I have learned many things since starting this blog and co-moderating the live #ReggioPLC Twitter chat. In reflecting back over the last year since the hash tag #ReggioPLC was created I think our decision to frame the topics of last year’s bi-monthly chats around the principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach was very meaningful and fortuitous to our own learning and development.
I loved that we open up interpretation of these principles to others and in the dialogic learning that took place theory is connected to practice. The Reggio inspired principles are not always packaged the same and are open to interpretation. Recently, I came across an article by Rebecca S. New, Reggio Emilia as Cultural Activity: Theory and Practice and I am particularly drawn to how she has described the five most significant “big ideas” of the approach. Perhaps, it is because of the reference to Hawkins and Dewey but probably more so it is that she has situated the characteristics of these principles to the central tenets of the social cultural learning theories of Lev Vygotsky. I have a particular fondness for the work of Lev Vygotsky. When I wrote my doctoral thesis I stated “the theoretical compass for my practice could be found in the writings of Lev Vygotsky. Rather than a Piagetian image of teacher as facilitator, Vygotskian constructivism situates the learner within a social context and the teacher as collaborator or co-constructor of knowledge. The Russian psychologist is the principal theorist for emergent curriculum” (Kashin, 2009, p. 31). I am also compelled by this article because I can situate Reggio inspired practice within the digital age of the 21st century and consider technology as a language that has a rightful place amongst the hundred and hundred more.
Two of the big ideas, as considered significant by Rebecca New, are particularly resonating:
Teachers as Learners – this has been a topic of a few of our #ReggioPLC chats. New speaks to the history of the approach and describes the notion of the schools as learning environments for adults as well as children and I think that perhaps Twitter has become a technological extension of that idea. In the early period of the development of the approach, “Reggio Emilia teachers explored the ideas of American philosophers, Dewey and Hawkins” (p.7). David Hawkins has certainly been a guiding force behind the work that I have done in building a collaborative culture of inquiry fuelled by social media.
Pedagogy of Collaborative Inquiry for Children and Adults – another feature of our blog posts and Twitter chats have been pedagogical documentation. When New relates to documentation as a “way of keeping everyone, adults and children, alert to the process and discoveries of this sort of learning experience, teachers document”. She goes on to say, “such an integration of curriculum content and pedagogical inquiry illustrates the Vygotskian principle that learning leads development” (p. 7). Our professional learning network that has been created with the support of Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest has developed because we have learned about new perspectives and new technologies. I did not any experience moderating a Twitter chat before taking on this challenge as a demonstration of collaborative inquiry.
The Reggio Emilia approach has underscored the idea that children can learn and express themselves in many languages, such as paint, sculpture, dance, and song (Kashin, 2009). Literacy is not just about language, reading, and writing. To be literate today, children are required to be multi-literate. This means that children need to be exposed to traditional print as well as digital print. “It is no longer appropriate to focus on literacy as a paper-based activity when children access text in a range of modes, e.g. on computers, television and mobile phones” (Marsh, 2004, p. 52). According to research, literacy learning should be developmental, constructivist, and incremental in nature, and it should be embedded within cultural and community practices (Gillen & Hall, 2003; Kennedy et al., 2012).
I embrace the integration of technology in early learning and are thrilled everyday to see our newsfeed populated by postings of Reggio inspired educators making learning visible in a digital way. I am continuously inspired by their use of new applications and their technical savvy but I am also profoundly moved by the willingness of so many to jump in and mess about with new technologies.