian website, “Reggio Children” sums up the Reggio Emilia perspective on technology in relation to children’s 100 languages . Scheda atelier writes:

The digital has the potential to transform teaching-learning contexts, offering children’s thoughts and theories new modes of representation, proposing a dimension of culture capable of merging the abstract with the artisanal. Children simultaneously act on plural levels of representation in these digital contexts, exercising for a form of hybrid, integrated, flexible thinking. What we aspire to is a connected and synthetic [from synthesis] form of intelligence, not narrowly discipline-based, but capable of being constructed in the research into meanings, on the borderlines between different languages.

That being said, it is clear that the Reggio Emilia approach does not debate over the potential value or harm of digital technology on young children but rather embraces it as a valuable material for learning. Unlike the Early Years curriculums of British Columbia, the early learning centres of Reggio Emilia have included digital technology in publications for decades.

Thank you for reading. More thoughts, information, and learning to come.

Happy Sunday,

EJ

References

Atelier, S. Reggio children atelier. Retrieved from www.reggiochildren.it

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (2011). Introduction: Background and starting points. In Langara College (Ed.), Historical, philosophical and cultural influences on early childhood education. (113-134). Vancouver, BC: Langara College

Fraser, S. (2012). Authentic childhood: Experiencing reggio emilia in the classroom. (3rd Ed.) Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd.

Gandini, L., Hill, L. & Schwall, C. (Eds.), In the spirit of the studio. (47-57) New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Pelo, A. (2008) Rethinking early childhood education. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Rethinking Schools Ltd.

Vecchi, V. (2010). Art and creativity in reggio emilia: Exploring the role and potential of ateliers in early childhood education. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Welcome

Welcome readers, visitors, and classmates to my blog. Thank you for joining me as I document my learning progress in the MEd course entitled “Interactive and Multimedia Learning” offered through the University of Victoria.

It has been over two weeks since the off-campus course commenced and I feel like I am only just beginning to understand its operations, expectations, and components. Having educators interact with current technology used in post-secondary institutations seems a perfect way to begin a course that considers technology’s role in education. Learning how to learn in “Interactive and Multimedia Learning” is a great reminder of how knowledge is co-constructed between educator and student, adult and child, and classmates.

In my current practice digital technology is present and embraced, however, this is almost entirely because I work in a Reggio Emilia learning centre, not because digital literacy is a priority in our community or province. Consequently, in the next few months, I hope to find new and accessible ways to incooperate ideas regarding technology that come from communities outside of North America. Keeping in the mind that though the education practices in Finland, Sweden, and Reggio Emilia, Italy are often appealing in their intentions and results they are also often practiced in much less culturally diverse demographics than Vancouver. My aim is to become well versed in such educative practices but to also think practically about how they can translate into a much more diverse community.