To Know The Village #2
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Communication in Education -
On my oldest sister’s first day of school, she entered the classroom without a backward glance, no histrionics, no clinging to mum, not what mum had hoped for. Conversely thirteen years later, when my youngest sister started school, the classroom door needed to be locked to prevent her from running home. Back then they could lock the children in and keep others out. “School community” consisted of the teacher, the children, and management. Professional development finished when teachers left training college and the curriculum was delivered in textbooks. And it worked.
Fast forward not that many decades and I think we can agree with Duderstadt, Atkins and Van Houweling (2002) that today our society and social institutions are being reshaped by the rapid advances in information technology. Information that used to travel by boat, horse, train and airplane, arrives instantly. This is mirrored in the rapid advances in global travel. What took Christopher Columbus ten weeks, happens overnight.
Let me introduce you to our village...Ours' is a specialist education setting...
Our families represent 16 different ethnicities who have traveled from many countries to live in Aotearoa. Each family at our school has one or two children verified as having Ongoing Resources Scheme funding. Students are aged between five and 21 years old, their families have adapted their lives to cater to their child’s different needs. Manaakitanga - belonging, whakamana - empowerment, and kotahitanga - community are particularly important for our parent community. Making connections and being able to access specific information for specialised needs in a timely manner is crucial.
Home, school connection
Overall there are more barriers to learning for children with special needs. Often parents rely on staff to know what services they need to access and how to do so. We face unique and sometimes confronting situations and need to be able to find and share the information sometimes with urgency and always with sensitivity.
Home, school, specialist connection
The school community consists of parents, students, teachers, learning assistants, leadership, specialists, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, office staff, caretakers, nurses, the board of trustees, mentors, and staff from the satellite and host schools across six different locations. These groups share information between them and rely on information from beyond the school gates to competently participate in, and contribute to students’ learning.
Our school is situated in an area that has a rich history for Tainui, who have strong connections to the story of the important maunga and awa. These stories are cherished.
School policies are guided nationally and communicate to employees the desired outcomes of our organisation. Schools rely on information being updated and received in a timely manner from the correct source.
As we introduce Reggio Emilia principles to our place, our village has a global connection. The Reggio Emilia approach was developed after World War II by pedagogista Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy. Our school is committed to developing this approach. According to one of the six principles, the Reggio approach sees the teacher as learner, researcher, and co-constructor of knowledge; not simply a transmitter of knowledge (Malaguzzi, 1994; Moran, 2007). When we embrace this principle, using the internet to make connections allows us to co-construct knowledge online rather than to just find information.
Another of the six Reggio Emilia principles is “child as communicator”, communication is used as a process of discovery, where adults and children collaborate to discover answers to questions. Documentation is considered a critical component of the learning process. How best to make this visible for the community is a priority.
In their Book - Higher education in the digital age - Duderstadt, Atkins, and Van Houweling (2002) - differentiate between the ‘active’ characteristic of information technology, and the passive, this distinction radically changes the constraints of space and time and perhaps reality. Online communication can create opportunities for the school community to engage with more, Sheninger makes it sound straightforward, “the use of social media enhanced his school community and everyone’s learning through tools like Facebook, blogging platforms, and photo sharing sites...which led him to reach out to and exchange ideas with parents and educators locally and nationally.” Connectivity helps to inform the decisions we make, simplifying, and clarifying the process, we can access Sheninger’s experience at the touch of a button. Critical thinking skills will support us in asking the right questions and making the right connections. Critical thinking skills from a continuously growing lense of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, whakamana, and pono will help us to form our judgments.
In Aotearoa, there is a concerted effort to make digital technology available to all. Information and communication technology can enhance or sabotage consultation, collaboration, and partnership.
Back then you could lock the classroom door, now it’s an open-door policy, whanau participation is encouraged and our village is global. Maybe in our context, a global connection isn’t optional, it’s vital.
It takes a village they say…
Duderstadt, J. J., Atkins, D. E., & E., V. H. (2002). Higher education in the digital age: Technology issues and strategies for American colleges and universities. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Sheninger, E. C. (2019). Digital leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
The Reggio Emilia Approach to education, and Loris Malaguzzi. (2015). Understanding the Reggio Approach, 7-27. doi:10.4324/9781315744018-2