Littles in the Forest

Exploring East Coast Forests and Nature with Children

“For what purpose(s) do we educate ?”

I realized after last week that I definitely don’t have a good sense of the current research surrounding children and technology. For myself I knew I had to start broad before I could start narrowing down a topic or topics of inquiry, and possibly finding some answers to the questions posed in my previous post.

In my search I came across the NAEYC – Fred Rodgers Center Position Statement on technology use and children under 8 (2012) followed by a chapter (Researching technologies in children’s worlds and futures) from The SAGE handbook of early childhood research (2016). While the position statement gave a good overview of recommendations based in research, the chapter gave a dense overview of the types of research being done, theories being applied, and insight into what the findings have been.

My main focus here will be to look at a critique of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) referenced in the SAGE handbook, and a model for looking at how technology can or is applied in the early years classroom using a assimilation/accommodation model (from Piagets Constructivist theory).

Developmentally Appropriate Practice ?

The NAEYC-Fred Rodgers Center Position Statement on technology views technology as another tool for children to express themselves creatively, and use to explore and investigate their worlds, spaces, environments. Further, the statement emphasizes the importance of  educators knowledge of current technologies and research on the topic, in order to be intentional and developmentally appropriate with the use of technology in the classroom.

DAP comes up a lot in the position statement (NAEYC wrote the DAP framework), it also comes up a lot in the field in early childhood education, and I will confess I have never thought to question developmentally appropriate practice, because it is best practice … isn’t it ?

One of my goals for this class was to understand what is DAP technology use and how would I define this within the nature/forest school context. So I was particularly interested in the critique of DAP references in the SAGE handbook chapter. I was interested in how this perspective on DAP would challenge, disrupt, and possibly change how I view DAP and in particular DAP technology use.

In short, O’Brien (2000) does not have issue with DAP but that the focus on “indoctrinating” this pedagogy in pre-service teacher training puts an emphasis on certain theories (e.g Piagetian constructivist theory, 1936) less (if any) focus on theories that encourage critical reflection such as feminist pedagogy, critical theory (Friere, 1970 & Giroux 1988), and “engaged pedagogy (Hooks, 1994). No room is left for questioning “best practices,” and making room for context (social, cultural, environmental) informs these practices and how this may alter what “best practices” look like.

How are educators encouraged to  critically question their education, their own practices, pedagogy and beliefs ? These questions are sometimes  difficult, disruptive or destabilizing, and often call into question power dynamics. How are educators encouraging this same practice among children within their classrooms ?

I am interested in how this critique of the “indoctrination” of DAP and best practice, can be applied to best practices and Developmentally appropriate technology use.

O’Brien (2000) asks us to ask ourselves “For what purpose(s) do we educate (p.287)?” Recognizing that there can never be one answer to this question, she offers “one possible answer is that we ought to educate students to really see the worlds in which they live, and to be willing and able to act to effect change when necessary(p.287)”.

I went into this course with a mindset of finding out the “right answers” of how and when technology should be used, and who should be implementing it, and what devices should be used. I think my feelings of discomfort with technology in the classroom led me to loose sight of some of my core beliefs of my role in the classroom. One of which to learn alongside the children, to be reflective, encourage them to be reflective, and follow the lead of the children. How can we as a class of learners (children and adults) develop a digital pedagogy ? How can we use technology to really see  the world and “effect change?”

This article has also made me reflect on the power dynamics within the classroom around technology. As I mentioned in my previous post, technology is used sometimes in the classroom, however it is generally the adults who use the phones or cameras to document children’s work, or children ask to use a camera/phone to document or research something further (e.g if reading about a sea creature the children may ask to see an image of it). I wonder how having a camera available at the child’s level for them to access at any time would lead to more opportunities to learn alongside the children as well as engage in critical discussions important to them.

Accommodation or Assimilation of technology in the early childhood classroom 

The SAGE chapter also made reference to an article by ReinkingLabbo,  McKenna (2000), which broke down technology use in the classroom using a model of assimilation/accommodation (borrowed from Piagets Constructivist theory). Further, that the implementation of technology into early years classrooms allowed students and teachers to that subvert “traditional” methods of instruction and encourage students and teachers to collaboratively experience, view, and interpret the world differently. I was interested in how this may relate to O’Brien’s (2000) article.

As a little refresher this is a breakdown of assimilation and accommodation taken from the article:

In the familiar Piagetian model of learning, assimilation is the process by which new information is merged with existing knowledge structures without changing those structures. Accommodating new information, on the other hand,requires that existing knowledge be restructured to fit new information, which eventually transforms the way a learner views and understands the world (Reinking, Labbo & McKenna, 2010, p.111).

 

Reinking et, al. (2000) looked as ways in which technologies such as word processors, the internet, e-mail, online texts (encyclopedias), multimedia presentations, and blogs were used within k-12 classrooms to move from assimilation approaches to accommodation.

Using this model, to reflect on technology use in the spaces I inhabit with children is interesting. How can we (myself, fellow educators, and children) use familiar technology (already assimilated) in innovative, creative, and collaborative ways that encourages us to look at the world differently ? How will children’s use of technology challenge or disrupt my own ideas about learning (not just cognitive learning but social, emotional, and spiritual ) ?

I’d like to end by returning to the NAEYC position statement on technology use in the classroom. I can certainly see how technology can be used as another tool for creative expression, innovation and for exploring and investigating ourselves, the spaces we inhabit, and our greater social, environmental, cultural, and global contexts (though I would like to learn more).

Further, being aware of current technologies and research is also important, however missing from the statement is the need to also critically question our intention and purpose for implementing (or not) certain technologies in our classrooms. Do we need to have all of the answers first ? How much learning could we do along side the children in our programs ?

Questioning, inquiring, investigating, making meaning of and with our interactions with technology, collaboratively – children, educators, and families.

I think it’s important to ask again

“For what purpose(s) do we teach?”

(O’Brien 2000)


References 
National Association for the Education of Young Children, & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning. (2012). Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/PS_technology_WEB.pdf

Freire, P., & Ramos, M. B. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

Giroux, H. A. (1988). Teachers as transformative intellectuals: Towards a critical pedagogy of learning. Granby, MA: Bergin & Garvey.

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Leigh M. O’Brien (2000) Engaged Pedagogy: One Alternative to “Indoctrination” into DAP, Childhood Education, 76:5, 283-288, DOI:
10.1080/00094056.2000.10522114

Marsh, J. (2016). Researching technologies in children’s worlds and futures. In Farrell, A., Kagan, S. L., & Tisdall, E. M. The SAGE handbook of early childhood research (pp. 485-501). London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473920859

Piaget, J. (1936). The origins of intelligence in children. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Reinking, D., Labbo, L.D. and McKenna, M.C. (2000) From assimilation to accommodation: A developmental framework for integrating digital technologies into literacy research and instruction. Journal of Research in Reading, 23(2): 110–122.

2 Comments

  1. Sherri-Lynn Yazbeck

    September 23, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is something that I have been challenging in my practice for several years and at times it has been a difficult process, especially since my undergraduate degree is in developmental psychology and so much of our education system/training has been based on these theories (esp. ECE-0-5 yrs training). My concern with DAP is the suggestion that development is a linear process, with age-related stages that become the ‘normal’ for development, learning and growth. What then happens to those that fall outside of that ‘normal’, what/who is marginalized when we think with linear developmental norms (Pacini-Ketchabaw, Nxumalo, Kocher, Elliot & Sanchez, 2015)? That is not to say that child development should be completely dismissed, but perhaps we need to have a shift from it being a dominant lens in early childhood. I am curious to see how you follow the disruption of DAP with technology use and am definitely going to look into the references you added.
    (The reference I made above is from the book, Journeys: Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Practices through Pedagogical Narration)

  2. “Best Practices.” When I read this term, I am always troubled by the notion of ‘why are we educators, researchers, and also policy and decision makers concerned with education as it is something that have to have a defined goal/term as ‘best practices?’ In my opinion, the outcome is doomed right at the beginning for the very simple reason: the word ‘best’ ruins the thinking process. Why practices have to be marked and aimed as ‘developmentally appropriate?’ What is appropriate in one early childhood classroom, might be far from being ‘appropriate’ in another.

    When I did my practicum during my undergraduate studies in early childhood education, I spent my Wednesdays for 6 months in a first grade classroom as a practicum student. This classroom had students from various socio-economic and cultural background with a wide variety of preschool and kindergarten school experiences. The kindergarten teacher literally ignored every bit of what was posed on her practices as ‘developmentally appropriate’, yet she was mastering to explain in her end of term reports how she came to meet the learning goals. For her, it was sitting down with me, and the other three first grade teachers and simply de-code the goals of the school district’s learning frame.

    You wrote: “O’Brien (2000) asks us to ask ourselves “For what purpose(s) do we educate (p.287)?” Recognizing that there can never be one answer to this question, she offers “one possible answer is that we ought to educate students to really see the worlds in which they live, and to be willing and able to act to effect change when necessary(p.287)”.

    About the current research surrounding children and technology. I really appreciate your questions you propose to yourself and for your readers in this blog post “How can we (myself, fellow educators, and children) use familiar technology (already assimilated) in innovative, creative, and collaborative ways that encourages us to look at the world differently ? How will children’s use of technology challenge or disrupt my own ideas about learning (not just cognitive learning but social, emotional, and spiritual ) ?
    I encountered with a very recent publication while searching for peer-reviewed articles for my inquiry. I wonder if you may also find it interesting, or thought provoking enough and use it as an addition to your references for your inquiry?

    Davies, D., Howe, A., Collier, C., Digby, R., Earle, S., & McMahon, K. (2019). Teaching science and technology in the early years (3–7). Routledge.

    And that’s what that above mentioned first grade teacher did exactly.

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