My manifesto is based on my work with students at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center. Currently, I teach kindergarten at Godfrey-Lee ECC. In my classroom, one hundred percent of students receive free breakfast and free lunch. Over seventy percent of my students take home Kids Food Basket sack supper. Ninety-five percent are English Language Learners. I believe all students can learn and have great potential. Students come to kindergarten with a sense of discovery, questioning and an open mind to learn. The possibilities for exploration and learning are endless, as the current understanding of the educational system has not yet been engrained in them.
As an early childhood educator, I rely on research, best practices, my Board of Education curriculum adoptions and State and Federal mandates when teaching children. I believe in the constructivist approach to learning and the research of Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist was best known for his theory of cognitive development. He believed that social factors influence cognitive development more than anything else. Piaget believed that development in children occurred in four separate stages. The first stage, the sensorimotor stage, is when children experience the world through movement and their five senses. Piaget also believed that during the sensorimotor stage, children are very egocentric. The second stage, the preoperational stage, is when the child learns to speak. This stage lasts from age 2-7, and Piaget believed that children couldn’t mentally manipulate information. The third stage, the concrete operational stage, believed that children would think logically and would not be egocentric. This stage occurs from ages 7-11. The fourth and final stage is the formal operational stage which lasts from age 11 to 16 and onwards. In this stage, children are able to develop abstract thoughts and think logically. They are also better at problem solving and can utilize metacognition.
Another important component to my beliefs is Soviet psychologist, Lev Vyogotsky. He has become the foundation of research in cognitive development, specifically the Social Development Theory. He stresses the importance of social interaction in the cognitive development of children. He also believed that social learning traditionally comes before development. The Zone of Proximal Development, which focuses on the idea that new knowledge is dependent on previous learning, is another key idea of his theory.
The Reggio Emilia Approach is a philosophical approach to teaching that was founded in Northern Italy by a man named Loris Malaguzzi. Unlike some approaches that are named after the person who most influenced it, The Reggio Emilia Approach is named after the town where it was founded. Malaguzzi, who was born in 1920, was a teacher and polymath who also studied psychology. He believed in the importance of the early years in children’s lives. In the late 1950s, the town of Reggio Emilia began to set up preschools for children aged 3-6. In 1958, Malaguzzi became the director of all preschools in Reggio Emilia, where he spent the remainder of his life; and in 1970, the first infant-toddler center opened for children who ranged from 3 months – 3 years of age.
The Reggio Emilia Approach has many features that make it unique from other Early Childhood Education approaches. One of the many features that make it unique is the belief that children are curious and intelligent individuals who have the potential to construct their own learning. It also believes that the environment plays a huge role on children’s learning, and it even refers to the environment as being the “third teacher”. Documentation is another important aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Transcriptions, photos, drawings, and other representations of students’ learning are all studied and placed into portfolios. Rather than being a specific curriculum or program, the Reggio Emilia Approach is more of theory or philosophical approach to teaching.
The approach that mainly influences my beliefs is the Reggio Emilia Approach. There are many things about this approach that I agree with and support. One of the many things that I love about this approach is their use of documentation. Many traditional schools only document a child’s learning through the use of standardized testing and report cards. This rarely allows the parents to see the process the child went through, but only the product. The Reggio Emilia Approach believes in documenting all of the work that a child does. Whether it is a paper, drawing, sketch, or project, they are all valued and saved in a portfolio. Another thing that I agree with about the Reggio Emilia Approach is the belief that children are curious individuals who are capable of creating their own learning. Teachers are often so determined to feed students the information and get through the standards that they often don’t provide enough time for students to come up with their own ideas and conclusions. We often don’t give enough credit to our students when it comes to what they are able to construct on their own. This is where my passion comes from and why I believe in allowing time for students to explore and process their information on their own.
The educational system is not structured to meet the learning needs or the perspective job market of current children. The Federal and State government is mandating mastery of what they consider essential skills for all children but they are not developmentally appropriate for the mandated ages. Also the current school structure and calendar were developed based on an agricultural country and a time when factories needed workers. The school buildings resemble factors and the time between classes and the half hour lunches prepare workers for factory work. Summers off were so that children could help on the farm. Summer loss was not a consideration. Also, the whole system is based on the mastery of standards and individual test scores. The real world wants people to work cooperatively and be creative problem solvers. I would restructure the entire 6th grade through graduation with a twenty four hours and seven days a week learning opportunity utilizing technology and comfortable meeting cafes. Flipping the classroom would be utilized second grade through at least sixth grade. Students would be taught ways to independently learn topics and then meet to concretely construct their meaning while documenting their learning. E-portfolios would be utilized in this process. Birth through first grade would provide students with hands on learning opportunities while utilizing the most current digital technology.
Emerging issues with digital technology include providing students with a one to one device. My district is currently looking into replacing the old equipment and researching how to provide students with the costly new equipment that would be distributed to each student. Economic disadvantaged areas are not able to afford this technology and would require collaboration to bring the technology to students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, technology alone will not improve achievement alone. It requires great teachers working with technology to individualize learning for students.
I believe that digital technology is an awesome tool to aid in the discovery of learning and researching new information for young children. Young children are exposed to a variety of advanced media therefore including technology components into their learning is ideal way to bring their real life digital world to their learning. According to Michael Fullan, there is a push and pull effect that enhances learning when utilizing technology. The push is finding the relevance and the pull is the digital attraction children have to it. Fullan also highlighted the 6C’s of deep learning that my Board of Education has also adopted. He stated that digital technology prepared children to discover information that was relevant to their interest and learning. Teachers need to jump in and figure out how to access student learning and the quality of learning as the digital technology continues to grow.
As an early childhood educator, I researched NAEYC’s beliefs about the use of digital technology in early childhood classrooms. It states that teachers should select, use, integrate and evaluate digital media in intentional and developmentally appropriate ways. I am passionate about incorporating technology because it can increase access to parents so that they can see photos, videos and behavior updates by utilizing technology. This creates a community of learners as families can learn and communicate with other families to assist their children and feel comfortable helping them learn. I also believe that technology increases the creativity that children can express themselves by using an I-pad. This allows them to create an image that their fine motor skills may not be developed enough to draw or paint but the use of technology allows them to do. It gives them more opportunities for co-engagement and social development. I support less expensive arduino that sells for about twenty to thirty dollars that was suggested by Seth Godin. It seems to be an affordable option for children to construct their learning and open their world to all of the opportunities of the digital world.
I hope to continue to impact my classroom and school by continuing to utilize technology for parent involvement and student learning. I have been using technology provided by my school’s professional development. Lauren Wells from Discovery Education assisted me with developing small group student initiated learning boards. Students could access them at school or home. They could research their topic of dinosaurs through books, videos, songs and information boards. I have included a video of a student documentation board that my colleague and I created. I hope to continue to marry student initiated learning, technology and hands on creations to education the young children of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.
Discovery Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.discoveryeducation.com/
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/digital-transformation-education-us-secretary-education-arne-duncans-remarks-state-edu
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Resources for Early Childhood. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/STEM
Jean Piaget. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/jean-piaget-9439915
New AAP Guidance for Families on Digital Media Compliments NAEYC’s Position Statement. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/blogs/new-aap-guidance-families-digital-media-compliments-naeyc-position-statement
Personalize Your Learning Environment:. (n.d.). Retrieved from : https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=11
Play: The Work of Lev Vygotsky. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.childdevelopmentmedia.com/articles/play-the-work-of-lev-vygotsky/
Stop Stealing Dreams - Seth Godin @ TEDx Youth at BFS (16:57)[Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from : https://youtu.be/sXpbONjV1Jc
Technology: The New Pedagogy and Flipped Teaching (7:41)[Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCvwtiOH0co
The Reggio Emilia Method Compared to Other Schooling Approaches. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.noodle.com/articles/the-reggio-emilia-approach-and-its-school-of-thought