By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Perspective is a fascinating word for the many ways that it can be defined. I have been thinking a lot about the impact of perspective on my practice as a Reggio inspired educator after my recent trip to Sweden. Seeing different perspectives or how the different ways others have interpreted Reggio inspired practice has been a transformational experience. On my journey as a Reggio inspired educator, I am seeking many or multiple perspectives. My own point of view is broaden and and my perspective changes as I see through different lenses. Perspective is an attitude or point of view which gets richer, more complex and deeper when we are open to multiple viewpoints.
Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self (Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998). I had this in mind when I shared an agate experience with six different groups of early childhood educators over the course of 5 weeks. An agate is a semi-precious gemstone and they have fascinated me with their beauty and uniqueness for many years. In the experience of representing the agate in three different ways through sketching, the use of pastels and finally 3 dimensionally with plasticine, participants were able to see finer details, look more closely and recognize that each agate was unique. Each agate is different, just like every teacher and every child and every context and it is this diversity that we seek and celebrate. Added to the challenge of the agate experience and aiding in the process of perspective was the use of technology, with cell phones as cameras and tablets as light tables we were able to increase perspective taking.
I think the agate experience was powerful because it took place in a social construct. Learning is a social process. Learning should take place in a social construct because it is possible that we “do transform each other through out interactions” (MacNaughton, 2009, p.76). The agate experience was my attempt to demonstrate to the participants that this type of learning is as important to adults as it is to children. Postmodernism is linked to social constructivism. Postmodernism rejects the notion that there is one right way of doing something and it is about seeking multiple perspectives. Pound (2009) helps early childhood educators grasp the complexities of postmodern theories and describes a key element as “seeing what is visible from a different light”. Many postmodernists use the metaphor of lenses or glasses. Using the work of the Reggio educators as a lens in which to look at our own practice can make the invisible visible. Any situation can be interpreted in a number of ways and we should try out different perspectives or glasses in order to broaden our own. I am grateful for the opportunity to provide workshops to early childhood educators and appreciative of the many different perspectives that came to light during the experience. Four of these workshops took place in York Region, Ontario, where as many as 70 participated at one time. I also had the incredible honour to provide this workshop to an inspiring group of educators from a native early childhood education setting, on an island in north Ontario. The final workshop of the series took place in Michigan where I had the privilege to work with an enlightened group of Reggio-inspired educators. As the intent of this series was to reflect on how the integration of technology can help make thinking and learning visible I asked each participant to write their reflections of the agate experience on a post it note. I then used technology to create a word cloud or “wordle”. Six “wordles” later I have more to think about and more to contemplate as I search for meaning in my practice through the lens of others.
I come back to my favourite quote from Lev Vygotsky often, “It is through others that we develop into ourselves”. I give thanks to all the others that have inspired my practice and help me to see with fresh eyes. It is through you that I continue to develop into myself.