Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Process not product...

I have written about this before... but from an art/creating point of view - you can read that post here ...
This post, though, is going to be a focus on life processes, and the process of preschools/education.
There is a new curriculum ,or rather an updated curriculum, that is coming out here in Sweden soon... and we have been given the chance to read the suggested curriculum and submit our reflections - right now there is a period of these reflections being analysed - and hopefully addressed and utilised in the final rendition of the curriculum.

I have my concerns about the curriculum having a bigger focus on teaching and on digital media - as it takes away from the children's learning and the diversity of media available to the children...
My recent post Mediums explores that... I feel that if a specific medium is being mentioned that many times then there is a clear message being sent that this is a preferred medium, or has a higher status than other mediums. It is apparent, through images on social media, that digital media gets more recognition and appreciation than many other mediums... and yes there is much that is amazing with digital tools... but it should not be a thing in itself, which I sometimes think it is becoming, but just part of the process of learning and play and life. It needs to be relevant and meaningful... it needs to be a part of the process and not a product... it needs to be a language of learning and not a lesson/event to say we have the digital covered.

Sometimes, well maybe often, I feel that the education system is a product rather than a process. And I feel the more we focus on the teaching the more of a product it is going to be... the more we talk about getting ready... for school, for adult life etc - the more it is going to be a product to achieve these things.

As educators (as humans) we need to be in a state of process all the time.
I need to be thinking about my thinking and how that applies to the children I interact with and the people I work with. I need to be in the process of evolving. I see the children are in this state... of being in the process of learning about themselves, each other and the world... and the world is constantly evolving, so we all need to be evolving with it. So if the preschool/education system is more like a product it is not going to be able to adapt with the world.
I think teaching creates a more product state of mind... while facilitating the children's learning is more of a process - as it is more open ended, more flexible.
For me, teaching is like one of those battery operated toys with fixed outcomes - there are set books, there are set ideas, there are right and wrong answers, and testing. The teaching is about meeting the needs of the school and society... of getting grades... or preparing young children for school - it is a product. While facilitating the children's learning means abandoning your adult agenda and embracing a democratic approach to learning, where the educators acts as a guide, listens and learns with the children... supports the children to develop their own ideas and share them with others, enables the children to reach their potential through a variety of learning languages... using many mediums, where digital is just one of many but does not carry more status. Because if we value some learning languages/media more than others the children are going to pick up on that and will value certain learning styles more than others - it means we have created a community where there is not equal value... because more value has been given to those children who learn through a digital language...

As we do not know what the future holds... we need to ensure that children have access to all their "hundred languages" as described by Malaguzzi... and I strongly believe that these languages should not be ranked. Especially when we are striving to create an education system that is based on democratic values, as are the Swedish preschool and school curriculums.

There also needs to be a process during the days, the weeks, the months and years... the the children, the educators and for the setting itself. There needs to be a kind of interconnectedness - for example I would not simply use digital media if there was no reason to... or just because it is cool, or it is required part of the curriculum... I will use digital media because it makes sense in our explorations of a project the children and I are exploring together... for example when exploring "listening" we explored with our whole bodies, all our senses, with a huge range of materials... inside, outside trying, as educators, to provide as many learning languages to approach this project... could we discover something new if a different language was used... did different children shine in their ability to express themselves, how did each language affect the individual or the group as a whole - were there any languages that felt out of range for the children at this moment... was there a way to support the children to acquire skills to master this language, or was it due to physical or cognitive maturity and thus time was needed?
My plans for a term would be enormous... as they would be a list of possibilities... not all would be done.. as the children took us down different paths and more things got added to the list of possibilities. It is like when I prepare for a philosophy session... I prepare with a great many possible questions, knowing I will not have the time to ask them all, trying to think of the many possible directions the dialogue could go, to try and prepare myself not to have a fixed agenda... and then also to be open to the possibility that I have not thought up the follow up questions that the children need me to ask, because my thinking has not taken the same direction as theirs... I need to be a in a state of process.

I think this is hard to do, when there is such a product feel within the education system... and yet there is the demand that educators should encourage child participation, child influence, that they should listen to the children, that the children are active in their own learning... and yet there is the focus on teaching, not the learning. How can teachers meet the expectations of creating a process learning when they are forced to work in a product system?

We should not be teaching subjects, but sharing knowledge, and sharing where we can find knowledge, and how to critically reflect on this knowledge we find.
We should not be teaching children how to do things, but enabling them to learn or master it for themselves in their way..

So instead of asking yourself how do you teach a child to read and write... we should be asking how does a child learn to read and write - and then support that process. Not take a teaching product and implement it in the classroom, or the lesson (and there are plenty of such products (or methods) for preschools - so it is not just schools). I also think that with the new preschool curriculum having a bigger focus on "teaching" now there might also be a bigger trend to more of these products entering the preschool world here in Sweden too.
The more focus there is on the teaching, rather than on the learning... the more focus there is on the teacher and not the child... also the more expectation of what the teacher has to do for the child... and there is not more time given to educators to meet all these "must have to's"  - hence the need for products as time savers. it does not matter that policies and curriculums have written down the child is central in their learning, if we are creating an education system that is rigid and needs to produce children who get grades... its all about the product/the end result and not about the learning. it is about the teaching and the teachers leading the children and not about a democratic classroom.

Of course if you are looking at how children learn, and trying to meet that process, there also needs to be time invested to understand both individual and group needs. And sadly time seems to be one of those things that is been constantly robbed from educators.

Original Learning is something I feel should be a part of the educational system.. a lifelong approach to learning - where play is a natural and valued part of the learning. And of course play is going to evolve with the child... what/how my teenage children play now is very different from how they played as young children... but they continue to learn through play, they continue to need play as part of their balanced diet of learning.

Below are a few quotes that I feel are important to this process of thinking... as this is a process... and is still very much requiring more thought...

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