Wednesday, July 9, 2008

EDU 581 Concentration Justification

Teaching with Technology
Amity Beane
University of Maine, Farmington

EDU 581
History, Philosophy, and Ethics of Education

The following work is a justification of a technology concentration within the Master of Education Degree program at the University of Maine, Farmington. Core arguments include: the need for audience in order to construct knowledge, the act of creation as essential to understanding, documentation as a means to chart growth, the role of collaboration in expanding knowledge, the role of teacher as builder of networks, and the role of teachers and students as co-facilitators.

Why have I chosen technology as my specialty while in graduate school? In today's increasingly connected society, students make meaning, shape identity, initiate and facilitate change on local and global levels, collaborate, and create in a variety of mediums using technological tools. I see my role as one of facilitator, sharing my experience and expertise to assist student inquiry. Technology allows me to express my own way of knowing and connecting with a global community, as well as document and publish student work. Technology has the potential to connect the world and in doing so, form a new social order.

My teaching philosophy, based in technology as a vehicle for collaboration, creation, and communication, is grounded in progressivist, social reconstructivist, and existentialist theories. My core beliefs that relate to teaching with technology align with the works of Elizabeth Ferm, John Dewey, Loris Malaguzzi, Paulo Freire, and Martin Buber.

The first core belief about teaching with technology is that audience is essential, and exposes students to diversity of thought. Using such programs as Wordpress, Flickr, Facebook or Skype, students connect to a global audience, often one that gives immediate feedback. Student work has meaning and focus when it is done for the benefit and understanding of others. "When students write for a distinct audience of their peers, they are more fluent, they are better organized, and their ideas are more clearly stated and supported." (Global Schoolhouse.) Through the interaction between student and audience, diversity can be recognized and shared. "In the Freirean method, the purpose of the dialogue is to help both the teacher and student understand the political, economic, and social forces that have shaped their lives." (Spring, p. 159.)

My second core belief about technology is to value creative acts. "Students learn best
when their learning and activities relate to things which they can identify with personally."
(Global Schoolhouse.) When "learning" in my classroom, my students' experience is what is most important, as well as their creative world and how they express themselves. They are more free to pursue what is interesting to them and they are given the tools to acquire the knowledge they need. It is through creation that students learn. Technology allows students to be infinitely creative, and then widely broadcast their work, which enhances its quality. Elizabeth Ferm advocates the primacy of self-expression. In the first chapter of her book, Freedom in Education, she talks about "Creative Development in Education," and says:

"Unless an act is the outcome of an inner necessity it is not creative. If it is notcreative it cannot educate. In the degree that a human expresses himself creatively, in that degree he lives. In the degree that man does not reveal himself in his daily life, in that measure he exists as a material thing and he in no way fulfills his destiny as a self-conscious being, self-determining, self-directing and self-revealing."

My third core belief about teaching with technology relates directly to Loris Malaguzzi's methodologies, which are used in Reggio Emilio schools: document, document, document. Today's technology allows for documentation on a large scale. Seong Bock Hong (p 50-51) summarizes the purpose of documentation as:

1. The process by which teachers gather information about children’s ideas and their thinking process.
2. Is done daily so teachers can discuss their curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent and develop rational for its course.
3. Is data for study.
4. Facilitates continuity across a given activity, because new activities evolve from earlier experiences.
5. Offers a research orientation to instruction.
6. Allows teachers to revisit with children.
7. Is concrete, active and reflective.
8. Provides the right amount of support to enable children to perform a task.
9. Is at the heart of each project or experience.
10. It serves as a lesson planner.
11. It defines the teacher as a facilitator.

Another core component of teaching with technology is that community and collaboration are essential. A multitude of platforms allow for community building and collaboration, wikis being the current, number one method of collaboration. “Buber recognized that the social and political implications of his thought were profound - and his courage in expressing these led to him be viewed by many within Israel as treacherous (it meant, for example, he looked to some form of reconciliation with Germans earlier than many of his peers, and he argued that Israel should not be an exclusively Jewish State - indeed, he looked to a time when the nation state might be obsolete). He saw political activity as a means of transforming the relationships of 'Man and Man'. However, this was not just a case of working for justice and economic advancement, it was also a way of bringing about spiritual transformation. He sought to create dialogical community - a third way between individualism and collectivism."

The idea of creating networks is central to my vocation as a teacher. Technology allows me to create community, again and again, using platforms that are continually evolving through collective practice and knowledge. “Buber appears to be arguing here that at the heart of communities are special people - the builders. They are the living, active centre. They live the dialogical life. Builders both express and symbolize relation, and in some sense animate community." As a teacher/builder, my role is to encourage good works. "Freire's teachers engage in an educational process designed to raise levels of consciousness, change personalities, and transform the world." (Spring, p. 159.)

"Community has to be nurtured. For it to take concrete form convivial institutions are required to sustain and express its presence. Communities characterized by dialogue and relation require particular types of institution. Such institutions need to be dialogical, just and allow room for growth and exploration."

Everyone assumes the role of facilitator. Each student owns knowledge. Each student has something to share. Technology allows for easy facilitation. "In a school fostering biophilic personalities, children are treated as living beings with their interest and knowledge utilized as a source of learning for both students and teachers." (Spring, p.155) "The Reggio teacher is unique because she offers herself to the process of co-construction of knowledge, she releases the traditional roles of a teacher and opens doors to new possibilities. She starts with the use of the child’s own theories, promotes disequilibrium, and helps the child to think about their thinking to facilitate new learning." (Seong Bock Hong 1998, from Ciccone).

The major issue in my field of study is something known as the digital divide. Since I am concerned with social justice, I also see my role as one of equalizer. I would like to give as much technology as possible to as many children as possible in my lifetime.

Works Cited

Ciccone, Tiziana. "A Look At the Reggio Approach." ReggioKids. 2006. 9 July 2008 .
Smith, M. K. (2000) 'Martin Buber on education', the encyclopedia of informal education, Last update: July 02, 2008
Spring, Joel. Wheels in the Head: Educational Philosophies of Authority, Freedom and Culture From Socrates to Human Rights. 2nd ed. McGraw Hill, 2006.

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