Pedagogic Model: Teaching Technology in Special Education Dissertation

Pages: 230 (60754 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 148  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching - Technology

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" (Dougiamas, 1998) Such trivial constructivism, though, is the bedrock from which Glaserfelds more radical constructivism springs. He continues to state that because knowledge is constructed by the learner, and because no two learners are the same, knowledge itself is not absolute. There is a degree to which knowledge is an illusion, and every individual constructs their own conception of reality which (while susceptible to the demands of "real" or normal reality) does not necessarily align with the normal paradigm. Constructivism does embrace this relativistic and existential approach to reality, but it also holds as a primary value the idea of constraint which enables the thinkers to participate in social interaction and mainstream reality. (Glasersfeld)

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One interesting area of constructionist theory is the development of cybernetic constructivism, which is the idea that the human mind develops and learns in the same fashion as a highly advanced computerized "artificial" intelligence. Cybernetic constructivism is slightly related to behaviorism in that it accepts and expands on the idea that animals and machines utilize loosely analogous forms of communication and control. In both cases the storage and processing of information and knowledge become based upon feedback loops, adaptive trial-and-error, and microscopic binary differences (the switches in a computer processor with are controlled by binary on-or-off code line up to the neurons firing). (Brier, 1992) In both cases the product is guided in its actions by constraints and has a need to reach equilibrium. (Glasersfeld, 1992) While cybernetics are far too complex to be adequately addressed here, it is important to note that the link between the thinking machine and the thinking child has implications for the use of technology in the classroom.

Dissertation on Pedagogic Model: Teaching Technology in Special Education Assignment

Constructivism is a vital part of the Pedagogy for Understanding presented here. Technology, more than many prior pedagogical tools, provides both strong incentive and strong support for a student learning to "cross the bridge from being dependent to becoming more independent learners" (Snider & Badgett, 1995). This bridge is the main gateway into constructionist learning, and the point to which all students should be traveling. Students should be provided with opportunities to test and apply their ideas in a scientific fashion, to look at concepts from many points-of-view, and mix information with performance. Students who become independent learners and demonstrate understanding can evaluate new ideas with reasoning and using evidence; they can independently inquire into problems using productive and rational strategies, they can produce high quality work products, and hopefully they will come to understand that the reaching of external standards are a positive goal and an indication of good performance.

At all times, in the constructionist framework, this use of rational strategy to inquire into problems and the combination of theory with practice are vital to the educational process. It is for this reason that the Pedagogy for Understanding is inseparable from constructivism. There are at least three vital areas in which Pedagogy for Understanding depends on constructivism, and these line up with the three dimensions of constructivism put forth by Phillips (1995).

The first is the active process, which suggests that all activity is social, individual, mental, or physical. Recognizing that these fields of activity are interrelated and can each be used to absorb and express knowledge is particularly important in a special needs classroom where some students may be limited in one or more of these areas and yet gifted in another.

The second point is that the social process helps students to understand and interact with the difference between individual knowledge construction and general human knowledge. In the Pedagogy for Understanding, the social aspect of the classroom and the teacher-student relationship is important in helping the student both develop an intimate understanding (e.g. individual knowledge) and be able to express that in terms of general human knowledge (for example, through test-taking).

Finally, constructivism is concerned with the creative process and the issue as to whether knowledge is constructed internally or imposed. Pedagogy for Understanding seeks to help students construct inner knowledge through rational experimentation, in part because many special needs students have difficulty absorbing knowledge which is imposed from external sources. Internal understanding is formed through interaction with others, through conversation and through sharing interpretations and understandings. (Schwandt & McCarty, 2000). Social interaction is the main key to cognitive development and true understanding (Vygotsky, 1978).

Pedagogy for Understanding works on developing such social interaction not only within the classroom but also between teachers and support staff who may be able to help them understand how to work with special needs students. In some cases Pedagogy for Understanding may also be able to develop social-like interactions between students and their technology. As Hacking (1999) point out, "interactions do not just happen. They happen within matrices, which include many obvious social elements and many obvious material ones." (p. 31).

While Pedagogy for Understanding as applied to special needs students is relatively unique to this study, its has a strong applied theoretical ancestor in the Harvard-born studies on Project Zero. (Stone-Wiske, 1998) Project Zero, which sprung from Schwandt's and McCarty's (2000) thesis regarding constructivism as the overall belief that the mind is active in the creation of knowledge. This project created spin-offs at various universities and school systems, including one interesting study on "Teaching for Understanding" at an International Baccalaureate school in Florida, (Graffam, 2003) which will be discussed in more detail later. There are two significant differences between the Pedagogy for Understanding as explained here and Harvard-inspired Teaching for Understanding. The most obvious is that the latter primarily focused its programs on gifted and high-achieving students, while this study focuses on special needs and low-achieving students. This in itself may be a tribute to the influence of No Child Left Behind, for it blurs the borders between what is appropriate for gifted and for disabled children. Such a blur is appropriate because both gifted and special needs students function outside the normal range, and need more intensive training to succeed at their highest level. In a more semantic sense, Harvard tended to focus on how teachers taught for understanding, while Pedagogy for Understanding puts much more focus on the role of the pedagogue as both a receiver and a transmitter of knowledge, and may focuses more on training teachers to train children than it does on direct intervention with children.

Some of the theories behind Project Zero which carry over to Pedagogy for Understanding are quite significant and slightly different than mere constructivism, because it combines theories of understanding with theories of construction. According to Graffam (2003), "When working from a pedagogy of understanding, we supply students with an environment that welcomes the uses of cognitive tools, encouraging active engagement with different kinds of cognitive devices.... The TfU framework is purposely metadisciplinary, and learners are encouraged to focus on the thinking within a discipline, not just the discipline itself. They are encouraged to discover the usefulness of the disciplines, not just that they exist." In terms of applying this pedagogy to special needs students in the fields of technology, this is a call towards the use of that technology to function as a cognitive device, and to be both practical as a discipline (vocational training is always useful for students who may not be seeking advanced degrees) and also as a practice which may be thought about and thought through.

Theoretical Input of No Child Left Behind While the general constructionist consensus, and possibly many elements of this paper, will critique the requirements of IDEA and (more particularly) the No Child Left Behind Act, there is still a significant degree to which these legislations provide an important theoretical grounding which must be taken into account. The most valuable contribution of the No Child Left Behind Act to education in America (other than the few billion dollars or so of federal funding which was promised to the states) was the idea that schools should be accountable for their educational output, and for their success (or failure) at educating children. A second extremely valuable theoretical point made by both these laws was that special needs students must be included in the school's efforts to assure high quality educational outcome for all students. The mere assignation of a "special education" label can no longer be enough to remove a child's success or failure from the limelight of societal scrutiny and from an evaluation of the educational system. What Bush would call the "soft bigotry of low exectations" (West & Peterson, 2004) is reprimanded, or at least shoved under the carpet, by No Child Left Behind's insistence on standardized expectations which require all students regardless of ethnicity, gender, or disability, to achieve to the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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