By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Technology Rich Inquiry Based is a blog focusing on Reggio inspiration and the integration of new technologies and social media to support professional learning. It was co-constructed a number of years ago as a joint venture fuelled by the desire to share ideas and thoughts about practice and theory. For me, it has been a labour of love, a way to document my own journey of Reggio inspired practice that has become increasingly influenced by forest and nature school learning. When I first began the journey decades ago, I could never have imagined the impact that technology and nature would have on the paths taken and the roads travelled. What I always knew from the moment I began to forge the path is that I would not be taking this journey alone as I have been profoundly influenced by the theories of social constructivism and the work of Lev Vygotsky.
Many, many years ago as an early childhood education student, I learned about Jean Piaget and I recall that his influence permeated every course taken. I heard his name often but don’t remember learning about Lev Vygotsky. While they are both constructivist theorists, Piaget viewed knowledge as being constructed from personal experiences and Vygotsky’s position maintained that personal and social experiences could not be separated. According to McNamee (2009) Vygotsky reversed the commonly held notion that development begins within the individual and gradually becomes subject to the influences of socialization and one’s culture. Instead, the mind is undergoing transformation in relation to interactions with others “who provide the incentive, vision, and means for how we step out into the world in more challenging, sophisticated ways” (p. 26). I just returned from visiting Suzanne Axelsson in Sweden and our blended images appear as backdrop to the Vygotsky quote above, “It is through others that we develop into ourselves”. There while touring preschools and playgrounds, we came upon an installation of transparent rainbow colours that allowed Suzanne to look out while I looked in and photographed the moment. I met Suzanne through social media. I am grateful that she reached out to me from across the globe for I have learned so much from our professional dialogues held in real and virtual time. I hosted her visit to Canada last year and she has now returned the hospitality. Join us for the next global #ReggioPLC Twitter chat on June 13th at 4 pm EST to share your perspectives and context of Reggio inspired learning. My experience in Sweden was so rich and profound that I will have many more posts to write. Suzanne has already written about our visit to Uppsala, just outside Stockholm and the wonderful preschool Ekudden that we visited together.
I will be writing more about this visit and the time I spent at Filosofiska where Suzanne practices as a preschool teacher. The philosophy of Filosofiska inspires me to think about children’s thinking and their capacity to engage in philosophical dialogue in ways that would not have been possible if I had not had the opportunity of having Suzanne as a companion on my journey. In Sweden I was treated to perspectives so different that I continue to ponder and think. Below is a collage of some of the images of the playgrounds visited and I will be sharing photos taken of my time with the children at Filosofiska soon.
Travelling a path of professional learning in the companionship of others can be often joyful, as it was during my time in Sweden, but at times it can be difficult. As I continue to use this blog as a platform to document my journey, followers will know that Louise has chosen to take a different direction and our paths, which once converged now diverge. I wish her well on her journey and remain hopeful that somewhere along the journey our paths will meet again. Meanwhile, I am grateful for those who continue to support and guide me on the road that I travel as it is through them that I am developing on my Reggio inspired journey. While I know that the path ahead is uncertain, I walk on, propelled by inspiration from others. I love how Sergio Spaggiari uses ‘walking on’ as a metaphor to describe the work of Reggio educators.
I think “walk on” is a good metaphor for what we do. There are two ways that people think about walking on or moving forward. Some people think that to walk, you need to know where you want to go and how to get there. Other people, moved by sentiment or passion, by dreams or ideals, move toward something that they don’t yet know or understand. They don’t know what their final destination will be. So there are people who think knowledge should be before the walking starts and people who think that you learn as you walk. I think it is very important to have the courage to risk finding things out as you proceed. There would be no research and no researchers if people had to know things before they set out. Researchers are people who put themselves on the line. When you walk this way, you run the risk of being moved by a dream, a utopian dream. We also know that utopian dreams in the last century have created major disasters, especially when they are accompanied by totalitarian ideology, fanaticism and fundamentalism. What is the purpose of a utopia? In my view, it serves to make you go on, to not stay still and inert, to not accept immobility as a strategy for life. That is why it is important to know how to move on and to accompany our walking with knowing how to ask. It is the walking that makes the road. When many people walk, they create a path. They orient themselves and find their direction by knowing how to ask questions ~ Spaggiari
I have never been certain about the direction my path would take but I have always had many questions, and very few answers. Lately, I have come to know how to ask these questions and to whom to ask. Since my retirement from full time work, I have have so many opportunities to work with early childhood educators as they embark or continue their own journeys. Now I have the chance of working with Cindy Green a friend, colleague, and fellow “retiree” whose wisdom and passion for helping others on their paths has lead to much dialogue about professional learning. Right before I embarked on my Swedish adventure with Suzanne, I had the unbelievable good fortune to spend three days with Ann Pelo, author of The Goodness of Rain and featured speaker at the York Region Nature Collaborative’s first professional conference – Walking in Place: Cultivating Ecological Identity in Young Children – and in Ourselves: An Invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth #WIP2015. I will be blogging about that experience soon too. What I learned from Ann and will continue to learn from her is the importance of finding a sense of belonging to place and community. It is with gratitude that I think about the experience I had in the community of 140 others at the Kortright Centre on May 23rd. I am grateful to Ann and all the others including the sponsorship of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority that makes possible the opportunities for finding ourselves in place with others.
When Spaggiari speaks of utopia it brings to mind a book that has propelled my journey since first reading it in preparation to teach a course on the role of ethics and politics in early childhood education. In the last chapter of the book, Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Dahlberg and Moss (2005) write about how important it is for us to imagine possible alternatives to current practice. Bitterberg (2013) describes the last chapter as being about the importance of imagining something better that is worth striving towards. Yet Utopian thought is not sufficient to bring about radical change. There also needs also needs to be a willingness to act. Nancy McGee, from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority had the vision and the willingness to act and it sparked the co-construction of the York Region Nature Collaborative and it was inspired by a place, called Swan Lake.
It is in this place, that I will be coming together with others to continue the journey of Reggio inspired practice within a community of learners in a place of inspiration. Join others and myself as we search for utopia in this beautiful space. I am honoured to have the gift of facilitating this professional learning opportunity together with my long time friend, Rosalba Bortolotti, Laurel Fynes whose passion for the outdoor learning environment is positively infectious, Tanya Faranzeh an inspiring early childhood educator currently exploring the nature/Reggio connection for a Master’s thesis, Nicole Hamley an amazing educator from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and Simone and Aviva from the wonderful ThinkinEd duo. With Diana Tucci leading a small, multi-age forest school program concurrently in the place called The Swan Centre, we will be acting upon our utopian dreams of a better place for ourselves and our children. With inspiring educators like Jocelyn Schmidt and Anamaria Ralph already signed up to participate, I know the path ahead will be filled with joyful learning, many, many questions and possibilities.