My formal background in education finds its roots in my undergraduate degree in Child Development at Connecticut College. On campus there is a preschool that serves as a lab school for those of us in the Child Development program. For each class, we were charged with going to the lab school at first to learn how to observe and later to observe specific behaviors and ideas. The emphasis of the program centered around developmentally appropriate practice, learning by doing, and teacher as facilitator. The children were curious and were encouraged to explore topics that were of interest to them.
Later in my career, I had the opportunity to go to Reggio Emilia in Italy for a conference and tour of the preschools in that municipality. Project based learning is the focus, where teachers serve as guides and document the children's learning on an individual and group level. Because of the richness and thoroughness of documentation, observers can witness the progression of the children's thoughts and new ideas as they are developed. The documentation also serves as a reflective component for the children; they can look back on the process and see that yes, this is where learning took place!
Both the John Seely Brown video as well as the reading by McVerry, Zawilinski and O'Byrne take this universal idea of play as serious learning and apply it to today's discussion of online literacy and the ability to navigate our changing online environment. Brown calls this the 'questing disposition;' children can compete and collaborate, "live to try something new," and stresses the power and importance of play. Students - and by extension, their educators, can benefit when they learn by experimenting and tinkering. The advent of newer technologies that enable students to learn and grow through digital media only enriches the experience.
McVerry, Zawilinski and O'Byrne (2009) support these ideas in the context of navigating our ever-changing online environment and developing it in the classroom by "creating a curriculum that allows for problem-based inquiry learning, high-level discussion and collaboration." The method of Internet Reciprocal Teaching is one that supports John Seely Brown, The Connecticut College Children's Program and Mr. Rogers' belief that we must "focus on the process of inquiry and not the product of research." Let us remember this as we develop learning opportunities for our students as well as for ourselves.
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