One of our projects this semester is to develop components of a curriculum within a group setting. I am very lucky because my partner is not only interested in technology as well but also lives in our area and is already a good friend of mine; lucky me! :) We have been working on a middle-years Digital Literacy curriculum that is designed to be implemented cross-curricularly. If you read my previous post you know that a big chunk of our class has been spent on the theory behind strong curriculum development. As such, this is our theoretical foundations for our curriculum; enjoy!
As professionals who are required to tie together theory and practice, curricularists require a strong theoretical background to ensure that their curriculum development is backed by the concepts, principles, and relationships that exist in their field (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 15). Regardless of the model that is chosen, curricularists need to recognize that curriculum development is a lengthy process that requires professionals to make judgements to best serve the social and political realities of their situation while meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 13). A curriculum developed around theory ensures that educators can effectively research their data to help guide pedagogical practices. A reconstructionist approach to education that is rooted in pragmatic philosophy emphasizes present and future trends which is essential in order to help learners navigate the digital world that continues to evolve before their eyes (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 48). A middle-years environment provides a context of learners that can grasp abstract data, evaluate according to acceptable criteria, deduce possible consequences, and construct theories based on their placement within psychologist Jean Piaget’s formal operations stage of cognitive development (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pp. 102-103). These foundational backgrounds will guide the development of a new technology literacy curriculum.
Reconstructionists argue that curricula needs to adapt to account for the vast changes occurring within society (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 45). Fueling the reconstructionist foundation, pragmatism identified that the learner’s environment was in a constant state of change and that educators and curricula needed to account for this dynamic condition (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 32). In 1997, it was identified that traditional forms of literacy were not sufficient and that students required new skills such as searching for information through non-linear routes (Simsek & Simsek, 2013, pg. 128). Since that time, the required skill set of students has expanded to include the collection, organization, storage, and publication of information through a computer device in graphic, text, or number format (Haddadian, Majidi, Maleki, & Alipour, 2013, pg. 195). The identified skills align with Dewey’s view on education where subject matter is interdisciplinary and requires learners to problem solve and think critically as they explore the digital world (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 32).
Pragmatism is a philosophical foundation of curriculum development, supported most famously by John Dewey. Pragmatists believe that it is not as important to teach students what to think, as it is to teach them how to think. Dewey believed in education as a process for improving the human condition. He emphasized problem solving and the scientific method, as pragmatists believe that teaching should focus on critical thinking (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 32). The fundamentals of digital literacy are founded in a pragmatist philosophy, where problem solving and critical thinking are transformative level skills (MediaSmarts, 2015, figure 2), as pragmatists are of the opinion that learning occurs as the person partakes in problem solving (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 32). The pragmatist approach to curriculum development, promoted by Dewey is also reflected in cognitive psychology, especially the theories proposed by Piaget.
Cognitive psychologists focus on how individuals process information, how they monitor and manage their thinking, and the results of their thinking. Jean Piaget described the process of cognitive development using four stages: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operations stage and formal operations stage. According to Piaget, the students targeted by this proposed curriculum document should be matured to the point of the formal operations stage, where they are analyzing ideas, comprehending relationships, evaluating and thinking logically about data, formulating hypotheses, constructing theories and reaching conclusions. Piaget’s cognitive theories mirror the learning principles determined by Dewey by focusing on environmental experiences: assimilation occurs when new experiences are incorporated into existing ones, accommodation occurs when new cognitive structures are developed, and equilibration happens when learners balance what they do know with what they do not know. A new technology literacy curriculum based on Piaget’s theories would require students to assimilate the digital skills they already possess with those targeted by the curriculum, develop new skills and knowledge, as well as determine what they know versus what they need to know. The theories of cognitive psychology presented by Jean Piaget, which target processing, monitoring and managing information, as well as developing conclusions based on that information, form the psychological basis for the proposed technology literacy curriculum (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013, pg. 102-103).
The development of a new technology literacy curriculum will be guided by a strong theoretical background, in order to ensure that educators can effectively research their data to evaluate and assess the successfulness of the curriculum, as well as their own pedagogical practices. The developers of this curriculum recognize that curriculum development is a lengthy process which requires one to make decisions that best serve the social and political situations into which this curriculum will be implemented. By implementing a reconstructionist approach to curriculum development, the developers recognize that curricula needs to adapt to account for the vast changes occurring within society. Pragmatic philosophy, and the theories developed by Dewey and Piaget, will provide the curriculum development team with a foundation for the development of a new technology curriculum specifically designed for a middle years learning environment.
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